I received an email from a friend today asking me if it was true about me and Colin Firth. Now in common with most of the female population of the United Kingdom, I fancy Colin Firth rotten. Who can forget him smouldering in 'Pride and Prejudice' and the scene with the wet shirt? However I can say now that Colin is a happily married man who has shown no interest in me. Indeed we haven't even met!
It turned out that a friend had overheard another friend talking about an incident where I met Colin Firth in the street, failed to recognise him as the famous actor and thought I knew him. Now this kind of did happen to me once but it was about 20 years ago and the man in question was Rupert Everett. I was walking along the King's Road in London and saw this tall, handsome and oddly familiar man coming towards me. So I smiled and said 'hello' and he smiled back and said 'hello' to me. It was only after he'd passed me that I realised that he wasn't someone I knew but Rupert Everett, the film star!
The whole incident, or rather non-incident, made me ponder the nature of rumours. How easy is it for a chance remark to become the truth and then to be embroidered and altered until it is nothing at all like the original story? In the case of the story about me and Colin Firth, it's funny and doesn't matter, but imagine if it was something that involved my reputation, my safety or even, God forbid, my freedom. We all know that stories become the 'truth' if enough people say or believe it's true. How many people are we misjudging because we based our understanding of them on rumours and hearsay? How many situations are completely misunderstood? The more I think about it, the more I see that 'truth' really is a construct, like meaning itself simply a product of what it's not but not inherently meaningful.
Of course you can't live your whole life suspecting people and questioning the truth of what they are saying but I think it doesn't do any harm to be circumspect and to realise that one person's truth is not necessarily another's.
Now I wonder when Colin is going to ring me about our hot date.