Monday, November 13, 2006

The Scope of Sarcasm

My cousin Beth says my posts have sounded a little depressing lately. The truth is that I’m not depressed – I’m sarcastic, and (unfortunately) tone-of-voice doesn’t translate well to the written word.

My friend Julie and I have talking for two years about trying to becoming radio personalities. She plays a great straight man to my sarcastic comedienne. We even have the perfect name for our show – The Julie Ann-Marie Show. See, when you say it, it sounds like “The Julie and Marie Show.” Ha!

We’ve also tossed around crazy ideas for new careers. One of my favorites has been our Anger Advocacy Corporation. Our motto would be “If you hate it, then we’ll hate it, too!”

Let’s say you hate your boss. Well, we would host a Boss Hating Convention where people could come and take baseball bats to fake rubber bosses or go tell a fake boss what a horrible job they’re doing. Let’s say you hate people who drive too slowly – we’d make you a virtual car where you could pass those slowpokes and leave them in the dust. You get the idea.

We’re just kidding of course, but it’s nice to be with someone who gets me.

Although, if I truly was going to do a radio show, there is only one person whom I would choose to be my co-host – my old roommate, Kelly.

Kelly is the only person I have ever clicked with 100%. We met in college and became fast friends. It was like meeting the twin I never had. She connected with me. She understood my humor and played off it brilliantly. Some of the funniest moments of my life happened in my dorm room. It was like a never ending Saturday Night Live sketch.

For once, I was with someone with whom I didn’t have to guard my “real” self. So, when we did have a falling out (as it is with all fights, over something very stupid), it was like chopping off a limb to be without her. We’ve since reconnected, and I’m reminded every time I hear from her how much we are (still) in sync.

See, the problem with me is that I don’t know HOW to be FUNNY without being sarcastic. ‘Tis me, what can I say? To be honest, I’m not really sure it IS possible TO be funny without sarcasm. Does that make me warped in some way?

I can’t remember the last time I laughed at something that wasn’t at least vaguely sarcastic in nature. For me, self-deprecation and sarcasm are just a way of life.

My boss, who is slowly and strangely becoming my friend, says she used to be like that. Then she realized her life became consumed by it. In every sentence, she was looking for the inevitable punch line (much like I find myself doing).

So, now, she makes a conscious effort not to be sarcastic. She says sarcasm can put a negative light on your personality, especially to others. But the truth of the matter is that when I’m in her office and I get going, she laughs so hard that her face turns bright red. In fact, she can rarely look me in the eye at staff meetings anymore.

And you know what? Being funny is my legacy. My dad was VERY funny, and the people who truly knew him, know I inherited his distinctly unique take on the world.

My mom loves my humor. It reminds her of my dad. She says that my sense of humor is what has saved her from crying time and time again. It’s my view of this crazy world that saves ME from crying.

You see, to me, sarcasm is free expression. The way some people sing. The way painters create. A way of celebrating and accepting what life you have. Making good out of bad. When life is darkest, finding the way to laugh.

Of course, as with all good, there is a flip side. The darker side. While sarcasm can be freeing and allow us to make fun of ourselves or of what may frighten or scare us, it can be also be used as an extremely dangerous weapon. Trust me. A few times I’ve been on the receiving end. But mostly, I’ve used it as a weapon when it’s suited my purposes.

See, the thing about being good at sarcasm is also that you can also use it when you’re mad. Sarcasm, especially mine, cuts very deep to the bone. I know how to hurt people. Most people aren’t as quick at comebacks as I am. So, after I’ve lashed out, they sit there looking all hurt and wounded.

My husband has discovered the secret. He refuses to let me play the sarcasm game when I’m angry.

You see, sarcasm can’t exist on its own. In order to BE sarcastic, you have to be able to feed off someone else. When you’re being sarcastic in a light hearted manner, it’s great. It’s just comment-bounce, comment-bounce, like a great drum rhythm. In fact, there’s nothing I like more than finding a sarcastic kindred spirit and just keeping that rhythm going for hours and hours.

And there’s nothing I hate more that someone who instantly gets offended or gets afraid of offending someone else. There’s no one worse than someone who can dish it out but can’t take it. They’re officially TABOO in the true sarcastic circles. In order to play with the big dogs, you have to be willing to get bit occasionally.

Anyway, back to my husband. The first time I tried to use sarcasm on him, in a VERY nasty and mean way, he just looked at me and said, “I’m just going to wait until you can talk to me like a real person. Why don’t you come find me when you’re done acting like a child?” And that was that. He doesn’t tolerate sarcasm when we’re fighting. Which is extremely frustrating to me, since it’s the weapon I am most well-versed in.

But, like I said earlier, I don’t know if it’s possible to be funny, truly funny, without sarcasm. I know it’s probably cultural, but I’m also pretty sure the pilgrims made fun of each other’s hats on the Mayflower.

Which brings me to something I’ve been considering lately, is it okay to be funny? Is it godly to be funny? Or are we all supposed to be serious all the time? Sober-minded? If so, is being funny a sin? I don’t mean the hee-hee funny sermon illustrations, I mean, is it okay to truly belly laugh at something that is REALLY funny?

I refuse to laugh at something that is only barely funny. Is it my fault that I see the funnier side of life? Is it wrong?

And maybe that’s why I don’t fit in - in some circles.
Because, although I don’t know how, there are some humorless people who simply don’t “get” sarcasm. You drop a great one-two, and they sit there with a disapproving look on their face, while the rest of the group howls with laughter. Those people make me nervous. I always wonder if they’re missing a chip somewhere.

Mom once said that God has a sense of humor. Her proof? When God said it was easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Now, THAT’S a little sarcastic, don’t you think?


Anonymous said...

I truly related to this post. I am a very saracastic person. People usually consider me funny, but it is usually because of my saracasm. I cut up in Sunday School where Dh is the teacher. I cut up at Weight Watchers. You know how it is.

I have married into the worlds most sarcastic family. Yes, I said the WORLD'S MOST. My DH's family prides itself on their quick wit and sharp toungue. When you set you can "cut someone deep" it reminder me so much of them. I have heard "Cut them to the quick" so many times in nine years!

One thing that marrying into this has family I have learned how many and much my saracasm must have hurt others. I have been on the receiving end so much in the recent years that I now know what it feels like. I, like you, have relied on it for my funny - the thing that people always said about me. "You know the Funny one." It is very hard.

I have also realize that sarcasm is my wall, my safe place. My little way of not letting anyone in. I have worked very hard to police my sarcasm. I try to not use it as a weapon. I try to not use it when I know that I will do more harm than good. It is a delicate balance and a difficult thing to keep.

Your Dh sounds like he does an incredible job of dealing with it. The problem with us, is we are both that way and we easily slip into the battle of cutting words. We have to make a concerted effort to curb our tongues. And if anyone is feeling onery.. watch out! It is an interesting life we lead LOL!

Hope you find a way to make peace with your wit. It is a hard place to find. I am still circling the drive.

Ann-Marie said...

Ah, yes, Tancy, I do remember you being funny and sarcastic in high school. Of course, I was a little intimidated by you as it was, what with you being captain of the volleyball team AND a Senior.

There are times I wish I had married into a funny family - sarcastic or not. As it is, I seem to have married into the World's Dullest Family. Believe me, these people DEFINE "humorless." Brett said he didn't realize how dull his family was until he married into the never-dull Rehfeldt family!

Thanks for your sympathy. Finding the balance in sarcasm is such a tightrope, and it's nice to know someone else struggles with it - and with understanding our unique (and God given) personalities.