I’m not funny, anymore.
That is, of course, to say I used to be funny – bear with me a moment.
Most of my life, I’ve relied on humor – lampooning both myself and others – as a means of survival. Being funny wins people over and hides a multitude of personal shortcomings.
It also allows the tender-hearted, like myself, to get by. In a world where detachment and cynicism are highly valued and spun as “objectivity” and “cleverness,” I was fortunate to be able to adapt these methods as an armor.
I’ve prided myself on my cutting wit for year – and I’m about done with it.
Every-goddamn-one is sarcastic
I’ve done the online dating schtick – and the swipe-left-or-right dating schtick – to varying degrees of success. I’ll let you hetero boys in on a little secret. Every single one of you lists “sarcastic” in your bio.
Most request their potential life partner/one-night-stand also be sarcastic. Or be smart enough to “get” your sarcasm.
I don’t know what the ratio for self-claimed-sarcasm is among my fellow ladies, but I’d love to hear back on that.
Being coolly cynical and detached is not unique enough to be “cool” and not difficult enough to be reflective of any great intelligence. At this point, it’s little more than bad habit that’s evolved into full-blown addiction.
It doesn’t accomplish anything
So, you’re clever enough to see through the charade of human striving. You’re witty enough to proffer the quickest, freshest, and most incisive insults. You’re encyclopedic knowledge of culture and history has rendered your discursive arsenal a violation of the Geneva Convention.
You are so far above the frantic pretense of modern life, you feel as though Friedrich Nietzsche himself is the only man who could understand you.
So the fuck what? You and I, we’re expending a hell of a lot of effort to show how very unbothered we are.
If life is meaningless and humanity worthless, it’s because we – the human beings in question – have logged a metric fuck-tonne of billable hours making life meaningless and just generally being worthless.
It’s a false front
I’m not a naturally cynical person. At all. Which is odd, because I am chronically depressive. However, that depression has never in my life beant toward any dark or distrustful feelings about life or humanity.
I don’t hate the world and I don’t hate people, despite how often I’ve joked about it. And no matter how down I sometimes get, self-harm has never crossed my mind.
When I’m not being “witty,” I’m quiet in that disconcerting way Nordic descendants can be. Nothing in my behavior would clue anyone in to how I feel. Which is everything. Every. Goddamn. Thing. And I’m terrible at expressing it.
So I write because it helps me untangle my thoughts enough to cope. And I hate hugging new people, but I hug the people I love too tightly for too long because it’s the only way I know how to express affection to the degree I feel it. And I cry over that one Secret deodorant commercial (you know the one) and almost every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation because stories take up permanent residence in my bones.
I’m an introvert who needs people (INFJs in the house) but fears becoming a burden so I don’t reach out. Pretending I’m unbothered and detached has been a coping mechanism – perhaps one that has weighted my tilt toward depression.
There’s a little truth to every joke
It’s a familiar formula. Person posts repulsive meme on The Facebooks®. Person catches hell from their friends and/or complete randos. Person defends themselves by claiming they’re “just kidding” and their critics are overreacting to a joke.
The things we find funny reflect the things we believe are true. They might be exaggerated for humorous effect, but if we didn’t find the seed truthful to some extent, we wouldn’t find it funny. So, no, it’s not “just a joke” and we’re not stupid enough to believe you.
Sarcasm is frequently cruelty in disguise.
Deflecting the instant you get called out suggests you know the belief underpinning your “joke” is fucked up – or that most people will think it’s fucked up – and that you were testing the water to see who agreed with you because you’re too craven to take responsibility for it.
Sincerity requires courage
The greatest insults we seem capable of hurling at each other are accusations of gullibility and sensitivity. We deploy our sarcasm as a means of distancing ourselves – from the challenges of the world, from the risk of trusting others, and from the horror of facing our own fucked-up selves.
We are, as a society, so goddamn afraid of being fooled – or even just looking foolish. We reject sincerity like a toddler being fed strained peas. Investing in life and in other people is risky and frightening and painful – and instead of admitting we’re too scared to engage we pass it off as being “too smart to care.”
In short, I’m tired of being a coward. I’m tired of pretending I don’t care. It’s exhausting to wear this armor 24/7. And, for someone who cares for people as deeply as I do, it’s exhausting to miss out on the deep connections that nurture me out of a fear of being ridiculed or rejected.
This isn’t to say my sense of humor is gone or that I’ll stop laughing at those dark, clever little jokes from time to time. We all need to blow off steam, and only the individual can decide for themselves when their cynicism is becoming inhibiting.
Nor is this is a prescription to allow ourselves to wallow in our feelings. I plan to address, at a later date, the necessity of combining empathy with evidence and reasoning to take meaningful action. However, for my part, the first step is altering my vocabulary – saying what I mean, and gaining strength from any criticism or dismissal that I face.
What good is a tender heart if it isn’t strong enough to keep beating?