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Monday, August 27, 2012

189

The Day My Shrink Told Me to Change My Personality

This morning in therapy, my shrink said I should try to be less sarcastic. I laughed. She stared at me.

Oh. She was serious. I hadn’t realized. Because here’s what it sounded like when she said it:

“You should think about completely changing your personality.”

My shrink is pretty rad and not, as a rule, given to casually suggesting I alter who I am, so I figured I’d misheard. But nope.

“Sarcasm is important to me,” I said, swatting the air, waving away her expertise in one deft move. Therapists love when you do that. “It’s a generational thing. It’s how we talk to one another.”

“Well,” she said, “I have a lot of patients who think sarcasm is important, and it’s not helping any of you.” 

Ouch. But also yay? Lots of us are fucked up — different kinds of fucked up, for sure, but these invisible people she invoked, they’ve all sat where I sit, on that couch, looking for help. So we’re in this together. Only, the thing we’re in together is, as I’ve always seen it, one of the best parts of my personality. Now here was the woman I pay weekly to help me wade through my troubles telling me it’s actually a detriment.

“I’m not saying not to be playful,” she added, answering my unvoiced worry. (I’m pretty sure she has a magic shrink tool that allows her to see my thoughts in visible bubbles over my head.) “Just, you know, don’t do it all the time,” she suggested. “And do it less with men.”

Comb the racks of OkCupid and you will find profiles — my own defunct one included — rife with requirements of wit and sarcasm. I’m not alone in valuing biting humor — but it’s also not lost on me that everyone (well, almost everyone) on OkCupid is single. So was my shrink onto something?

We’d found our way to the topic because I was rehashing the latest installment of a drawn-out, unrewarding thing with Flaky Guy, which had been going nowhere slowly. After a few promising dates and two makeouts, things fizzled in the most infuriating way: He had the pathological need to make plans with me and cancel them, and I had the compulsive habit of letting him. It had been going on for months (as in 10, not two), and after finally giving him and his flaky ambivalence the ol’ heave-ho, I’d just heard from him again. His lady-boner-killing wussiness seemed to dissipate when he drank, and the night he contacted me he must have been drinking a lot, because his texts were decisive and aggressive. I liked it. He tried to coax me out of the warmth of my bed to meet him in his. I didn’t budge, but I was interested all over again.

Only now, two days later, we were stuck in our familiar holding pattern, having more trouble making plans than any two people who aren’t brain-injured ever should.

“Maybe I should just read you the texts,” I said to my shrink. She and I had been trying to get to the bottom of the situation for ages. He was a cipher and would remain one unless he materialized bodily in my sessions. But me, me we could try to figure out. That’s why I was there, after all.

I read her text after text, a witty series of parries and ripostes, his failing persistence and my flirtatious rebuffing. “You know a 2 a.m. drink sounds fun,” he wrote. “Not gonna happen,” I countered. “Well,” he responded, “if you find yourself suddenly caffeinated or wanting a drink or desperately needing to visit [insert his address here], just call.” “You’re far less ambivalent when you drink,” I wrote. “You should consider doing it more frequently and heavily.”

“Why don’t you just be straightforward with him?” my shrink interrupted. In my realm, those texts were straightforward. In one I’d even been bold enough to say I’d go out with him only if in the cold, sober light of day he still wanted to — and actually had the balls to go through with it. I couldn’t believe my therapist didn’t see how disarmingly and vibrantly straightforward I’d been.

I am intensely pro-therapy and will eventually consider anything my shrink asks me to no matter how uncomfortable or icky-feeling or just plain wrong-seeming it is because I figure she knows better than I do about matters like these. I turned her idea over in my head.

“So like, what should I say?” I asked warily.

“Just tell him you’d like to see him again, and give him a specific time.”

My nose scrunched reflexively, my lips twisted into a line.

“Why are you doing that?”

I covered my entire face with my hands. “I don’t know!” I said through my fingers. “That’s just so … ugh!”

She was staring at me again. I knew how it sounded: At what point in my life had simply telling someone I wanted to see him become as risky as declaring my undying love or accidentally showing up to school in my underwear?

Did sarcasm help with fear? Yes, of course. I am terrified of rejection, petrified of humiliation. Sarcasm helps me deflect that. If I’m rejected, well hey, no big — I didn’t really care anyway! Sarcasm is great in that way. Not so great in the way of boyfriend-snagging.

“And don’t wait too long,” my shrink added as I gathered my things. One final bit of advice before I was out the door and off to deal with Flaky Guy on my own.

I stood by her elevator, a blank text message open in my hand. I took a deep breath, typed and hit send. I looked at what I’d written: “Friday! 9ish! Let’s actually finally do this.”

I realized immediately that my hasty attempt at earnestness had ended up sounding less like an invitation to drinks and more like an invitation to my vagina. I fought the urge to send a second text that said, “Erm … ’this’=date. Realized that sounded shady. Kbye.” Oy.

But he’d made his desire to sleep with me so abundantly clear just a few nights ago, I reasoned. Well, that was when he was drunk, my inner critic piped up. And maybe he’s changed his mind, inner critic’s good friend self-deprecation chimed in. Never mind that he was the troubled one who couldn’t get it together to go out with me again even though he had the apparent need to keep asking. My thoughts swirled and I immediately regretted trying to be straightforward. No wonder I like sarcasm — who the fuck wants to deal with inner critic and self-deprecation?

It’s not news that snark is how many of us operate these days. The Daily Show, Gawker, The Onion, Twitter — for many of us, our daily life is one big witshow, an opportunity to peacock around a little and have people respond. Those of us who are sarcastic think we’re smarter than people who aren’t. We think people who don’t get us don’t get it. For many of us, eliciting a laugh from something intelligent and hilarious and biting is a way to feel better about ourselves for one glorious moment. It never occurred to me that it was also a shield. I mean, yes, I know, Chandler Bing, yadda yadda yadda, but c’mon — this is Brooklyn, 2012. Isn’t everyone sarcastic?

I recently dated someone 12 years younger than I am (I’m 35) who is Canadian. (I have no idea if that matters. It feels like it does.) He was playful and bright and silly but not, come to think of it, terribly sarcastic. When I was and he wasn’t, I inevitably seemed mean — and because of the age difference, when I seemed mean, I felt like an old witch picking on a little kid, which I did not enjoy. So I made a concerted effort not to be too snarky when I was with him, and we had the best times when I could relax a little and just be real.

But sarcasm can be a hoot. I have the least fun with friends who aren’t sarcastic but often have the most meaningful conversations with them. Not everyone is all things at all times, and I’m not a wit-generating robot (or am I?), but in general, that’s the truth.

During a particularly bummerish dating spell once, I said to a (very sarcastic) male friend of mine, “I think maybe guys don’t like girls who are funny.” He said, “Yes they do, they just don’t like girls who are funnier than they are.” I thought that was insightful, but now I wonder if maybe we’re both wrong — and we’re sure as hell both single. Maybe guys (and girls) just don’t like girls (and guys) who are so guarded that sarcasm is the only way they operate.

“People just want to feel safe,” offered another friend — who is in a stable relationship — when I blabbered on about my Flaky Guy problem. “I know your deal,” she said. “You’re super strong, you don’t need anyone — but just remember that people only want to feel safe.” And sarcasm may make people feel delighted for a few minutes, but I guess it doesn’t make them feel terribly protected.

In the end, I never heard from Flaky Guy again, which is par for the course with him. (What do you expect? His parents named him Flaky Guy for god’s sake.) Whatever issues he has obviously outweigh his desire to meet me for drinks.

But even I know my final text, my attempt at blatant honesty, isn’t to blame (you shut up, inner critic and self-deprecation). So I continue to contemplate my therapist’s advice. I’m still sarcastic (paging Capt. Obvious), but I’m mulling the idea of trying to be a little less so sometimes. It isn’t easy, but I guess I realize that if I want someone to be open and unguarded with me, it only makes sense that he should get the same in return. [Raises hands to face, twists lips into a line.]

 

Previously: Love in the Time of Google. 

Carla Sosenko's writing has appeared in Jezebel, Marie Claire, Self magazine, Heeb magazine, Laughspin, and various other publications. Her first play, Headcase, was produced in the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, and her short story “Clutter” was a semifinalist in the Nimrod Awards. Follow her on Twitter @carlasosenko and check out her website, carlasosenko.com.

189 Comments / Post A Comment

PistolPackinMama

Oh, bravo. This is terrific.

<3

(Also, confidential to Inner Critic and Self Deprecation-- please go fuck yourselves.)

Cat named Virtute

@PistolPackinMama Can we round up all our Inner Critics and ship them off to a desert island, Lord of the Flies style?

Ophelia

@Cat named Virtute Oh, god, can you imagine getting accidentally marooned on that island??

Linette

@PistolPackinMama I think you just created Hell.

Xanthophyllippa

@Linette Or, y'know, depression.

PistolPackinMama

@Xanthophyllippa Yeah, it only is hell if, on that Island, there is a Greyhound bus station with horrible plastic chairs and nothing in the vending machines except mesquite Fritos and Dr. Pepper. And the Voices are there, waiting to share their literature with you.

Then it's hell.

Otherwise, depression, howdy!

Cat named Virtute

@PistolPackinMama Have you spent extensive time in the Albany bus station? My roommate has a well-founded theory that that is the real hell. But yeah, depression. No one makes a reality tv show about THAT.

PistolPackinMama

@Cat named Virtute Madison. But I expect they are much the same.

And being Catholic like I am, I assume it's less hell and more PURGATORY. The place you wait and wait and wait and wait. And wait some more.

like a rabid squirrel

@Cat named Virtute The Albany bus station ungh. I agree with your roommate. The Albany bus station + self-deprecation + inner critic + depression = hell.

Cat named Virtute

@olliegrace specifically the Albany bus station when it's 3am, all the vending machines are broken, and they're cleaning the bathrooms. And you still have to clear Canadian customs once you eventually leave.

bunnymelt

@PistolPackinMama Created an account JUST to agree with your roommate. My friends and I have been calling it variations of "the gateway to hell" for years. What's interesting is how everyone comes to that conclusion despite how NOBODY TALKS while actually there.

Xanthophyllippa

@PistolPackinMama I...had completely forgotten we even had a bus station. Like, an actual station, not just a drive-by ejection of passengers at a random Park-n-Ride or on campus. Huh. Learn something new every day.

whateverlolawants

@PistolPackinMama Those are actually things I would be pretty pleased to find in a vending machine. Otherwise, yes, I agree. And I am crossing the Albany bus station off my bucket list.

JanieS

O_O

First sentence here = the thing that solidified my decision to never darken the door of my therapist's office again, lest I Kill Him With Fire.

Now - to read the rest of the article.

JanieS

@JanieS And of course, things are already different in this situation, as this therapist does not appear to be a horrifyingly condescending assbasket.

SarahP

Sarcasm can definitely get in the way of one's interactions when one is using it as a shield, but I don't think all sarcasm is a defense mechanism.

itiresias

@SarahP no..i think it's important to know the difference, and different people and the regions they hail from definitely factor into the understanding of it. but, that guy just sounds like an obvious douchebag, sarcastically handled or not.

whizz_dumb

@SarahP Seconded. Also, there's a few shades of sarcasm but I think it has become a go-to word for all sorts of word-play that could be called dry, playful, silly, absurd, deadpan, toungue-in-cheek, half-true, too true, cheesy, etc. I think some people misuse "sarcastic". It's defined (in one place) as:
1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark.

...if anyone cares.

Lu2
Lu2

@whizz_dumb --I sure do! I've been feeling for a while as though people relied too much on "sarcasm" as an indicator of wit. I began to think, 5-10 years ago, that being snarky about things---as if everyone could be Dorothy Parker (and IMO even she was pretty nasty, rather than funny, much of the time)---was way overrated. I mean, like, don't you like anything? Is what I would want to say to those people. After a long love affair with sarcasm myself, I'm more into the other kinds of wordplay you enumerate. So thanks for clarifying the various definitions for us.

City_Dater

@whizz_dumb

I care! It drives me nuts when people dismiss any and all dry humor as "sarcastic" -- sometimes it's like farting is the only thing we're allowed to find funny these days.

Better to Eat You With

@whizz_dumb True sarcasm always feels like the realm of the 15-year-old boy to me.

skyslang

@whizz_dumb I care, too! Thanks for posting that. Sarcastic has been overused and misused of late.

whizz_dumb

@Better to Eat You With Yeah, at its worst it is the wit of an angst-ridden undersexed high-school brat.

Slapfight

Pure sarcasm is just so self defeating. Everything is viewed negatively and instead of bothering to try changing something, you just scorn it. It gets tiresome, and I love satire, dryness and absurdity, etc. It's why Parks and Recreation is so great, in my opinion. It's all those things, but also filled with enthusiasm, positivity and even the most sarcastic character (April) occasionally goes out of her way to be kind. And those are the best moments!
My coffee hasn't kicked in yet. I'm rambling.

entangled

I had a childhood friend who (while otherwise a really awesome person that I have sadly lost tough with) was so sarcastic that we could never figure out if she was serious or not. If we misread sarcasm as honesty, we would get laughed at and if we misread honesty as sarcasm she would get offended. This reminded me of her - it's true that people like wit but sometimes sarcasm ends up just being a barb that makes people unable to be comfortable around others. Which can be tolerable in a friendship where you feel like you have a line of communication and know they like you and can deal with the occasional misunderstanding, but it's going to make it harder to navigate the early relationship stages where everyone's feeling that stuff out.

I also feel like sarcasm has become a kind of easy humor. Sure, sometimes it's very funny but other times it's an easily available quip that doesn't really surprise anyone to the point of laughter. Not that I don't make a ton of sarcastic comments myself, but half the time afterwards I'm just like "dude, Entangled, why did you just make that jackass comment to your friend for no reason?"

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@entangled I can get pretty sarcastic, but I never thought much about it until my boyfriend pointed out how mean I sounded (specifically, when I spoke to him that way). And then I heard these mean, awful things coming out of my mouth and I realized I was saying them to be mean, not funny. Which made me feel like such a douchebag. :(

christonacracker

@sudden but inevitable betrayal ack, this is me too. I was using "sarcasm" to criticize, but saying nasty things sarcastically always gives you the "it was a joke" defense -- but it's really not. It's just being nasty sometimes.

WaityKatie

@all Agreed. I used to hang out with "friends" (more like frenemies as it turns out) who were all extremely sarcastic and cutting, and it just became this constant worry of "what are they going to make fun of me for today?" It was always something. If I got new shoes it was "haha, you think you look cool with those shoes or something?" Or if I got a haircut it would be "Oh. You got your haircut. *ironic smirk*" And the worst part was that I found myself becoming just like them, constantly trying to defend myself by acting like I didn't care about anything and it was just this big battle of wits or something. When it was really just a bunch of insecure people trying to be cool and not really being actually funny at all. I feel that is what a lot of people do nowadays, and call it sarcasm.

sophia_h

@entangled I had a friend like that, and we have drifted apart over the years because it seemed like she just needed the upper hand in all conversations, so whatever she originally meant she acted like you'd taken it the wrong way. Great person, but difficult to interact with, and it stopped feeling worthwhile trying to navigate the minefield.

KiwiTheBirdNotTheFruit

@entangled One of my friends is so habitually sarcastic (and therefore difficult to read correctly) that, when he told me he was gay, I thought he was making some sort of weird joke. Awkward and confusing!

theotherginger

@WaityKatie lady, you are so smart.

Cat named Virtute

This is not making me any less nervous about seeing a therapist, but it is a helpful/comforting guide? rubric? wrt to the super sarcastic but super lovely lady I am sort of seeing.

josefinastrummer

@Cat named Virtute I think this should encourage you to go to therapy if you think it's right for you. Too many therapists just hold hands and tell you everything you do is right. I know people who have been going to the same therapist for decades. That is bad. This therapist actually wanted to help the writer. Find someone like her who won't baby you. You aren't going to therapy to be told everything is right!

Cat named Virtute

@josefinastrummer Oh, you're right. I'm just scared. Still going though. Changing a fundamental aspect of your personality, even if it's to your net benefit, is still a fucking hard thing to do.

billie_crusoe

@Cat named Virtute I have only seen one terrible therapist (the "Christian therapy"* one in college), and the rest have been mediocre to good, definitely not traumatic.

Except the Christian therapist, the only therapist who I've seen who EVER said something like this to me was one I was super "close" to ("close" is a weird word to use for your therapist... but she was someone I trusted a lot and who "got" me really well). If she had called me out on character flaws early in therapy, I wouldn't have gone back; I have to really trust you before "tough love" works. But once I'd been seeing her for a while, she called me a brat once (followed by actually-valuable feedback), and by that point I could hear what she was saying instead of being offended. If that makes sense.

*I have nothing against Christians as such, just asshats whose goal is conversion and get reimbursed by insurance by parading as "therapists."

Mariajoseh

I recently realized that I'm too sarcastic with my boyfriend, who is 10 years OLDER than me. I sound horrible and mean, like an insecure child. I know that it bothers him that I pick on him like that and it's been hard to change it (THIS IS WHO I AM !), but I figure that I owe it to myself and to him to try, because he is one awesome never-hurtful guy.

Amphora

@Mariajoseh Yeah, I feel bad for my first few boyfriends - I was hiding behind sarcasm to avoid admitting I didn't respect them. But you can change by setting boundaries and being more attentive to checkin your attitude.

TheBourneApproximation
sarah girl

@TheBourneApproximation YES, I was about to dig up this exact sketch.

Kaitlyn Kochany@twitter

LOVE THIS! Sarcasm is amazing - it can be a bonding tool for humour, for example, and a way of being funny - but it's not a panacea and it definitely has its pitfalls. Kudos to you for recognizing them, and maybe distancing yourself from them. Maybe I'll do the same! It could be a pin-along! "The month we went without sarcasm."

The comments would very different, I'm sure.

Reginal T. Squirge

The women I've been most attracted to were also the funniest people I've ever met. That said... my kingdom for someone (male or female) that would just tell me exactly what they want at least some of the time.

Reginal T. Squirge

... which is to say they were much funnier than I could ever be. Insecure people are the ones that aren't attracted to people funnier (or in any way better) than they are.

Also, I once had a therapist that tried to convince me to send a text to an ex and later claim that it was a text meant for someone else (as a subterfuge for contacting her). She later kept cancelling on me until I stopped everything. The new therapist is great, though! Although I hate it when she's right about things that I don't want her to be right about.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Reginal T. Squirge
PROBLEM: No one actually knows what they want...

Reginal T. Squirge

At least I have the decency to act like I do. And then dealing with it if I'm disappointed later instead of making it a fun game for the other party where they get to guess what will make me happy. You know?

Linette

@Reginal T. Squirge People often thing that What You Want has to be a constant. It is constantly changing. And you're allowed to say that What You Want is one thing on Friday, and another thing on the Friday following, without being a liar or misleading. You just have to keep folks in the loop: "Hey! Shit has done gone changed again! Status is currently this way! Carry on with your lives and/or run for cover, depending on how you feel about this particular shit changing!"

Reginal T. Squirge

Yes, this. Which is much better than, "Good luck trying everything you can think of and trying to determine what I want based on my reactions to your attempts! Also, don't explicitly ask me what I want because then I will think you're a weirdo."

Linette

@Reginal T. Squirge I just realized this is particularly true for in-bed activities. I think probably in-bed is a pretty good microcosm for what you'd want in relationships. To wit: communication, trust, sexy times, and random bouts of laughing so hard you can't breathe.

Reginal T. Squirge

OH DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON PEOPLE NOT CLEARLY COMMUNICATING WHAT MAKES THEM HAPPY IN BED

Linette

@Reginal T. Squirge I had a set of diagrams made with one of those audio follow-alongs like they have in museums.

packedsuitcase

@Reginal T. Squirge I feel like I actually err on the side of over communication on this. Though current Dudefriend is good practice in being very clear on what works for me between the sheets. We only see each other for a few days every few months, so if there is no communication, there is no fun to be had during sexytimes.

OhShesArtsy

Posts like these make me want to be an oversharer.

Instead, I choose annoying vagueness.

So there's that.

SuperGogo

@OhShesArtsy I think you just nailed the reason I often default to sarcasm: When I'm ernest, I'm a total oversharer. Sarcasm is an easy way to keep myself in check with having some reasonable boundries when I'm interacting with people who aren't close friends. I deploy sarcasm a lot less with good friends than with not-as-close friends or acquaintances.

SuperGogo

@SuperGogo Heh. For reference, here's me being ernest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ernest_P._Worrell.jpg

OhShesArtsy

@SuperGogo My issue is that I am not an oversharer, but I envy those who can open up. I make a lot of jokes but I don't really get into sarcasm - just my personal preference. It's easier to be the funny lady who looks like she has her shit together than to be a real person who has problems sometimes. Even my close friends rarely make it through the funny shield.

Pretty much - I agree. Humor is the best way to hide.

geek_tragedy

@OhShesArtsy

Ugh this really hit home. I've been brooding (or obsessing or what have you) over a relationship that went south last year. UGH. And although he had his own extensive problems, the man concerned was not entirely to blame. Namely, I am bad at being vulnerable, because I am afraid of intimacy blah blah, and this plays out in me being closed off or too sarcastic.

geek_tragedy

@geek_tragedy

Also I want to note that it's a bad sign if you identify as both of the characters in Kathleen Edwards's song "Comedian/Chameleon." Very very bad.

Which I do.

But mostly, I am a mess. And I just don't want everyone to see that, for various reasons, some of them good, some of them bad.

OhShesArtsy

@geek_tragedy Hello, fellow hiding mess. I wish I had a better, poignant reply for you but I keep feeling the need to delete anything that makes me feel vulnerable. Which is maybe good on the internet? I don't know.

I will say this: there are partners out there who are willing to deal with the tough exteriors and once he or she proves to be patient and willing, you know you have a keeper.

geek_tragedy

@OhShesArtsy

Oh greetings fellow fellow hiding mess! I was trying to reply earlier to say thank you for the well wishes.

Unforch, it's been my discouraging experience that being closed off and aloof (as I can be) leads the wrong kind of man to hold on, while the good ones leave, because, after all, they're not wanted etc. Siiiigh. Also, I don't want anything serious at the moment, because I'm a bit burned out, but it's hard to have something non-serious when you are...closed off.

Alas! I am trying to be more conscious and mindful, and just go wherever my actual personality takes me. Here's hoping it's someplace good.

Springtime for Voldemort

@OhShesArtsy I have two settings: Not sharing anything, and can do Not Sarcastic, or oversharing and very sarcastic (and other forms of dry humor, see @whizz dumb's post above). The sarcasm with oversharing is mostly because I've noticed that the details of my overshare tend to be... outside the realm of what "normal" people are comfortable reacting to, so it's more so that I can share with them without them having to go through the horrible emotional crap with me. But I don't seem to have regular share mode.

Peanut

@geek_tragedy Oooh, Kathleen! Love Kathleen!

fabel

"his parents named him Flaky Guy for god's sake"

hahahaha, I liked that. (Is that considered "sarcasm" though? I feel like reading this peice has challenged my notions of what sarcasm even is)

nina

@fabel yeah i didn't find those text examples particularly sarcastic?

chnellociraptor

Oof, way to hit me in my squishy part.

My heart, that is. Not my vagina.

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

@chnellociraptor

Or perhaps your heart/vagina?

Slutface

I came to this realization a few months ago. I'm very sarcastic and sometimes people think I'm picking on them when I'm just joking around. I always thought "Hey they can't take a joke." But I realized that no, they can take a joke just fine, I'm just not making one.

paddlepickle

@Slutface I didn't realize this until my best friend was dating a guy from the Midwest. Apparently my sense of humor is very East-coast-Woody-Allen-sarcastic, and this guy just thought I didn't like him and was kind of mean because he didn't get sarcasm at all. I felt pretty bad about that.

Reginal T. Squirge

Isn't it awful when we're, like, growing as people and realize that we might be kind of awful? I mean, it's great that now that we recognize it that we're not as awful any longer but still. How could we have let it go on so long?

Slutface

@paddlepickle I sometimes use sarcasm to tell my boyfriend things like he needs a haircut or his apartment is fucking disgusting when I should either keep it to myself or try to be nicer about it. Basically I'm a huge bitch.

highjump

@Reginal T. Squirge This process is so painful. I have become markedly more shy and reserved in the past few years because of this.

Reginal T. Squirge

Yeah, it basically boils down to: I'm terrible and should never speak nor leave the house ever again.

RNL
RNL

@Slutface Yeah, I hear this.

It REALLY hit home around a friend of a friend with whom I've always struggled to get along. I find her... mean. People keep telling me that's just her being funny. And then I realized what it must be like when other people find me mean. Boy was that a day.

Also - just asking for what you want (a date, a hug, whatever) rather than dancing around the issue with wit can be so freeing!

TheclaAndTheSeals

@Slutface Ahhh, your last sentence perfectly expresses what I've been trying to say to my younger brother for YEARS. We're close, but he gets on sarcastic autopilot sometimes, and basically becomes a giant asshole who thinks that he's making hilarious jokes that no one else is clever enough to understand... but they're not jokes. I'm putting your line in my back pocket for the next time he gets like this.

joeks

@Slutface I really like that realization a lot. Kudos for that, for real.

PistolPackinMama

@Slutface Girl. Best. Comment. So insightful (also very funny).

Love.

Lis
Lis

@Slutface I am SO BAD at this. So bad. I am known a bit for being an ice queen - when someone plays a joke on me, I usually have a completely deadpan response, or if it's an inappropriate joke will tell them to knock it off... and then when I try to joke with people, they can never tell it apart from my "serious tiems" so then things just get awkward. I have a few close friends who I can joke with, but other than that? I really avoid it, which is a shame, because it is SUCH a bonding mechanism.

Slutface

@Lis I'm trying to work on it and it's tough because I feel almost like I'm not being myself. On the positive side, making the effort to think about what I'm going to say before I say it and asking myself, "Does this need to be said or should I just keep this to myself and not be snarky?" has helped me realize that not everything is even worth commenting on and I find myself getting into less arguments or situations where I have to explain it was just a joke. Less stressful overall.

Reginal T. Squirge

There was a time a short while back when Letterman was either in the intern fiasco or the ragging-on-Sarah-Palin-and-her-family fiasco and he issued an apology monologue. In it he said something to the effect of, "If I think everyone around me is the asshole, it probably means I'm the asshole." Not that he's the person you should model your personal life after AT ALL but he is An Old and they do have that wisdom thing going for them.

whateverlolawants

@Slutface Yes to things-not-always-being-worth-my-comment. Or my comment not being worth expressing. I've learned that sometimes, my thoughts are just not really necessary in a given situation. I was scared of something passing by without a little bit of me stamped on it. Maybe I still am sometimes, but it's nice to take a step back and just let something be sometimes.

Hello Jodi

@Slutface You hit the nail on the head - my ex was sarcastic and I couldn't stand it. I always felt like he was picking on me. Kudos to you for realizing that.

MissMushkila

I think sarcasm is fine so long as it is reserved mainly for things outside of your relationship. Like, scheduling a date should not require heavy doses of sarcasm. If it does, that's probably a warning sign.

Hammitt

So, my boyfriend is not sarcastic. Or not in the way I am, anyway. Actually, let me go back and revise:

My boyfriend doesn't spend as much time on the internet as I do. Or rather, he spends it on a very different internet. His internet is comprised of
1. The BBC
2. Everyothernewssite
3. Real Clear Politics
4. Sports scores. So many sports scores.

My internet is comprised of:
1. Hairpin/Awl/Sidesplitter
2. Jezebel
3. Anything on facebook
4. Long articles in the Atlantic that i don't have time for
5. Ditto the New Yorker.

Very different internets. In any case, I have picked up this habit from my internet and my friends (American) of using this sort of internet short hand for funny. It's not actually funny. It's sort of sarcasm, lots of elipses, staccato half sentences, lists like the ones above, etc. I can't seem to help it.

He (British, also with different internet) doesn't get it - or doesn't read it the same way. He sometimes refers to it as 'try hard' and mostly thinks its not funny (which, I mean, fine, it *isn't*). This is, I kid you not, a huge problem in our relationship.

Which is to say (long way round) that I don't think it's just sarcasm. It's all these short hands for communicating, all our witty reposts, in-jokes, Arrested Development references and side notes of This American Life stories - all of this shared language - that has caused us to side-step actual communication. The kind where you say what you want. And then don't preface it or soften it or ad a "pretty" or "sort of" or sad little semi-sarcastic end note. It's all fun and games when everyone else is on the same page, but I do think its causing problems. Little niches of communication where we can all talk to each other but not others. Internet-caused language barriers.

So its both more and less than sarcasm, but its certainly worth considering.

PS This doesn't make me any less bitter that bf doesn't "get it" and I have to write in an entirely different style to him.
PPS This also makes me want to go to therapy. Why, oh, why must it be so expensive?

Cat named Virtute

@Hammitt If it helps, I don't think this is a terribly internet-exclusive phenomenon. Sure the internet amplifies it and speeds it up because it can bring so many of us together from so far apart, but humour has always dwelt in specific regions, been highly referential and colloquial, and been very, well, derivative. Which is why you need at least half an English degree to understand why Chaucer is funny. And also why I get so exasperated about people maintaining that the internet is fucking up our communication. It's not, it's just making the process of how language changes more transparent, which I think is awesome and fascinating, although it's certainly worth investigating the consequences of such a dramatic in-group lexicon.

Linette

@Cat named Virtute I'd agree with this. My friends and I talk in shorthand all the time, and it has, if anything, made our communication deeper and more layered, because my friend can be explaining the problems in her relationship and all I have to do is say, "I think you're forgetting who you married again," and she has an instant recognition of how that statement relates to her current situation, plus all the other conversations where that has arisen, and she can apply all the lessons at once.

And what is that? It's essentially a meme. It's a single statement that encompasses a whole and recalls all the pieces of the whole. Which can be used for silly stuff (skeptical African kid, I heart you), but is also a really effective way to have more interesting communication within a paradigm.

Guys, I really, really wanted that last clause to not sound so pretentious but could not come up with another word that means the same thing as 'paradigm' except for 'thingy.'

Hammitt

@Cat named Virtute You have a really good point - but I guess its that speeding up thats worrying! I mean, this boy and I come from very similar backgrounds, went to the same university, hang out with the same friends, and yet have these wildly different syntaxes and references. I'm not sure that's bad, but it certainly is surprising. And I've never met a surprising thing I wasn't ready to fret about.

permanentbitchface

Everyone lives in Brooklyn!

Reginal T. Squirge

Only the cool people. Only the cool people.

parallel-lines

@permanentbitchface It must be true, parking is a bitch.

Ophelia

@permanentbitchface It's like the Hotel California. I'm going to be stuck here forever.

Reginal T. Squirge

Such a lovely place. Such a terrible song that's amazingly good when completely re-worked by Frank Ocean.

parallel-lines

@Ophelia We're stuck on a (long) island surrounded by a polluted moat. I hope they make enough artisinal pickles and mayo in case the bridges ever fall.

Ophelia

@parallel-lines You can come over and eat the remaining produce from my patio garden in the event of an apocalypse. I mean, it'll probably be radioactive, but I'll share.

Daisy Razor

@permanentbitchface I don't, but I think my sarcasm moved there in 2003.

parallel-lines

Canadians are the least sarcastic people on earth, the genuineness is sincerely adorable, even to my black sarcastic heart. Once, while (what I considered to be kidding around) with a group of expats one of them said, "Geez, why so MEAN?"

Kaitlyn Kochany@twitter

@parallel-lines I'm a Canadian, and we can snark with the best of them.

The Lady of Shalott

@parallel-lines I am a pretty sarcastic person myself, but I have met at least a dozen Canadians who are leagues and leagues ahead of me in that department. On the other side, my American mom's side of the family is so genuine and non-sarcastic that they don't understand me and kind of don't like me for that reason.

Possibly because I am learning (slowly) that not everyone likes it when you make jokes that they think they are too dumb to get! Oh, shame. Shame shame shame.

City_Dater

@parallel-lines

If another adult said such a thing to me, I would be sorely tempted to respond "Geez, why so humorlessly earnest?" Unless you were being actively insulting, that's kind of rude.
And I have met and happily interacted with more than a few bracingly acerbic and witty Canadians.
People who complain about "sarcasm" are far too often the sort who don't understand it is possible to make a joke without laughing.

Megasus

@Kaitlyn Kochany@twitter Yeah I mostly know snarky Canadians, it is not a Canadian thing. My extended family gatherings mostly involve sassing each other.
But at the same time, I am not so snarky that I won't tell someone directly what I think. That is the real problem in this piece.

PistolPackinMama

@The Lady of Shalott My experience of Scottish people is they are really good with the sarcasm. Is there a Canadian Immigrant History there, do you think?

The Lady of Shalott

@PistolPackinMama I have done several courses in Canadian immigration history, and there are whole schools of theory and thought devoted to it. Usually it's divided by time periods or areas of origin!

Chrestomanci

@parallel-lines Hmmm. I'm a kiwi, and have found that a lot of the Americans I have met 'didn't get' sarcasm. But perhaps it was just that they didn't recognise it as sarcasm because of the accent? Or maybe I'm just mean.

MilesofMountains

@parallel-lines Only the white folk. I'm pretty sure most of the Inuit I know can out-snark any American.

VDRE

You can pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead, frightened of interactions where everyone straightforwardly says what they mean, hands.

Heat Signature

Tonight on the Lifetime Movie Network: An Invitation to My Vagina, starring Tori Spelling and Dean Cain.

Feminist Killjoy

my utilization of sarcasm is inversely proportional to my spiritual well-being

paddlepickle

Flaky Guy is making me furious, just thinking about him and all the Flaky Guys I have dated and will date. UGH FLAKY GUYS.

Maladydee

@paddlepickle I KNOW. I think they get under your skin worse than just a regular rejection because it feels like a near-miss, like you're *so close* to something and if you could do/say the right things, you could make it happen. Except it never will because it's *their* flakiness that is the problem.

I mean, not that I've been recently hung up on a guy like that and analyzing the shit out of why it threw me so badly or anything....

hotdog

@Maladydee I think the important thing to realize when dealing with a flaky guy is: they're not flaky when they really like you. It's painful to realize, but it's not their flakiness that is the problem, it's that they're not going to put any effort into the relationship.

It seems rough, but its kind of easier to digest than the constant "why is he like this?!" It just opens you up to the person that IS really into you, because trust, it will happen!

nina

@paddlepickle this particular flaky guy (who likes to ask out and cancel) sounds like the classic "guy in a relationship who still collects phone numbers to remind himself he's a viable option".

WaityKatie

@hotdog Yeah, I mean, I always go back to something that the last Flaky Guy I "sort of dated" actually said to me, which was "people do what they want." Meaning, if he really wanted to see me, he would see me. There wouldn't be all this constant "something suddenly came up at work" bullshit all the time. That guy was an asshole, but he was useful in some ways, as I haven't tried to date any flaky guys since. (I also haven't really dated anyone....erm.)

timesnewroman

@hotdog Perhaps this is me being mean, but I was a little baffled by this article - it seemed to me to be less about sarcasm as such and more about how to realise that someone doesn't fancy you that much. (Hint: flaking out on you for TEN MONTHS). Was the therapist trying to get her to stop being vague/self-undermining (not sure I even want to call it sarcasm?) and actually ask for what she wanted, so she'd get a proper yes or a no? Surely the therapist could have saved everyone ten months of analysis by saying "he's probably not that fussed".

timesnewroman

Ugh, basically, He's Just Not That Into You (tm). Which despite being patronising as all fuck had a solid kernel of truth: men tend to make it pretty clear when they're interested.

WaityKatie

@timesnewroman I kind of thought the same thing, but then I didn't want to post it, because I'm not longer sure what constitutes sarcasm. It seems like it kind of covers everything, or nothing, I don't know! (and I'm not being sarcastic...am I?? Argh.)

SuperGogo

@WaityKatie During the break-up talk, my recent ex came right out and said that he knew he hadn't been making much of an effort in the relationship and that was because he didn't have deeper feelings. The lack of deeper feelings was mutual, so this wasn't as hurtful a statement as it could've been. But it sure as hell was direct and I was grateful for that. No need to wonder whether or not they're into you when they flat-out tell you they're not!

WaityKatie

@SuperGogo Although, if you're an especial super-genius like I used to be, you can have someone come right out and tell you he doesn't want a relationship with you and basically doesn't care about you at all, and still follow him around for months thereafter trying to get him to approve of you. Sigh.

skyslang

@hotdog I just this week wrote this to my own "Flaky Guy":
Hey, doesn't seem like you're really interested. It's cool, I just don't want to drag this out. No hard feelings! Good luck to ya."
It felt so amazing! I'm not putting up with that shit anymore.

PistolPackinMama

@hotdog @Maladydee I think the important thing to realize when dealing with a flaky guy is: they're not flaky when they really like you. It's painful to realize, but it's not their flakiness that is the problem, it's that they're not going to put any effort into the relationship.

Word.

So... is "sarcasm" the new "hipster?" One of those catch all words that mean everything and therefore nothing?

Also, living in Scotland. Oh my. There is a strain of humor there that just... exactly that whole "are they kidding what do they mean?" And being an earnest Midwestern American just... oy.

WaityKatie

@skyslang Go you! For ditching the flaky guy AND for having the restraint not to add "and by the way, go fuck yourself" as I would have been tempted to.

churlishgreen

This was really interesting, thanks for posting it.

In my experience, relentless sarcasm can be extremely damaging to relationships. Most of my in-laws (parents+8 adult kids) mostly seem to communicate, with each other and with everyone else, exclusively with sarcasm.

It was funny and sort of charming at first, to someone like me who was raised as an earnest Midwesterner but loved "sophisticated" humor. But after years of marriage and a lot of frustration I am completely over this. Sometimes in life you have to have a serious conversation, and getting this kind of response is not only not constructive, it makes it impossible to develop trust and intimacy.

Maladydee

@churlishgreen I think when you (and by you I mean I) use sarcasm too much, you start to default to thinking that everyone else is speaking in sarcasm all the time, too. So something as simple as, "This was really interesting, thanks for posting it." gets read by my brain in a sarcastic way and I have to stop for a second and tell myself, "No, that was a legit compliment". Which really derails communications, since your (my) knee-jerk reaction is to look for the hidden barbs in everything people say.

Sarcasm: enabling and perpetuating self-loathing since forever.

hotdog

@churlishgreen Who are all these earnest midwesterners everyone keeps speaking of?? I spent my formative years in Ohio, and I joke that I have to seriously tone down my 'Cincinnati snark' when I travel.

JanieS

@hotdog I know! My family is from Wisconsin and they are all super-wry, sarcastic folk. (WE ARE MONSTERS.)

KeLynn

@hotdog Hey! Cincinnati! Hello there!

KeLynn

@Maladydee - I think being sarcastic all the time not only makes you look for barbs in what other people say, but makes them look for barbs in what *you* say because they don't know when you're being sarcastic and when you're not. My boyfriend and I are both pretty sarcastic people, but a lot of times when we get in fights it starts because I thought he was being sarcastic/mean when he was really just saying something. And it happens the other way around, too, where he thinks I'm being mean when I'm really not trying to be.

churlishgreen

@hotdog I'm from Michigan, and I regularly got in trouble as a kid for being (mildly) sarcastic with my parents. At least when I was growing up (in the 70s and 80s, I am an Old), snarkiness wasn't really A Thing there. It probably is now.

It could have been that it was a different era, or that my parents both grew up in relatively poor and troubled immigrant families, or both.

I think that in some ways, sarcasm and irony are luxuries. When shit is hitting the fan, you have to communicate in a straightforward manner.

chevyvan

@churlishgreen I'm currently dealing with this issue with my boyfriend except that I'm the one with the heavy sarcasm and sarcastic family (and sarcastic friends). He's only sarcastic when he's in a particular mood. The first time he met my family, it was a disaster. We've moved past it, and I had to explain that when his family uses sarcasm, it comes from a mean-spirited place but in my family it *does not.* Can we go too far? Absolutely.

The issue still really worries me, though. I've never dated anyone as *sincere* as he is, and he is so so so great...but I wonder if the differences are too much, if I should change b/c I'm a big jerk, if he should change, if the issue is navigable, or if we are doomed. (sigh...) I know this is going to come up again and I have to find a way to frame other than, "You're being overly sensitive."

like a rabid squirrel

@Maladydee Yes! Also electronic communication amplifies this. I read sarcasm (and passive-aggressiveness, but that's another thing entirely) into almost every e-mail I get. Then when I read them out loud to someone else, they inevitably say "You are crazy, that was a perfectly nice e-mail/text/etc."

angelene

@churlishgreen I'm not sure about sarcasm, but I do think people can be humorous *and* truthful – jokes can be very revealing.

churlishgreen

@chevyvan FWIW, when I stumbled across this, written by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, it crystallized a lot of what bothered me about my husband and his family:

The self-help gurus will tell you it's important to have an ongoing positive dialog with yourself. Lots of books have been written on this topic. All I will add is that you might be completely unaware of how negative you are. Many people make the mistake of incorporating negativity in their humor and thinking the outcome is a net positive. That takes the form of reflexively commenting on what's wrong with, well, everything. I used to be that guy. It was a habit I picked up from my mother. I thought I was being funny. An ex did me the favor of pointing out that I was actually just being an asshole. All the time.

Luckily, this is one of the easiest habits you can ever break. Now I make it a practice to think or say something positive immediately after I let slip a negative comment. Saying positive things puts your mind into a positive state. And when you become that guy, you attract positive relationships and positive outcomes.

***

To his credit, my husband has tried/is trying to change. But it is deeply ingrained.

@angelene, I don't think I said or implied that people can't be humorous and truthful. But it's true that I don't think a joke, truthful or not, is the appropriate response to every situation.

frigwiggin

I think I only have difficulty with sarcasm when it becomes too flippant. Like, we can't talk about an important thing because you just want to make a clever remark that brushes me off? Okay, we have a problem.

Also, I'm enjoying reading everybody else's comments and substituting "vagina centipedes" for each use of "sarcasm."

anachronistique

@frigwiggin It's more likely than you think!

But yeah, it's a line that is hard to define but definitely real. My circle has a running joke about how "all our friends are jerks," because we are snarkmonsters, but... I've also had really deep and genuine life-changing conversations with these people and trust them implicitly. It's knowing when to shut down the urge for a one-upping quip and be serious.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@frigwiggin I keep wanting to respond with, "Cool story," and then I realize people will probably think I'm being sarcastic. :(

frigwiggin

"I sometimes use [vagina centipedes] to tell my boyfriend things like he needs a haircut or his apartment is fucking disgusting when I should either keep it to myself or try to be nicer about it."

"[Vagina centipedes] can definitely get in the way of one's interactions when one is using [them] as a shield, but I don't think all [vagina centipedes] [are] a defense mechanism."

"I don't, but I think my [vagina centipedes] moved there in 2003."

MoonBat

@frigwiggin Oh, THANKS A LOT! Please to be sending new, waterproof, keyboard?

frigwiggin

@MoonBat I'll send you some new, waterproof, vagina centipedes.

MoonBat

@frigwiggin Great, thanks! I'll be more careful with my tea.
I love my vagina centipedes so much, but I'm so worried about my vagina centipedes.

teebs

Get rid of your vagina centipedes, seriously, they are revolting.

Maryaed

Is this really about sarcasm, or about saying what you want only in a self-undermining way? Because those are different to me and there are a whole host of ways to be defensive in your interactions. You could be preemptively expecting dismissal and therefore acting like you care about nothing (sounds like this is the writer), or absurdly understanding and empathetic, or wryly humorous when your heart is hurting (I am that person, probably).

But if you can't tell the person you want love from that you need them, that hurts a whole lot. You should be able to say what you want unironically.

Girl Named Jack

I seem to remember my therapist also giving me The Talk about sarcasm. But it was more like: "Remember that girl you used to be when you were little and not so jaded? Try for that. Not all the time, just sometimes."

And, she was right.

nina

What is she exactly supposed to say? "No thank you sir, but I will be available for outings on Sunday evenings between 4 and 6 in the future"? Presumably what he likes about her is at least in part her wit.

WaityKatie

@nina I think at some point in the TEN MONTHS, it would not be too forward to say "would you like to meet up at such and such a time?" and if he agrees and then backs out for ill-defined reasons, stop talking to him.

TheBelleWitch

@WaityKatie I feel like "stop talking to him" was the only advice the therapist needed to give in this situation.

Linette

@nina Is it bad that I would date the hell out of someone who answered a date request like this? As if they were in Victorian London and came with a chaperone?

Maryaed

@nina Right, but in fact you can be witty and sardonic and then the value of your directness is all the greater when you stop with the repartee and say "You know, it actually hurts my feelings when you cancel all the time, so I'd rather not make plans anymore."

insouciantlover

@nina "You keep flaking on me. Would you actually like to meet up at any point ever? Because if not, you're wasting my time."

joeks

Ehhh... I find it really tiring when grown adult people are super-proud of their sarcasm. Like, congratulations, you have mastered the domain of 13-year-olds everywhere.

There are better means of communication, quite frankly. Why be so attached to this one? It's actually kind of lame, and it's not a suitable replacement for real intelligence or personality or sophistication.

Cat named Virtute

@joeks Because sometimes it's really hard to be vulnerable? I think that's the point here. For a lot of people it's a form of self-preservation.

JanieS

@joeks Yeah, what Cat name Virtute said. Sometimes, when you spent your formative years getting emotionally eviscerated every time you tried to be open and honest with people, you develop a Shell of Snark.

angelinha

@joeks Yessss. I've noticed that men on okcupid like to boast that they are sarcastic. One star to you, sarcastic man, that is not something to be proud of.

TheLetterL

@angelinha Oof, I came here to comment on the OKCupid thing. I've always figured that the majority of people making a big deal in their profiles about their awesome sense of sarcasm are less witty Dorothy Parker types and more likely to be mean, insecure people who frame their meanness as justkiddingness and misunderstood geniusness.

I love me some acid wit and (good-hearted) sarcasm, but if I see it plastered all over a profile, I hit the back button SO FAST.

WaityKatie

@angelinha Agreed. I usually immediately move on from any profile that describes its inhabitant as sarcastic. Also, the ones where the guy claims to be funny, yet there is nothing intentionally funny whatsoever about the profile. Guess I'll just have to take your word for it, dude.

joie

Sarcasm detox can be really soul-fulfilling. One of the biggest "huh, interesting" moments I had after my last relationship was when I started being my naturally earnest self after several months of increasingly cynical, sarcastic humor. I started actually listening to myself and the jokes I would make, and while I had thought I was being funny and witty, I was actually coming across as pretty bitter and mean and insincere most of the time. Oof.

But now I think I might be swinging too heavily in the earnest direction, because I am sensitive and tender-hearted in a way that scares the everliving daylights out of me. I feel like a crab without a shell.

like a rabid squirrel

@Mame Dennis-Pickett-Burnside I fear the same thing - I know I need to tone down my sarcasm but I kind of worry that me minus sarcasm is (at least at this juncture) a blubbering, sensitive, uncomfortably honest mess.

joie

@olliegrace Yes this. It translates (for me) into Not Very Interesting. And I dearly love to be thought interesting and desirable. I think everyone does.

But...uncomfortably honest messes are pretty wonderful too, because I always know where I stand with them. And I'd like to think that by putting your sensitive, tender self out there, you will be met with kindred spirits who might have otherwise been repelled by your overly sarcastic self.

chickaboom

@Mame Dennis-Pickett-Burnside i have this problem too! i have been so pleasantly surprised by people being earnest with me that i decided to become more earnest; but then it felt out of place in the sarcastic social world i operate in, so i hedged back gradually to way too much sarcasm, and now i just fluctuate uncomfortably between these two poles: earnest naked heart, bitter snappy sass-afrass.

Bridget Callahan@facebook

I recently posted a facebook status where I said "I feel really bad when someone tells me to try something and I respond with "I already did, like a year ago". I was actually being sincere, I DO feel bad that I have that particular uncool reaction. But my FB comments immediately filled up with people telling me what a hipster I was, and how that wasn't cool, and what was wrong with me. Which I could either blame my friends for not reading that as sincere, or I could see it as a personal sign that I am way too sarcastic the rest of the time, and I need to watch it or I'm going to lose the ability to communicate sincerity entirely.

Blushingflwr

I love sarcasm, but I have found that many times when I thought I was being really blatantly honest (even without sarcasm) I wasn't. I've thought that my signals were clear and unambiguous, but they weren't. I unfortunately have a tendency to get annoyed at people who force me to be blunt by my standards. But I am slowly learning that subtlety is not always the way to go. I think sarcasm is often a way to say what we really mean without attaching too much vulnerability to the statement, and so it often doesn't actually convey the meaning we intend. (Also, sarcasm doesn't translate well in text messages unless you know the other person really well)

nonvolleyball

I think there's a key difference between "sarcasm" & using humor to deflect the more uncomfortable aspects of a given situation. the first leads to the inevitable slippery "I was only kidding!" defense if the audience has a negative response, but the latter can be a useful tool for deflating the seriousness of a situation.

the example my husband & I always use when discussing the ways we use humor to communicate (except not a real example, because I'd like to think our real jokes are funnier than this), is him saying "hey, the Nonvolleyball Footwear Museum seems to be outgrowing its current space" when he'd like me to move my shoes from next to the door into the bedroom where they belong. is that "sarcastic" in the sense that it's less direct than saying, "hey, please do this?" sure. but it's direct in its own way, & I get what he's saying, but I don't have the experience of being told what to do like a child (which can make one defensive). I'm like, "oh snap, yeah, there are like six pairs now huh," & I take care of it. (obviously this could be extrapolated to anything that you need your partner to do in a relationship, that which is reasonable but which they might not initiate on their own.)

I feel like the true "sarcastic" mode would be for him to say, "gee, I LOVE how your shoes are always in my way. it'd be so great if you could literally block the door with them, so that we could never get in or out of the apartment at all." that would probably make me feel defensive, & then he'd be like, "I was just kidding, GAWD," & then we'd be in a fight. which ostensibly isn't the goal (but maybe sometimes is, based on the relationships I've had with people who make these sorts of "jokes").

so, while I feel like "say one thing to convey a different, but related, point" can work--especially if done with good nature & actually funny humor--I feel like "say one thing to mean a completely opposite thing" is inherently problematic, because it's hard to find where the sincerity actually is. the first is, essentially, "I'm trying to say something tricky in a way that doesn't cause offense," the second ends up being, "I'm trying to say something mean to you without having to take responsibility for it."

...this is difficult to explain, but for some reason I felt compelled to parse that out, so there you go. (another category is "sarcasm" in which you say things that aren't true at ALL for the sake of the patent absurdity, & I fully endorse that mode of communication/humor as well.)

basically, don't be a jerk, & don't try to pretend your jerkiness doesn't count if you were sarcastic when enacting it.

Xanthophyllippa

@nonvolleyball Oh man, that last line. THAT LAST LINE. Yes.

TheMole

Am I the only one who was expecting this to be written by someone who was just 23 or so, not 35? This seems like a case of being unwilling to recognize that sometimes change (subtle, not wholesale) can be a positive thing and not a rejection of your perceived self.

WaityKatie

@TheMole Yeah, it reminded me a little (just a little, because the author didn't seem nearly this bad) of this friend I used to have in my early-mid 20's who would react to any suggestion that she change her mean behavior with a huge huff and speech about how "I can't change my personality! Why does everyone always want me to change my personality?!" I always tried to respond that I didn't want her to change her personality, just to stop saying mean things to me all the time. Stop doing shady shit behind my back and then lying about it. I didn't think those behaviors were intrinsic to her "personality" but apparently they were because she didn't stop and we aren't friends any longer.

Xanthophyllippa

@WaityKatie One of my friends in high school used to pull a variant of that line all the time: "I shouldn't have to make people like me." I finally gave up on explaining to her that if she wasn't going to try to be likeable instead of being mean, then she couldn't complain when people didn't like her.

My boss is really sarcastic and funny, in a really fun, biting, sharp AWESOME way... but when she tells me I'm doing a good job, I always think she's teasing me.

Reginal T. Squirge

Just wait for the day when she fires you.

ayo nicole

Oh, god, the realness.

ChapClap

Would love to see a Hairpin post exclusively about dealing with "Flaky Guys" (and Gals) in relationships. . . . Cuz just reading this made my stomach flip no less than three times (because this has been me for the last three years). Maybe about moving a communication routine out of texts and into the actual talking zone.

theotherginger

@ChapClap and how to avoid getting into the trap again. I have successfully avoided it since, oh, December, but am testing the waters and it. is. bad. must. develop. healthy. relationship. skills. I nominate you to ask a lady on this.

hotdog

@ChapClap I could write a long explanation, but really-he's just not that into you. There WILL be a guy who is just that INTO you, and you will never think he's flaky. But personally, I have sort of a litmus test, and it's been tried and true: In the first month of dating, I don't call him.

I return his calls (promptly-I'm not playing a game here), and I don't have any rules about sex or anything...I just don't call him. If he wants to see me, he'll call me, and then (possibly) he can see me-my time is important, and I am busy with my full wonderful life, and anyone I date should be as flattered and interested in being involved in it as I am in theirs.

If a guy is interested, he will call you. Point blank. Forget texting, forget chatting online-he will call you, or else he will text you or chat you to say that he wants to SEE you. I know some people see this as really retro, and inhibiting, and too 'rules-y', but it came from my realization that the only guys that I've regretted dating are the guys that I pursued a relationship with despite their seeming ambiguity about seeing me. So from then on, I decided that I was worth much more than lackluster emotion, and that I wanted to date only people who would make a damn effort. It helps that I'm very assertive, and like very assertive men, I guess-but I think this would even work otherwise. When you value yourself, and have a great time, and don't allow bullshit into your life, good things appear-I swear!

I was once in a totally ridiculous 2 month 'relationship' with a guy I didn't even really like all that much, but who fit in with my friend group and was incredibly nonchalant about me. I broke it off-believe me, he was CRUSHED(<--sarcasm, yes!), and I made sure I stayed busy and focused on growing in the right directions. I met my boyfriend of two years a month after that break; I walked into the bar he was tending, sweaty and helmet-headed at 10 pm to meet a bunch of friends. I ended that night long after bar-closing with him driving me and my bike home in his tiny geo, asking "when can I see you again? when can I take you out?". He has called me every day since our first date.

hotdog

@hotdog ok, so I DID write a long explanation! Insomnia, she's a wicked harpy.

packedsuitcase

@hotdog Yep. The only rule I had when I started dating after my ex and I broke up was that I would not initiate contact. There were days when it drove me batty, but I absolutely would not do it. I wanted to feel like a guy was as excited about me as I was about them, which meant ruling out guys that were perfectly nice, but not super enthused about hanging out with me. It sucked sometimes, but then I met Dudefriend and he made sure he contacted me, and often. And I actually ended up feeling really special and important, which was kind of new for me.

I think it also helps, though, that I had really high self esteem. Not about my looks or anything, but about myself as a person and my eventual love-ability. I'd managed to have a great, longterm relationship with a good guy, so I figured that meant I was capable of having one. So I assumed that it would happen again, and I just lead a life that interested me (well, still do, actually) and let guys who were interested in being a part of that call me. I was lonely sometimes, but since I didn't doubt that somebody would love me, I could look at it as just a season of my life and not some permanent rejection if a guy didn't call/ask me out again. Not that I am saying anybody that doesn't approach things the way I did is insecure and haha, I am better than that - just that this is something I notice when I look at how I felt while being single that definitely affected the way I behaved.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@hotdog This advice is so flawless and unimpeachable that I recommend not only following it, but also embroidering it on to a throw pillow.

themegnapkin

@hotdog I don't agree with this wholeheartedly. This: "the only guys that I've regretted dating are the guys that I pursued a relationship with despite their seeming ambiguity about seeing me." has not been my experience. The relationships I regret the most are the ones that I fell into, because the guy was enthusiastic but I was kind of bored. I have dated way too many super nice guys that I wasn't interested in, just because they were super nice and they were interested. It's my goal in my next relationship(s) to go after what *I*'m interested in.

WaityKatie

@hotdog Yep. It has taken me 36 years to realize this, including a recent lengthy detox from not really having more than one date with anyone ever, but I think I have finally gotten it. I used to always go out with guys who were lukewarm-to-indifferent about me and blame myself for their flakiness. I totally get that. But, that is no longer what I want in my life. I do still write to guys on OKcupid and such, but I have noticed that they hardly ever respond, so I am really tapering that down. If they want me, they know where to find me. If, after we meet, they want another date, they know where to find me. If they don't have the balls or the interest to initiate contact, I guess we'll never see each other again after that. Oh well. Honestly I'd rather be single forever than deal with one more bullshitty flaky relationship where I end up feeling like dogmeat, and that is just how it is.

vunder

I think it's interesting and telling when people confuse their behavior or communication style with their personality.

I've found that as I get older, part of what I do is try on and explore different responses and communication styles. I don't think this changes my personality, it just gives me more ways to behave. Some of these communications styles feel less comfortable than others, but as long as I remind myself that the fundamentals aren't going to shift suddenly - eg, I'm not going to lose the ability to be critical if I try to respond in a less critical manner, or I'm not going to lose the ability chat people up if I work on listening more - I find that it's helpful to explore my less strong side.

Still, I'd guess that the issue with Flaky Guys isn't related so much to sarcasm, as much as (it seems) it is about expressing your needs and letting go of people who aren't willing to meet them. Yes?

theotherginger

@vunder that is what I learned from my shrink. Well, not about men specifically, about every relationship in my life.

insouciantlover

@vunder YES. Sarcasm is so much safer than sincerity.

angelinha

Just READING this article made me feel so calm, straightforward, honest and ready for a serious relationship in a way I haven't felt in a long time. Now to await the gentleman who will benefit from my new, clear communication!

Springtime for Voldemort

I feel like a lot of making sarcasm a bonding tool and not a defense mechanism is where you're aiming it. Is it at society, or People Who Are Ruining Society, or life in general? Or is it at people you care enough about to spend any amount of time around?

creaves@twitter

I tend to get super sarcastic when I'm mad, and I always end up saying the meanest things and feeling terrible about it later. I've been told by a couple of people that I'm never more hilarious then when I'm pissed off. They meant it as a compliment, but it just made me cringe. Who wants to be that jerk?

R.W.

Men appreciate sarcasm from women. Just not when it comes to trying to make plans or discussing the abilities of their penis.

brad

i feel like this author is leaving something important out of her sharing. she is physically lovely, interesting, smart and funny. i strongly doubt that a little smoldering sarcasm is what's keeping men away. she must have a tail. or perhaps she hates fingers and tries to snip them off with a cigar cutter.

R.W.

@brad, there is no mystery. She lives in NYC. Thousands of women like her also live there. When a man becomes tired of one, he will flake out, but string her along, just in case.

Muhammad Ahsan@facebook

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jimmyrapper

hotdog Perhaps this is me being mean, but I was a little baffled by this article - it seemed to me to be less about sarcasm as such and more about how to realise that someone doesn't fancy you that much. (Hint: flaking out on you for TEN MONTHS). Was the therapist trying to get her to stop being vague/self-undermining (not sure I even want to call it sarcasm?) and actually ask for what she wanted, so she'd get a proper yes or a no? Surely the therapist could have saved everyone ten months of analysis by saying "he's probably not that fussed". lion air

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jimmyrapper

I think sarcasm is fine so long as it is reserved mainly for things outside of your relationship. Like, scheduling a date should not require heavy doses of sarcasm. If it does, that's probably a warning sign. what does bubblegum casting do

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