The author explains why humor wrapped in sarcasm is one of his favorite coping tools — even though the edge of the knife can be too sharp at times.
“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”
The quote is from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, eldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. She was 96 when she died in 1980, and I can’t help but believe that part of her longevity was her legendary sarcasm.
For me, sarcasm is a mental release that allows me to see the humor in some of life’s bigger challenges. Of course, the danger is that sarcasm can sometimes slide into outright rudeness, and I’m sure I’m guilty of that at times.
Here’s how it works:
If people in the family, office or church community are butting heads, you can easily get caught up in what one person is saying about the other. After awhile, you can grow bitter and that will compromise your ability to do your job or be the family member you should be. That’s the danger with me, anyway. But the sarcastic, gallows humor in me will instead look at those situations and find the lightheartedness of it all.
We’re all dysfunctional to some extent and we all screw up. And let’s face it: Sometimes it’s fun to watch. If you can laugh at someone’s quirks and, more importantly, laugh at your own, it’s easier to move on to other things. Easier for me, anyway.
The alternative would be for me to grow bitter to the point of incapacitation. It’s happened before, especially after I realized managing a daily newsroom at night wasn’t fun anymore. I took every criticism as a knife to the core and my workmanship slid steadily downhill. A healthier sarcastic perspective back then would have helped me through that.
I’m sarcastic toward a lot of my friends and family, especially the in-laws. The truth of the matter is that I’m almost always sarcastic toward the people I like. Most of them get it and give it back in equal measure, including my father-in-law and kid sister-in-law, who probably gets the heaviest, most ferocious dose of my brand of humor. Both brothers-in-law are regular targets as well.
I’m finding that the kid sister-in-law’s boyfriend is skilled in the art of sarcasm. At a family event this weekend, I joked to those eating a salad I made that I didn’t wash my hands first.
“You should write a blog post about why you don’t wash your hands,” he deadpanned. Avoiding hand-washing as an OCD coping tool. I like this guy.
When I’m not sarcastic, family and friends ask if I’m feeling ok. A lack of sarcasm becomes a warning sign. For normal people, this usually works in the opposite direction.
Of course, sarcasm can sometimes work against you.
If you don’t catch someone on a good day, hitting them with sarcasm does more to hurt than to lighten the mood.
Sarcasm is also a root of dysfunction in other parts of my family. Several of my family members are equally sarcastic, if not more so. But I sometimes get offended by it because I feel like people are laughing AT someone instead of laughing WITH them. This has produced a fair share of strain on that side of the family, and I have to claim fault on my end.
If you can direct sarcasm toward someone but get offended when it’s being sent in your direction, that’s hypocrisy. It’s a hypocrisy I’m sometimes guilty of.
I’m working to minimize that.
But don’t expect me to change too much. As I said, sarcasm is a release. It’s a tool that keeps me sane.
And isn’t it better for all of you if I’m sane?