I worry, sometimes, that I misrepresent myself in essay form as some kind of thoughtful, benevolent creature concerned only with the satisfaction of aiding my aging parents, providing home-cooked meals to the masses, and saving woodland creatures. I am inordinately fond of the cozy portrait, the tearjerker, and the hopeful, philosophical uptick at the end of a piece of writing. “In the end, maybe everyone just needs a hug.” Shit like that.
In truth, I am a highly judgmental, sarcastic, and superior snarker. If you play “Angry Birds,” you will understand that I don’t ever go for the direct bombing and decimation of, say, Don Rickles. I am not cruel and I do not exploit weakness that a victim cannot help. I tend towards the sneaky missile lobbed at the base of the structure that causes it to topple as if by magic. I see ridiculousness, excess, phoniness, and stupidity and cannot resist the urge to come up with the perfect one-liner to illuminate my observations. Of course this is all highly subjective – my personal distaste for the cliché, the “keen grasp of the obvious,” the country duck in the yard and the Precious Moments in the curio cabinet (well, and also the curio cabinet) is just that: personal.
The thing about snark is that although I enjoy that moment when I make a snide comment and the other cool kids laugh, it is actually just as unkind as “The People of Walmart,” which makes me laugh involuntarily, but which I ultimately find to be both sad and unkind. (There I go again, trying to make myself sound like the Jeanne d’Arc of the downtrodden. It’s like a tic).
Recently I posted a Facebook status about suppressing snark because a tidbit of ridiculousness came my way that was so juicy, so clearly begging for an Ann Nichols Smack down that I could barely contain myself. I had to, for a variety of reasons, but none of them was the right reason: that drawing attention to the flaccid intellect of another human being is just plain nasty unless that person has chosen to be a public figure. Sure, I can spin that to allow myself to snark with impunity – it may be argued, plausibly, that a Facebook status is public, and that putting oneself “out there” in that form implies a certain idiot-snarker social contract. It’s also possible, plausibly, to argue that small children are chattle. Neither is really the right way to go in terms of creating utopia, reaching Nirvana, or simply not being an asshole.
In response to my Facebook status, my kind friends rushed to say “don’t suppress it, let your snark flag fly!” For which loyalty, I love them even more. The thing is, and it’s a Big Thing, it’s good for me to learn to suppress snark. There are things that need to be expressed, things about potential harm to other people, and feelings that need the cleansing light of utterance and aftershock. Those things, held in, create ulcers and destroy relationships. Snark, on the other hand, is a parlor trick, a way to make myself appear clever at the expense of another. I love it with all my heart, that masturbatory flexing of the “superior” intellect, but as a human endeavor it has the structural integrity of cotton candy. It’s just. Plain. Mean.
So know this about me: I’m really not all that nice. If you’re in a restaurant in a ball cap, or wearing a hoochie skirt, I am judging you. I will not, however, say a word. Not one.