Sarcasm = Anger?

As I was scrolling through Facebook a few days ago, a thought hit me: the people in my newsfeed employ sarcasm on a regular basis. Usually I find it funny, but lately I’ve been offended. Sometime I even agree with what’s said, but I don’t think it’s the right “place” to say it.

We’re sarcastic about politics, religion, how people treat us, how people treat our perfect little angels, how much we love our jobs – the list is endless. But sarcasm is just another way to express anger, and therefore I propound a theory: we express anger through sarcasm – a lot. Being a rather sarcastic person myself, I feel authorized to propose this theory. I know when I use sarcasm, although I prefer to think of it as “biting wit,” I am definitely angry or frustrated. But where does all this anger come from? For me, personally – well, that’s none of your beeswax, if you please! But it comes from somewhere. And  I am not the only one going about my day feeding caustic statements into the minds of others.

You know what else? It’s not attractive at all when it’s made in poor taste, at an inappropriate time, and to the wrong audience. Unfortunately, when sarcasm is used it’s usually done so with all three of those parameters in place. I mean, are we really “friends” with all our friends on Facebook, for example? No! They’re mostly acquaintances. Most of them may know me my whole life, but knowing what someone was like in grade school and who they grew up two be are often to totally different things.

I shouldn’t bash Facebook so much; if I’m seeing it all over my newsfeed I am positive the people using it are doing so at work as well. Not everyone at work is your friend; many of them will find it immature and obnoxious, not to mention unprofessional.

One of my idols growing up was Julia Sugarbaker. She was amazing. Smart, successful, beautiful, and just one of those women who champions the underdog, even when it’s her shallow and slightly stupid sister. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, anyone? Dadgum. Now that is an appropriate use of sarcasm! If you listened to that video, you would hear no curse words; you would hear no threats to poor Marjorie, no epithets on her intelligence or opinions. But Julia put her in her place, and rightly so.

Yes, Julia was the best at employing wit and sarcasm to get her point across. Those of you raised on Designing Women would know that she did it often, and it was more than entertaining; it made you stop and think. About race; about culture; about family; about loyalty; about them damn Yankees. Ah. I miss you so, dear Mrs.  Sugarbaker. But if you were a racist white person, a human being unfortunate enough to be raised above the Mason Dixon, or just a plain old uppity you-know-what…you would find her sarcasm offensive and I wouldn’t blame you. Designing Women wasn’t written for Yankees! They knew who their audience was.

Why don’t we just stop being so sarcastic to begin with? Why don’t we try to listen more and talk less, to be kinder even when we don’t feel like it, to stop automatically assuming we are so much smarter than everyone else, and to think before we speak?


The Quiet House

I’ve been feeling pretty homesick lately. I miss the drawl of where I come from. I am surrounded by cultured Southern accents or Yankee talk. I miss back roads. Dixie cups on a Saturday night. Don’t get me wrong; I love how Starbucks is five minutes away. There’s a Target down the street. Good restaurants abound, even the kind that plate your food and charge you thirty bucks a pop for two jumbo Gulf shrimp and a dab of polenta. There’s a great mall nearby.

But for the last several days, for some reason,  I’ve been thinking about my mother’s parents. My grandmother didn’t talk to me much. But she smelled like Clinique and I loved her bathroom because it was always cool and she had a dainty chair in the corner. I never decided to perch on it, but it had a pink cushion that matched the tile and white, iron legs. My grandfather told us Brer Rabbit stories in bed while my grandmother made breakfast. When he hugged me, I thought my bones would crack, but he did it with such force that I couldn’t question his love.

Mostly I just liked their house. It faced the main drag going through a really small town. At night, sleeping in my mother’s old bed, I found the sound of cars and trucks going by extremely comforting. As a country girl, give me country quiet. But at their house it felt really safe. Like there were people out there besides us. At my house, the only sounds I heard at night were coyotes, the wind through the pines, insect choruses and the occasional train whistle. Those are lonesome sounds, and much of the time I didn’t mind. I am lonesome myself. We fit, those sounds and I. But every now and then, even now, as I hear a car drive past my house late at night, I think about my grandparents, and I smile.

They had pretty good money, but you’d never know it. They didn’t have a fancy house or drive luxurious cars. Where I come from, it was considered tasteful not to brag about your things. Some of the richest people  I know lived modest lives and spent their money on others. Maybe that’s why I abhor ostentation and materialism now. I loved their furniture, their knickknacks. Her decidedly beautiful camellia trees. I loved the quiet. Somehow, with four kids running around, it always seemed cool and calm.

There were Cokes in a bottle in the fridge. A huge backyard to run and play in, and a creek we weren’t supposed to go near to. Snakes, you know. And a cool, papery cheek to kiss. When she let me. And a bear hug to knock the wind outta your sails any time you wanted from my grandfather. Cheese toast that my Mama never made. I only wanted it at my grandparents’ house.

Now they are both gone, like my father’s parents years ago. Last year, I stood by her bedside as she died, and the sobs wanted to rack my body. She was old; she had lived for many years not knowing where or who she was most of the time. But letting her go was so painful. The end of my childhood; the last living grandparent; only memories left. My grandfather had fairly recently preceded her. I will never have Christmas with all my cousins and aunts and uncles again, the house full to overflowing, fireworks booming at the end of the evening. I will never hear about Brer Rabbit or see such gorgeous camellias gracing her tables. I will never again lie in the bed my own mother slept in, or sit out on their patio after a day of swimming and eat Bugles and drink a cold, frosty Coke the best way possible, the sun making me drowsy and peaceful and light.

This Valentine’s Day, I reflect that love is shown in many ways. For my grandmother, it was food. Food Mama and Daddy would never let us have! It was the swimming pool and the plastic headbands at the store that only a little girl wants. For my grandfather, it was time spent talking. Thank God my parents raised us to converse, as children, to adults. She wasn’t the plump, huggy type. But I miss her. I miss her so much it makes we weep. I miss his smile, his grip. I miss my family, so far away. How much of their lives I miss simply due to distance.