“You see, that is the sad, sorry, terrible thing about sarcasm.
It’s really funny.”
― Brandon Sanderson,
I had a clueless principal observe me once teaching General Music to a class of eighth graders. Think back to eighth grade for a moment: it’s nothing but hormones, self-absorption, drama, and suffering. I love eighth graders because they understand more than they think they do and it’s great to trick them into coming out of their shells. Of course, like any dangerous wildlife, you have to be very aware when the moment comes for them to return to hibernation otherwise you might get chewed up and spit out, but I digress. One of the prime tools for teaching that grade level is sarcasm.
(Here is where I discuss what I feel sarcasm to be: not mean-spirited, but a joking way to bring the obvious into focus for the sometimes clueless. It’s like an affectionate punch on the shoulder or messing up someone’s hair, a little bit of “I love you enough to bat you around playfully.” Not mean. Okay?)
This principal took me to task for being sarcastic with my students, and I was honestly floored. What in the world….? She pointed at me with her pencil (and I resisted the overwhelming urge to snatch in from her hands, break it in half, and hand it back saying “there’ll be none of that rude pointing, thank you very much”) and said I had not been polite in asking a student about closing the door. Here’s the conversation she referred to:
Me: David, will you please shut the door? Thanks. Now, everyone, can you locate the dynamic signs on the score you’ve been given?
class mumbles a bit, points out a few things, circles them, shows their friends, etc. Classroom door is still open.
Me: So, David, when I ask you to close the door, you decide it means….. stay open?
David: Ooops, sorry, (laughs) I’ll get it now.
That’s what she called biting sarcasm. That’s what she decided, out of a very engaging lesson that the kids were having fun with and learning, and was well-paced and resulted in some excellent follow-up questions, to focus her pencil-pointing wrath on. Deciding that I humiliated a student in front of his peers.
Sarcasm is funny when it’s used correctly. Sarcasm is kind of like being obvious but in a non-obvious way, or stretching out a punch line until it sneaks up and says “Surprise!” It doesn’t have to be violent. It can be, of course:
Some people just need a high five.
In the face.
With a chair.
See, that’s funny. David would like that, too.
Now, to audit my blog and discuss my “brand.” Well, I have that lovely shot of afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in London to illustrate that while I may look proper whilst sipping my tea, I’m just a kettle full of sarcastic observations. There’s non-sarcastic stuff, too, which is okay because who wants to be one type of person all the time? I always thought it would be very wearying to be Emily Post or Miss Manners. When would you ever be able to let go and just be silly for once without everybody saying “oh good Lord, that’s Emily Post using an iced-tea spoon to eat her ice cream! It’s surely the apocalypse!” I mean really. That’s why I’d never want to be famous; even when I’m somewhat put together on good days, I don’t want a microscope checking out my uneven cuticles. You can’t even find something sarcastic to say about uneven cuticles, so where am I then?
I am, however, married to a CPA so I guess I could get some auditing advice from him. But he’s the kind of guy who’s not really internet savvy so if I said “Honey, could you audit my blog to see if my widget titles contribute to my brand and if my visual identity is consistent?” he’d blink and say “What’s a blog?”
Yeah, I think I’m good for now.