Earnestness is the new irony

kick me For once, I'm with Anil: April Fool's Day sucks.

It's rare that people get it right, coming up with a clever, playful joke that startles and teases, and then, with the reveal, delights. Most either fall flat, offend or have an effort-to-results ratio that reminds me of why I ran screaming in the night from the world of consumer advertising. It's not bad enough that you commit to doing the stupid and bad; you must also commit precious resources towards the effort out of all reasonable proportion.

Plus, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool patsy, hopelessly earnest, relentlessly optimistic, easily hoodwinked. I was the one who gobbled up the four squares of Ex-Lax my cabin-mates told me was chocolate; a year or two earlier, I was the one who, when greeted at the bottom of the stairs leading to my friend's family rec room by eight other friends yelling "Surprise!", on my birthday, actually asked, "What?" (The answer: "It's your birthday...Stupid.")

For years, I hated my seemingly inborn earnestness. Haaaaaaated it. I wanted to be cool and sophisticated, smooth and worldly. Unfortunately for me, the raw material just wasn't there. I was puny and inelegant and, let's face it, built like a pound puppy: big eyes, tiny body, funny face, gigantic paws. But I was also blessed...or cursed...or blessed...with a medium-sized brain and a will of iron, and over the years (and far too often) I used them in service of my own nefarious and silly desires. If I couldn't be elegant, I could be sarcastic. Oh, could I be sarcastic! I made a particular study of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker, two profoundly funny-looking people who Made It Work, in the parlance of modern-day can-do maven, Tim Gunn, and honed my wit to a razor's edge. I was even mean, sometimes. Okay...a lot. Okay, more than it's comfortable to admit.

Somewhere along the line, it just got tiring, carrying all that crap around. To be organically funny is one thing; to work at it all the time is exhausting. It is also to live in fear: that you will fall flat on your face this next time, that you will be outed as a fraud, that you will fail and fall and be abandoned by all who said they loved you while you were entertaining them. Oy. Too, too much.

The setting down of my heavy load didn't come all at once. It was more of a gradual denuding. Like when you flee the old country with all your silverware and rugs and paintings on your overladen cart, and you're pulling it up that hill, and pulling it up that hill, and heaving things off so you can pull it up that damned hill, and finally you pluck one representative item from the heap, the scrap of cloth that didn't make it onto the quilt but that has a story, or your beloved grandmother's comb which is more missing than teeth, and let the rest of the rattletrap heap slide back down the hill for the Cossacks or gypsies to plunder. That amazing, liberating moment when you get that it's really love that's the thing, not things.

Of course, I still like words. And I still really like stringing words together to make people laugh. I'm starting to realize, though, that I really, really like stringing the words together to make people laugh so they'll relax, or laugh so they'll let down their guard, or laugh so they'll take a second look at an idea or a thought or a really good cause. Laughter disarms people, yes, but I don't want to disarm anyone so they're unprotected and squashable, but rather, to temporarily jam the force field and get some interesting interaction happening.

To get the do-gooders hooked up with the want-to-fund-do-gooder-ers. To get the do-gooders doing different kinds of good to lighten up and find more ways each other is alike than different. To keep the do-gooders doing good, or, if they'd do it anyway, to throw a little happy their way to make the job more pleasant. We each of us have our place.

My place might be on the ground, butt up in the air, a "Kick Me, Hard" sign affixed to the soft and fleshy part. So be it.

Some of us are born elegant; some of us are born clowns. You can fight it or you can work with it. Do the former, and while you may climb the ladder of fortune and fame, you'll also be resigned to a life of struggle and worry and looking over your shoulder.

Do the latter and you're nobody's fool.

Even if you will suffer a sore ass from time to time...

xxx c

Image by phitar via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.