Sarcasm is my native tongue. I get a Grinch-like grin when I formulate a witty one-liner to share, and desperately wish someone would invent a sarcasm font or an emoji to better convey my tone in writing. The problem? There are some who believe that my love of irony means that also like the Grinch, my heart is several sizes too small. Underneath it all, truly, is a sensitive woman who is largely misunderstood. Let me explain.
People can confuse sarcasm with sociopathy, but despite my jokes that I’m “dead inside,” that is far from the truth. Sarcasm is like a worldview – somewhere on the spectrum between optimism and pessimism – that lets its wielder use dark humor to expose the tragedies, triumphs and sometimes downright messed up crap in life.
Many psychologists note that sarcasm is often a defense mechanism. That’s not wrong; developing a warped, cynical sense of humor is part self-preservation. What began as a way to relate to my family in early years morphed into self-defense against bullies and tormentors in my teens (having curly hair was murder in the 90s), and finally settled in as my lens on life.
Sarcasm is sticky, though – it can earn you a reputation as a bitch or a cynic. Coworkers often mistake my naturally dry delivery for callousness, so that even an expression of genuine concern is met with a “knowing” look and I die a bit inside, because my sarcastic personality is mixed with the deadly combination of being a people pleaser.
Meanwhile, my propensity to question things is taken as negativity, when really I’m just employing the liberal arts education that taught me to question everything. And I can say – without irony – this judgment hurts.
It’s also largely wrong. Scientific studies show that those with a higher EQ – empathy quotient – better identify and understand sarcasm. Others report that sarcasm is a mark of intelligence.
On the downside, it can get in the way of meaningful relationships. Sarcastic people fall into two camps: those who purposefully use droll delivery to cut down others, and those who use it as a way to cope with the absurdities of life, and I believe most fall under the latter.
I never (okay, very rarely ever) use sarcasm to willfully hurt someone, but I do know those who do. But please don’t write off all sarcastics. We’re capable of deep, loving relationships, are loyal to our friends, and especially value other intelligent people who can match us jab-for-jab verbally.
Remember the sensitive part? Like the rest of the feeling world, I tear up a little at those horrid Sarah McLachlan animal abuse commercials. I take time to discover my friends’ favorite things and stock up on their alcohol of choice or bake treats just to brighten their day. I cry when boys break my heart, though I might send a sarcastic text back to his telling me I’m not worth his time, and he was really only into my boobs anyway.
Even though it’s complicated, I hope I never have to break up with sarcasm. In truth, I feel a bit sorry for those who can’t trade in its finer points, and who don’t know that the more comfortable I am, the more I think we vibe, the more my sarcasm grows. But please — please — don’t ever think that my cold, cold heart doesn’t like you.