I was raised in a family that chose to use sarcasm to express their every meanness. As a child, I did not understand why my heart hurt when someone would say something with a chuckle at the end. I didn’t understand why I could hear the meanness, yet the person was saying it in a tone that belied the words and with a smile upon their face. As I grew, I began to recognize the weapon that my family wielded with such stealth that, often, victims would have no idea they had been hit. The victim would just be going down for the count, without any clue and wondering why they were face down on the mat.
The realization of the inherent wickedness of my family member’s tongues dawned on me in my late teens. My eyes began to open at one of our traditional Labor Day wilderness camping trips. In my earliest years, this trip was one we all counted the days to – aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, cousins and the entire kit-and-kaboodle. Year after year, we would gather in remote areas around our home state to practice “living and worshipping in the wilderness.” The heads of the family wanted us to learn how to survive together for the day when the saints would be forced into hiding. As the years rolled on, however, the “Sisters” of the family began to complain about the conditions of the wilderness. There was no shower. There was no comfortable bed. There was no bathtub to soak in. Yes… that is the point of the wilderness, my dear Aunts…
Oh, but I digress. This post is not about the quirks of my weird Aunts or the religion in which I was raised. It is about the tongues of those weird aunts and the rest of my family members…
Around my eighteenth year I became fully conscious of their meanness. At the campout that year, I began to hear the under-rumblings of excitement going around the gathering about “The Roast.” People were anxious. They were actually counting down to it. At first, I didn’t know what the whisperings – or not so whispery whisperings – were about. The Roast? What is that?
I was sad when it hit me… The Roast… the time each night that everyone gathers around the campfire to speak meanly about their siblings, their children, their parents, their neighbors, their childhood and each other, all the while laughing and smiling. Oh… my… God! Something is wrong with my family! They delight in hurting one another. It was so unlike anything I had ever learned in church…
That year I did not join in the fun. I didn’t laugh, as I could find nothing funny to laugh about. That year I made a commitment to myself to avoid sarcasm and to speak words authentically… to make sure that the words I speak are truly congruent with the laughter that joins them.
At times, I find my innate acid tongue taking over and slinging wicked, wicked insults laced with venomous smiles. I feel ashamed when I hear it. I want to take it back, immediately. However, there are some things that a sorry cannot undo. Wounds inflicted through sarcasm are usually such things that cannot be undone.
I never receive sarcasm well. A young man whom I thought to be my dear friend used sarcasm on me the other day to couch his own feelings and fling them at me, projecting his stuff onto me in a way that, unfortunately, he had no idea I am well versed in. Previously, I would have flung back with equal ferocity. However, I feel sickened when I activate my sarcasm skills, so I chose to step aside and let the dung he spewed in my general direction to land with a splat on the wall behind me. And, then, I quietly turned about and have decided to avoid interacting with him again.
I will have no sarcasm in my world. It is unfair… to me and to the one who is employing it. It does not get your truth out and therefore I cannot hear it. It only serves to wound me without, some seem to believe, wounding your own soul or smudging your book of permanent records. Which, in reality, is only a false sense of security.
Why is she on this rant, you may be wondering.
I am ranting because my father’s wife, with whom I now reside, is a Master of Sarcasm. She takes terms of endearment like Sweetheart and Honey and laces them with such corrosive acid that it sounds like a damnation instead. She is wicked good at it. She says the word behind gritted teeth and a forced grin and I watch my father roll it off his back. He has always let “it” roll of his back. No anger there. None. Ever.
While I have lived with them these past three weeks, I have become particularly perfectionistic about everything being in its place. It’s a weird quirk that I picked up somewhere between my last place and here… or while I swam in the Nile. I make sure my stuff is never left astray in places which are “theirs.” Even in the guest room, where my daughter and I sleep, everything is put away. I clean up after myself. I put my dishes in the dishwasher. I wipe the counter and the table top. I leave the place as I found it. Of that, I am certain.
This morning I washed my bedding. When it was done I took them out of the dryer to make the bed. In that process, I inadvertently dropped the Bounce sheet on the floor between the laundry room and guest room. I would have seen it when I went to exit my room and, at that time, I would have most assuredly picked it up and disposed of it. However, his wife happened by long before I was ready to leave. She bent to pick it up, held it out to me with that gasping chuckle that she uses to begin all of her sarcastic statements.
My guards went instantly on defense. I actually felt my back stiffen. And, instantly, I wanted to strike back and she hadn’t even said anything.
“Leaving your stuff everywhere,” she said and chuckled again, that sarcastic-full-of-shit chuckle.
And I am angry for resorting to sarcasm to meet her, “Yep. Leaving a trail of my stuff everywhere around the house so I can find my way.”
She chuckled again, I think subconsciously jubilant that she had found someone to battle with because my father does not play on that battleground. She turned and walked away victorious and I steamed in the room, snapping the sheets extra hard as I placed them upon the mattress.
Now, after finishing this blog, I am imagining that what she really wanted to say is: I feel uncomfortable having you in the space that I used to use as my storage room. I feel that my space is invaded and my space is no longer my own. I feel scared that you will never leave and I will never have my home back the way I like it.
Yeah… me too.