When I was a kid, every time one of my parents said, “don’t be a smart aleck” I had to supress the mighty urge to respond, “would you rather I be a dumb aleck?” (I’m pretty sure my attempts at repression failed more than once.) Even worse was when my dad would get frustrated with me and tell me, “ah- you just think you’re right.” Well, yeah – of course I think I’m right. If I thought I were wrong, I would change my mind. Duh. Change my mind if I’m so wrong. (At this point my father is saying to the monitor: “finally – she tells it like it really is!” To which I must simply point out that I was a teenager who never drank, smoked, did drugs, went to parties, dated or had sex. And I was usually on the honor roll and attended mass daily. The challenges of raising me could probably be viewed as the parenting equivalents of first world problems.)
My favorite people have always been the ones who I could crack wise with to my heart’s content. Part of the bond I always shared with the qxh (quasi-ex-husband) was the fact that I could say almost any outrageous over-the-top thing that popped into my head around him. Which can create its own complications. I had to sit him down a couple of years into our marriage to explain that we don’t actually live in a sitcom and if he didn’t tone it down, he was going to find himself in the middle of a family melodrama with no batteries in the remote.
Last night I attended a divorce care recovery group where it was recommended that we make a list of what we have lost in divorce. One of those things for me has been having a place for my personality to just sprawl out where ever it wanted to go. A big part of that was having an outlet for my snarky sense of humor. I mean sure, I can always find an outlet for my big, fat mouth by picking a fight (ie by trying to communicate about anything) with the qxh. But my once mighty verbal-sparing partner has been reduced to telling me that he got up to almost 400 lbs because I’m “not sexi”. He answers requests that he spend more than 2 hours at a time with his children so I can get a break by accusing me of “using the kids as an excuse not to make a satisfying life for myself”. Insulting him has gotten so easy that the small satisfaction of getting a good zinger in isn’t worth the trouble.
The result has probably been a boon for my writing. I’m pretty tame here, but more of me is leaking out. My goofiness demands some sort of release and this is the best one I have right now. And really, it’s forcing me to be more real with people. I don’t have the emotional energy needed to supress and compartmentalize big parts of who I am any more. My tendency towards extreme smart-assery may not have always been too obvious when I had the option of biting my tongue and saving my sharpest, funniest observations to share with the qxh later. Being funny without being offensive isn’t always easy and can be very audience specific, so I usually erred on the side of avoiding offense. I was trying to play inside the lines.
They say that going through something like a divorce will inevitably show you truths about yourself and your life which you would be unlikely to see otherwise. I am getting the feeling that for me one of those things is the extent to which having the sort of relationship which I had with the qxh allowed me to hide a lot of who I am from other people. He was one of those very rare people I could be completely myself with. So it was just easier to avoid taking the chance of stepping all over everyone else’s sense of propriety because I was living with someone who I could go home and let loose with. It let me mostly avoid running more of a risk than I wanted to of being misunderstood or misjudged.
But I’m getting to that point – which we all want to believe we’re already at - where I genuinely don’t care what other people think. What are you going to do – reject me? Think badly of me? You can get in line right behind the qxh. I hear he even has pictures of my bad housekeeping (something a more observant person might have noticed the moment I opened the door on my fantastically messy dorm room 20 years ago). You can share stories and trade notes.
I’m a nice person. I like people. I never mean any harm and I certainly understand better than most what it’s like to be overly sensitive. If I say something meant to be funny and someone is offended, that’s their choice. I choose all the time to accept the people around me through empathy, understanding, tolerance and humility. Sometimes people persist in saying or doing things which are so outrageous that I do decide to take offense. But my knee-jerk reaction is always to avoid taking offense at things other people say or do. If that’s your choice as well, maybe we can share a few real laughs. If not, well, I hear the qxh also has a spreadsheet tracking when I came to bed with dirty feet that he’d be happy to share.