After much thought, I have come to the following conclusion: the problem with being ironic via the written word is that people tend to take me at face value, especially when to the casual observer it would seem I am utterly sincere in my views, despite an overabundance of self-righteous exclamations and downright silly assertions about whatever I happen to be talking about.
Not that it would help if I were saying it to your face, actually; I am an accomplished actress (read: liar), I have a deceptively sincere demeanor (ha!), and my poker face is as blank as Paris Hilton is a media whore. For reals, y'all. I kid you not.
What can I say? It's a character flaw. I think I get it from my dad's side of the family. (Sorry, Dad. Just sayin'... Oh! Hey! Happy birthday!)
This genetic flaw is best-illustrated in the story of the time I taught Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" to my senior English students and I so offended some of them that they went home and told their parents I was making them read stuff by "this sicko" who was encouraging people "to totally eat their babies and make purses out of them and stuff!" I see now that I certainly did not help things by reading key excerpts from the essay to them as a "teaser" for the next day's class, without first prefacing it with, "Okay, guys? He really doesn't mean that the Catholics in Ireland should literally eat their young. This is simply the greatest example of sustained irony in the whole of the English language, okay? Got it? This is a SATIRE. Swift is not suggesting cannibalism. OKAY?!" But seriously... what fun would that be?! It's so much better to read it the way Swift's peers read it; completely clueless to his deliberate use of an ironic persona. Otherwise it's like explaining why a jokes is funny before actually telling the joke. No element of discovery, you know? And to be completely honest? I just liked messing with their minds.
What?! Turnabout is fair play, much? Gosh! Let's see you try teaching 17- and 18-year olds whose favorite two phrases are "Shakespeare was totally gay!" and "Is this gonna be on the test?" without resorting to making your own kind of fun! Honestly.
Hey. Did you know that in rural Arizona farming communities parents have a nasty habit of ringing up their children's teachers at home? (Or corralling them at the grocery store? Or the video store? Or the post office? Even the gas station? MY FRONT LAWN, for Pete's sake?! Have I mentioned lately how little I miss teaching? Because DUDE.) Yep. There were several calls from angry/hysterical/confused parents to field that evening, I tell you what. Good LORD. You would have thought that I was the one preaching cannibalism for profit and population control!
I should also mention that one of my students was the nephew of the principal of my school. I ask you: how freaking hilarious is it to be called into your boss's office to be raked over the coals for teaching "offensive and inappropriate material" in the classroom, thus being forced to explain to said boss that he must not have been paying attention in his British Lit class back in the day if he didn't immediately recognize the classic elements of Swift's "modest" proposal-- a phrase which in modern usage has come to indicate a proposal that is anything but modest?
Pretty damn hilarious, it turns out.
Oh! My point? Well... let's just say that if I told you, it would be like telling you why a joke is funny before telling you the joke. Or in this case, explaining the joke after I tell it, which everyone knows is almost as bad as explaining it beforehand, right?
Okay. Now that I have that off my chest, I have to get to the store before all the sale-priced SpongeBob SquarePants Wild Bubble Berry Pop-Tarts are sold out. Oooooh, and I need to use that 2-for-1 coupon (cut it off our Frosted Flakes cereal box this morning) for Fairly Odd Parents Orange & Creme Miniatures Kit Kat bars before it expires. Those suckers move fast. These groceries aren't going to buy themselves, am I right?!
And I have growing kids to feed, yo?
- John commented:
Very funny! My senion English teacher used a line from "A Modest Proposal" when he discovered the baby of another English teacher in an infant seat on the end of a potluck dinner table. She reacted in a strongly negative maner to the suggestion that she serve him a slice. Oh, well, irony is difficult for some.
- » 1/20/2006 12:05 PM
Gaahk! Senior, not senion. D'oh!
- » 1/20/2006 12:06 PM
- Cat commented:
That? Is AWESOME.
I love it!
- » 1/20/2006 12:30 PM
- mrtl commented:
Swift was a genius. That is all.
You know you're encouraging me to dig out my old anthology to read it again.
- » 1/20/2006 1:18 PM
- hemlock commented:
My fiance read A Modest Proposal to me when he was in third year, and I thought it was the sickest thing ever. Then I caught on.
Sometimes I'm pretty bright
- » 1/20/2006 1:22 PM
- not-so-normal mom commented:
I get it...only because I am wicked, too. Let me tell you, I am so very proud of my witty sarcasm until my eldest uses his sarcasm. Then I'm angry. :-) You're great, and I appreciate your sarcasm.
- » 1/20/2006 2:11 PM
- WILLIAM commented:
I don't know Swift or a Modest Proposal, but I love your sarcasm and irony.
Happy B-day to your Dad.
Gimme a break Gimme a break...break me off a piece of the Swif Cat Blog.
- » 1/20/2006 2:57 PM
Great post! Oh, and by-the-way, great irony...I mean about your going shopping for SpongeBob thing-a-muh-eaties and FOP munchies. What was it you posted yesterday? Me thinks you have been watching too much Cartoon Network!!! :)
- » 1/20/2006 4:29 PM
- kalki commented:
You are brilliant.
- » 1/21/2006 11:57 AM
- kalki commented:
ps - I was being sincere about the brilliant thing - just wanted to clarify that since I realized it could have been read sarcastically. Which is sorta ironic considering the point of your post... :)
- » 1/21/2006 12:03 PM
- Ern commented:
"ringing up" the teacher? So not only are you feeling Jonathan Swifty today, you are feeling rather Britishy as well?
People need valium. That is all.
- » 1/21/2006 12:44 PM
- Cat commented:
Good catch, Ern! I almost went with "phoning up" but "ringing" won out in the end. It's all on account of the darn Jonathan Swiftish feelings, you see...
- » 1/21/2006 1:28 PM