Thursday, April 19, 2012

Self deprecation and the art of seeming cool...

I make fun of myself a lot. There, I said it. I also make fun of nearly everything else my eyes relay to my brain. Sometimes this ongoing dialog makes its way past my brains "Gahd, that's dumb or insensitive" filter and leaves my mouth to the chagrin of those I choose to share my life with. Sometimes, these little comments about the humorous state of the universe are about me. Recently, it has been brought to my attention that this may not be the best thing for my self esteem or my mental health.

A writer's mental health is a precarious thing to begin with. I can't speak for everyone else, but my process involves a bit of multiple personality disorder. When I write, each character has a different voice and personality in my brain. I imagine that actors have something very similar going on, but I doubt their individual personalities are ever all at the surface at the same time like my writing demands. In addition, good comedy comes from seeing the reality around you from a different perspective than most people.

Anyone can be paranoid enough to believe that their server spit in their food, but it takes someone special to imagine the argument that went on in the kitchen between the chef and waiter about how much saliva was too much for a light tipper... I'm special like that, I guess.

The thing is that I don't usually share these thoughts with others because sometimes, quite frankly, they would gross out or offend whomever I'm with at the time. "Nice purse... Do your add wheels to it on the weekends so fifteen clowns can jump out of it at the circus?" doesn't go over real well in mixed company. I usually avoid this by making fun of the one person around me that I can be sure won't be offended by it... Me.

This tactic has served me well for many years. While it's true I have gotten called out from time to time for being self-deprecating, I generally don't piss off those around me with my constant critique of our shared reality anymore. I also found it to be an excellent defense mechanism over the years in that nothing takes the wind out of the sails of someone about to insult me like me beating them to the joke. I really don't think much about it before cracking a "Rob is fat" joke anymore. Better to be a lovable self-deprecating loser than to be an arrogant asshole that finds something to bitch about comedically every few minutes. Lovable losers are still cool... Arrogant assholes not so much.

The problem is my wife doesn't appreciate the self deprecating humor as much as I do, and I've promised her that I would do my best to stop. What I hadn't realized is that the fat jokes and the lazy jokes were providing a valuable release valve to my psyche. The less I laugh about it, the more it festers inside me. I want to make the wife happy, but I worry that I may be doing more harm than good to the writer inside.

And thus, the hero finds himself in conflict... The center of any really good story.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

As a writer, let me say "ditto." For me, I think self-deprecating humor has definitely helped me fit in with the crowd a bit more, though I do manage some pretty good rants about the reality we live in as well. I'm not sure what to do about the wife, though. I do not have the good fortune of having a good woman to smooth out my rough edges.