When I was a kid, I used to go to a lot of those backyard carnivals to benefit Jerry’s Kids. Do they still have those? I think you used to request a kit from the Muscular Dystrophy Association and they’d send you a booklet of ideas, some posters, a Tilt-A-Whirl, two bearded ladies and a syphilitic roustabout. I never hosted one myself so I could be wrong on some of that.
Anyway, I remember one in particular that had a fortune teller’s tent. I went in and a little girl in a genie costume read me a prefab fortune off of a sheet of paper. Upon leaving the tent, I proceeded to mercilessly mock and make fun of the whole thing—what a joke, who cares, nice outfit, stupid fortune, etc. ... My friends and I got a big yuck out of it, and then I went straight to the back of line so that I could go again and have another laugh.
On about the fifth go-round, I entered the tent to find the girl’s older sister had joined her. I was ready to rumble, but what she did was even worse. “If you think this is so stupid and idiotic, why do you keep coming back?” she said. Ouch. That stung a lot more than an Indian burn or a monkey scrub. And way more than a swirly or a nipple cripple. Possibly even more than getting murderlized or served up a knuckle sandwich.
It was the first time that anyone had ever pointed out to me that it wasn’t much fun to be on the receiving end of such ridicule. Although, I was certainly the butt of it plenty enough in my own household, so I should have known better. That kind of teasing, sarcastic humor was the stock in trade of my family, but it took me some years to figure out that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
To paraphrase the lads from Spinal Tap, it’s a fine line between sardonic and obnoxious. But for some, there’s no line at all. One man’s clever, wry, blackly humorous snark is another man’s shut-up-or-I’ll-punch-you-in-the-throat.
The Internet, especially all forms of social media, has certainly raised the level of snark to a fevered pitch. That old line “Everyone’s a critic!” has become a reality. Anyone with an Internet connection can plug right on in to any number of forums and say anything they want about whatever they want. The blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, et al has created one giant cacophony of snark.
Look at me. I came to the attention of Patch editors because of a blog post that I wrote last December in which I made fun of the Downers Grove Christmas tree. My blog doesn’t have that big of a following, but the village still felt it necessary to respond, saying the decorations had been made by local refugee children who had just made it to our shores on a flotilla from Muskegon and lost their hands en route and had to make them with their tongues. Or words to that effect.
And there I was, right back in that fortune teller’s tent from all those years ago. That’s the thing about poking fun. You have to be prepared to hear the chorus of “It’s easy to be the Monday morning quarterback and sit there and criticize. ... I’d like to see you do any better!” But sometimes a fugly tree is just a fugly tree. Was I being that tiresome or were they that thin-skinned?
If it’s the former, then people might want to stop rewarding me for my bad attitude. In addition to garnering this very column, I recently had a post featured on a prominent blogging web site in which I joked about how little money I make by running their advertising on my blog. And I have an article running in the October issue of Parents which was the direct result of razzing the magazine about their lack of coverage during Autism Awareness Month last April.
As my mother has said so often over the years, “Please, don’t encourage her.”
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