A Day Without Sarcasm

David Castillo Dominici photo, freedigitalphotos.net

David Castillo Dominici photo, freedigitalphotos.net

My first attempt at a sarcasm-free day lasted 15 minutes. That was in 1994.

My quest to go a day without sarcasm has continued for years, but this time I just knew it was going to be different. This time I was going to write about it. I had to make it, otherwise I’d have to make up stuff for my column, which I would never do.

I fortified myself first thing in the morning with a triple latte. The connection between lack of caffeine and sarcasm is well documented, of course, but did you know that the word “sarcasm” comes from the Greek word, “sarkasmos,” which literally means, “ripping of flesh.” Not only is that an apt description for sarcasm, it is also what I do if I don’t get my coffee.

The challenge started in that long, long early morning line at Starbucks. Did I mention the line was really, really long? Like long enough for an English Language Learner to have memorized the entire menu by the time it was their turn to order, only to later discover that “Venti” and “Frappucino” aren’t really English. You would think it wouldn’t be necessary to ask the girl in front of me to stop talking on her cell phone to look at the menu and decide what she wanted. You would think the words, “Hmm, what do I want today?” would never come out of the mouth of someone who had been waiting in line to order coffee (just make a friggin’ choice already before my head explodes) for the past 17 minutes.

I almost gave up my quest for a sarcasm-free day right then and there. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I had already beaten my previous sarcasm-free record by two minutes just by virtue of waiting in that long line. I felt an inner glow.

Why a day without sarcasm? To prove that I can. Cold turkey. I can stop any time I want to. I’m in control. Not my mouth.

I also reminded myself that holding your tongue for a few minutes is not actually hazardous to your health.

My husband brushed his teeth while I tried to put on makeup. I smiled, and my husband asked me if I’m feeling okay. I wanted to say, “Fantastic. I love that we live in a shack with almost half a bathroom.” Instead, I bit my tongue until it bleeds. Self-sarkasmos? I’ll try a day without irony another time.

The rest of my morning went like that, with a million snippy little comments getting stuck in my throat. I felt like the Saturday Night Live actors must have felt during the writers’ strike: “Holy Bean-Powered Car, Batman! I worked two years on my Dennis Kucinich impression and now he dropped out of the race!”

I told my friend Carey what I was trying to. She didn’t understand what was so hard about refraining from sarcasm for a day.

Clearly this is a girl who has animated birds help her get dressed in the morning. Who makes it to 40 without learning some sarcasm? I’m guessing the woodland creatures that groom her each morning have also kept her from learning to read. No Venti for her. Clearly the sar-chasm between Carey and I is too deep and we can no longer be friends.

I wonder if there’s a twelve-step program for me? “My name is Leslie, and I’m a sarcastic.” Yeah right.

I know that some people think sarcasm is mean-spirited or a cheap attempt at humor at someone else’s expense. Those people are idiots.

A day without sarcasm is a day without sunshine, a day without hot running water, a day without laughter, a day without wine, caffeine or chocolate. A day without sarcasm is a day that I don’t want to ever experience again.

Leslie believes sarcasm is a sign of wit, intelligence, and cleverness. Tell her what you think by emailing email.
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on March 7, 2008.