The amount of sarcasm in père Mortimer’s letters increases as son Charlie’s life disintegrates. After getting thrown out of Eton and then deserting the Coldstream Guards, Charlie goes back to the land, unleashing the following congratulatory missive from his dad: “I trust you are not yet disenchanted with your work as an agricultural laborer, a calling for which your costly education has no doubt suited you.”
He is always full of compliments about his son’s appearance: “… a sweat-rag coiled around your neck is a somewhat unattractive form of evening dress. You’re hands looked as if you had been greasing a No. 19 bus. …”
With the approach of Charlie’s 30th birthday, papa Mortimer heralds the new decade with an uplifting note: “It is an unlovely age: receding hair, shortness of breath, growing pomposity and in general a feeling that life has singularly failed to bring you your just rewards. However, Cheer up! Forty is better as you then tend to give up caring …”
If you were raised with sarcasm, as opposed to sincerity, you have no choice but to seek out kindred spirits. It’s a tribal thing. If you attempt to consort with sincere types it can only end in mayhem and bloodshed—metaphorically, of course. I knew my Jonny was the one for me when I met his lovely old dad. When I told him I wanted to take Jonny white-water rafting, he responded by dead-panning, “Where do you both wish to be buried?”
Sustaining a healthy sarcasm-based relationship is no easy matter and requires effort and creativity. I am fortunate to be married to somebody who is always prepared to go the distance. A couple of months back my Jonny presented me with a greeting card. Naturally I smelled a rat. He had never given me a card before. Why now? And why was he watching me with such sincere anticipation?
My suspicions were confirmed when I opened the envelope. The inscription, emblazoned across a mumsy floral vista à la Thomas Kinkade, began as follows:
I know how trapped you must feel
In that traitor of a body of yours …
I don’t recall the rest of the verse. I know that it contained sympathetic commiserations regarding the imprisoning effects of the aforementioned body. I had to admire his ingenuity: Repurposing a sincere sympathy card into a lacerating insult is an impressive feat of sarcasm.
Delivered via email, Jonny’s assault would have lost much of its lethal malevolence. The digital age is no friend to sarcasm. Sarcasm relies heavily on verbal delivery and face-to-face contact. Emails, texts, and Twitter are not the best canvas for wicked insincerity. J and ; ) and LOL are all fine and dandy but they are no substitute for a curled lip or a rolled eyeball. If you disagree then prove me wrong by hurling some sarcastic gems into the comments box.
Have a “nice” day.