Eat the Damn Cake

Beauty, body image, and dessert.

Being Earnest in a Snarky World

It's easier to protect yourself, it's better when you don't

Once I fell for this guy who was very cool. We used to have these witty little conversations on Facebook and through strings of pithy text messages that spooled out for weeks on end. I tried to be funny, composing one-liners in my head and editing them several times before sending. I’d had a crush on him for a long time, but I kept calm and played my cards carefully. I felt gaspingly thankful that he wanted to talk. I felt like this was my chance.

Sometimes he edged closer to me, and it seemed like he might say something real. Something about caring about me. Something about the way he felt. But then instead he’d flip it over and there’d be this big joke underneath. Or he’d back suddenly away, busying his thumbs elsewhere, his voice quick and distant in our hurried phone conversations. He was always on his way somewhere. I was always just a brief break, an errand, a place he’d paused for a moment to stand, smoking a cigarette and squinting.

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So I was always on my way somewhere, too. Even though really, I was just sitting at my keyboard, staring at a picture of him and writing a song about the miraculously perfect planes of his face. Yeah, it was like that.

It got to the point where I could feel the words stuck in my throat. I could taste them in my mouth. I was desperate to tell him how I felt about him. But I couldn’t, because it seemed like it was too late. Like our prolonged, playful flirtation, this game I had gotten tangled in, had become our whole relationship. To confess was to lose, to admit weakness, to rip open an awkward gaping opening where before there was some solid-looking sheetrock.

That was a long time ago. I’m better now, at being the way I am. I’ve shaved my head. I’ve told a few of my sadder stories.

I think I’m getting better at being earnest.

I live in a snarky world (Brooklyn!). People wear ironic shoes. I laugh at snarky jokes. I even like the word “snarky.” It sounds like a shark with a turned up nose. I don’t know why- that’s what I think every time.

I read snarky pieces all the time. Sometimes I sit perfectly still for a good thirty seconds after reading one of Lindy West’s pieces on Jezebel, just wishing with every last membranous cell wall that I could write like her. Think like her. Wash my hands with her squirty bathroom sink soap. Life would be better.

Being sarcastic and viciously sharp-witted seems pretty ideal, sometimes. It’s like this full-body shield that you carry around, light as air, impenetrable. They are testing it for special ops forces as we speak. It is a triumph of scientific innovation. It’s the thing. All of the best and the brightest are making fun of everyone else. Being sarcastic at the speed of light. Wit is a weapon, it’s a fortress, it’s a precise surgical instrument, it’s a badge of honor.

Earnestness is the opposite of cool. For a lot of my life, it’s struck me as sort of lame. Earnest people are the ones who aren’t funny enough to not be earnest. Earnest people are suckers. They’re the ones who don’t “get it.” Their shoes are serious, and you can tell. They sell their souls for cheap. When they succeed, it’s only because there are enough suckers in the world to support them.

Earnest people are in danger, and they don’t even know it.

Sometimes I feel like I am all exposed clammy flesh and visibly rapid heartbeat. And what’s worse, I do it on purpose. I mean, I choose to be here, writing about how I got a nose job, and then that one didn’t work, so I got another one, and there was all this blood running down my throat, and also, my boobs are small. Did I mention that my boobs are really small?

But that’s just part of it. I am stupid enough to tell you what I really think about things.

Eventually, the cool boy I fell for told me that he wanted to be with me. Which seemed like a happy ending, at the time. Hell, it seemed like a friggin’ coronation in which I became queen of the universe. We were dating! He was mine! He had a perfect face and I owned it! I wrote a happy song. I was happy all the time. I was so happy at first that I almost didn’t notice that he was still unavailable. That I was still playing it cool, somehow. That I was still too careful and funny and snarky and independent to tell him what I needed. To show him that need, because I was afraid that it would be like looking over the lip of a cliff, and there’s mist down there, you can’t tell how far it drops. I was sure he’d be scared of heights.

I never got to know him.

Neither one of us was willing to admit ourselves to each other. To confess. To reveal.

So we slipped together and apart again like dry leaves dropped into a current.

It’s not stupidity, really, I’ll say in my own defense, about my clammy-skinned vulnerability. It’s a different kind of control. This is me. I look like this. I am like this. Now let’s talk.

I feel safer, starting somewhere sturdy.

I want to know other people, and it’s so much easier, when I am willing to let them know me, too.

By the time I met my husband, I was a total dork. Thank god. It’s the only thing for love.

In a snarky little world, in a place where irony buttons your vintage jeans with long, skeletal fingers, I think I am growing towards the sun, opening, stretching upward, revealing my naked flaws. The gap between my pants and my shirt, where my soft belly is pale and helpless. It’s a cute belly. I wouldn’t want to hide it behind a shield.

 

This piece appeared originally on Eat the Damn Cake

 

Kate Fridkis is a writer whose work has appeared in Salon, The New York Times, and Huffington Post, among others.

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