June 26, 2011

I'm A Cynical Asshole

As I write this, I know that there are things I should be doing. Deference to my duties though seems to be something I specialize in. I tend to internalize things, and thus by the time they come out, the initial idea I wanted to express has become so entangled in anger, self-doubt and disbelief that it's presented in a jumble of incoherent rage. Which in turn frustrates me further.

Fourth grade. The bully was up to his usual. I was nearby, talking to mutual friends. He saw the opportunity and acted. "Anyone who can't talk can't be here." I'd struggled with a speech impediment since birth. It was a source of a great deal of embarrassment and self-doubt. Not sure what I'd eaten that day, but whatever it was gave me a bravado that betrayed my physical prowess. I walked straight up to the bully and smacked him across his face. His initial reaction of being stunned veiled the fact that he was in no way physically hurt by what I'd done. I recognized this and tucked myself in the appropriate position. He pummeled me until it was broken up by the volunteer lunch mothers.

I no longer speak with an impediment. In fact, I'm a very comfortable public speaker. However, somewhere in me, that shy 10 year old boy lives, separate from what I am today. And every now and then I feel the need to defend him, because he won't and can't defend himself. And it goes beyond jokes about "not being able to talk right." It's everything about me. And I think that because I'm a relatively funny guy that people think they can take more liberties with me than with others. As if they can say something that is brutally offensive and I, delving into my well of humor and ration, will laugh it off.

What they don't realize, is how much torment it's taken to get to the point that I'm at today. Because I was often cast aside by friends, I spent hours alone in my formative years, developing my personality. And that's also how I developed my sense of humor. I knew that if I couldn't always defend myself physically, I'd have to be able to absolutely dismantle someone verbally. And I can. I'm not the smartest amongst my friends, but I can humiliate them in ways they've never even dreamed of. But that's, of course, assuming I've been pushed to that point.

Lately, it seems that "that point" is an unavoidable destination. I know what I'm capable of. I know how badly I can hurt people with my wit. And it's something I truly want nothing to do with. I want to be a lovable jokester. Not a vindictive malcontent out to right his perceived wrongs. But I feel as though I'm being left with fewer and fewer choices.

When people you consider "friends" are constantly taking unprovoked potshots at you, what are your options? Sit there and take it? Laugh it off? Get angry and physical? Especially when it's someone who's been particularly close to you. Should you let his slight of your personal, private friendship stand, despite its affect on your social standing amongst your mutual peers? Do you defer to your own sense of what is right? To not besmirch your friend in public, in opposition to his apparent stance to do that very thing.

And when you know you're equipped to lay waste to anyone wishing to verbally joust with you, do you bear responsibility to wield this tool sparingly? Perhaps rationing that they didn't understand the implications their comment might hold.

As much as I can ration things out, I know one thing: I'm human. I hurt. And when people take their shots at me, despite the jovial mask I take it in with, I'm internally asking "Why is he attacking me? What did I do?"

Perhaps it is because I have a strong sense of humor. Or perhaps it's because I've set myself an easy target. But it seems that when I retaliate, I'm labelled as someone going overboard. Too sensitive. Too thin skinned. But after decades of this merry-go-round, perhaps my cynicism is just a way to get the ultimate end. In which I'm the villian, and the person making the initial insult was "only joking."

To paraphrase Conan O'Brien, cynicism truly is my least favorite quality. I'm an optimistic person, and I hate to be thought of as cynical. But if that's the label I have to wear, I want it on my tombstone, accompanied by a qualifier: "He defended himself."


  1. I think you are great guy and funny and witty and I admire your wisdom. Also I enjoy your company but know you can’t stand me and we have love hate relationship but thats my relationship with most people so you should never take what I say personally or god forbid to heart! Well except this.

  2. This is a sweet comment. It'd be even sweeter if I knew who it was from.

  3. Man, I loved this whole thing from start to finish. Your writing style is amazing. I've dealt with bullies & nasty racism for 12 years. The emotional pain was excruciating & I don't think I'll ever recover. However, the side effect was a blessing. I too developed a broad sense of humor & was a counselor & campus ministry leader in high school. I held positions that required confidence. The only thing was I never had confidence, I only faked it. I cant assert myself verbally or stand up for what I think is right. That's why I admire who you are & the character you molded yourself to be. I'm glad to know there's someone I can
    relate to. Never change yourself for anyone & never stop being a cynical ass hole.

  4. Rich, I'm sorry for what you've had to deal with. I've found it's impossible to fake confidence, though. Even if you thought you were faking it, that confidence came from a very real place within you. If anything I write can make someone feel better, it means the world to me, truly. So while you admire me, I, in turn, admire you. Keep fighting the good fight and never let anyone tell you what you can or can't do or be. You're important. Don't ever fucking question that.

  5. You need to take yourself more seriously. I'm sure that more alone time in the personal hell you've crafted for yourself is exactly what the doctor ordered. Or better yet, pour your thoughts into an anonymous and inhuman forum and see what trolls (of which I'm one) respond to the equivalent of mental masturbation. What you need is to get up in the morning, shave, and get a hobby. Like riding a bike, or checkers, or something. Nothing matters as much as you pretend it does, even people dying, even you dying. And your gonna die, so do something fun before then. Or go volunteer at a hospital if you want to really see some shit. Or a prison. Or a methadone clinic. Then tell me about your 'feelings'. Adios fucker