The truth about snark.

I’ve been called “snarky” a few times in my life. Today. Heck, in the last hour. Sometimes I think it’s meant as a compliment, but other times, well, I’m sure it’s not. I’m okay with it either way, of course. And that’s a good thing, too, because it’s little more than a reflex at this point.

When I was a kid, we called it “sarcasm” and it was not always appreciated by The Powers That Be. When I say “The Powers That Be,” I’m talking about you, Mom… and a few teachers, ex-girlfriends, and law enforcements officers. Sarcasm, you see, usually insinuated some sort of juvenile eye roll (or, maybe a few times, an extended middle finger), whether it was real or imagined. Yes, I maintain that the officer imagined it.

I’m all grown up now, so we call it snark to make it sound like the charming personality trait that it is. When I converse with my snarky friends — and my god, do I have some seriously snarky friends — it’s called banter. And I love a little banter. Now, to be clear, I have friends who aren’t snarky. Plenty of them, in fact. But I have very few friends who don’t “get” snark. Not for lack of effort on my part, I should mention. They just don’t want to be friends with me. And I’m okay with that, too.

But here’s a truth about snark that the snarky among us don’t readily admit. It can be a wonderful barrier. A wall. A safety net. Sometimes, that’s by design. I can be all sorts of “social,” even entertaining, without ever being personal or the least bit revealing. That’s great at dinner parties, especially dinner parties full of guests that I don’t ever intend to see again, and it’s a godsend at the sort of work functions that have you mingling with people wearing “Hello, my name is” nametags in a too-cold conference room in the middle of some nondescript city.

Other times, though, it’s the kind of barrier that isn’t intended. Or healthy. Or especially relationship-edifying. That’s a lesson often learned the hard way, as my string of pre-marriage entanglements might indicate. My wife isn’t snarky, at least not much, but she gets it. More than that, though, she can cut through it like nobody else I know. When we were dating, at that awkward three month mark where it’s time to put up or shut up, I did what I always did. I snarked my way toward relationship demise, expecting the snarkee to wither away quietly into the night. Needless to say, Chelli didn’t wither. And so, I married her.

Let this be a lesson to you all.

[Side note: The picture above, which I love, was created by animator Matthew Simkins, who can be found at Talented guy.]

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