Cynical. The word itself sounds so…clinical. Like it’s a quantifiable form of behavior, even though there’s no specific unit of measurement for it. You can’t say, for example, “Wow, that person is so cynically overweight, her cynicism must be all the way up to 300 lbs. She needs to cut back on Fox News or else her ego is going to implode.”
I bring this up because last week I reconnected with an old friend whom I’ve known my entire adult life, and he said that I’d turned a bit cynical since we’d last hung out a million years ago. I find this rather odd, because I’ve considered myself sarcastic, skeptical, and mocking ever since I learned how to forge my mother’s signature on notes from my teachers…but never cynical.
Cynical was for the ugly girls who couldn’t get boyfriends because they didn’t know how to entice a guy with a clever word. Or for the high school English teacher who’d never finish writing that novel because something else always got in the way. Or for the college homecoming queen who married the handsome quarterback, only to discover he had the intellect of a tree stump, and by the time the 10-year reunion rolled around sported a cue ball noggin, as well as a potbelly.
Those people are cynical. I’m just cleverly ironic.
Cynical is the New 40
But my friend insisted my outlook had taken a dark turn somewhere along the way, and truth be told, he may be right. However, my comeback to that is, isn’t that what one’s personal outlook naturally does after one has been on the planet for a while? Doesn’t your attitude on just about everything automatically ferment with age? Think about it. How many people over 40, for example, really believe potluck dinners are a good idea? Seriously? You’re going to invite me to your house for dinner, but then I have to bring a main course or a salad or a dessert that serves 12? We’re not in college anymore, people. Hell, if I stayed home I’d only have to feed two kids and myself. And I don’t even have to make it look nice. Is that cynical? No! It’s just common sense.
Without overanalyzing this encounter too much I think my friend may have confused cynicism with my sense of humor (which also steadily ferments by the year…or lately by the month). Eleven months ago my marriage of 20+ years broke up, and at that time I had two options. I could either fall apart like a wet tissue or find the irony in investing my entire emotional life into an enterprise that (I realize now) was destined to fall apart sooner or later. I picked B because the jokes were easier to mine, and because I didn’t have time to cry in my vodka. I have kids to consider.
My friend, on the other hand, had also endured the dissolution of his marriage (five years ago) and he admitted that he did fall apart at the time. He started drinking a little too much, had trouble focusing, watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall on an endless loop, and broke down sobbing unexpectedly in places like the DMV and Ikea (but not for the usual reasons). He said the things that pulled him out of his depths of despair were therapy, meditation, and living in the moment, and that I should do the same. All good things, I agree, but not all things to all people.
How I Manage Not to Rip Off Your Head
For me, my meditation is to build a fire in my bedroom (not to worry, I do have a fireplace in there) and stare at the flames until my mind goes blissfully blank. I also live in the moment by saying any damn thing that comes to mind, no matter how inappropriate it may be. Yes, that weeds out a few people, but commands my respect for those who stick around. And my form of therapy is getting on a stage and yakking about my pathetic life and then following up by blogging about it. For some reason all that works for me, and at the same time, saves me tons of cash in psychoanalysis and booze.
Plus, when you think about, why would I pay a shrink to listen to me blab on about myself when I can get people to pay me to get up on a stage and talk about myself? Plus, I don’t have that pesky therapist constantly interrupting me with asinine questions like, “And how did that make you feel, Stacy?” or “What do you think you’ve learned from this?” I’ve learned that if you’re getting $100 per hour I need to up my speaking fees.
What Have You Learned From This, Stacy?
I guess my point in this little tirade is that everyone processes hard times differently, and if mine involves making fun of you for wearing those stupid Hammer pants in an effort to recapture your youth, then you’re just going to have to go with it (or else ditch the pants). What works as grief therapy for one person may not work for another. I don’t expect everyone else to lay their souls bare to an audience of strangers, so don’t expect me to sign up for your Thursday Night Polynesian Drum Circle/Spaghetti Feed, or whatever it is that floats your boat.
In the end, my friend conceded that if cynicism helped me through my divorce, then so be it, as long as I didn’t cross over to into the land of being bitter.
But then, as if to twist the knife, he just had to tell me that by going to group therapy he eventually met a wonderful woman, with whom he’s been dating now for three years. AND he added, the sex is amazing — knowing full well that I have no prospects on the horizon.
“Well,” I replied with a tight smile, “I’m sure on those times when you and your girlfriend have the opportunity to get down and dirty it’s the best 30 seconds out of her day.”
Okay. Maybe I am just a tiny bit cynical.
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Stacy Dymalski is the host of the hilarious TV talk show “Mother Bloggers” on FirstRun.tv. She’s also an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.
For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.