Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Zinged - Zung?

I am a master at the 2am zinger. You know the kind? The perfect comeback, the world-quaking verbal drubbing, the ZING... That only occurs to me 12 or so hours after the situation I would have used it in.
It's brutal. 

But I've been thinking, perhaps that's not SUCH a terrible thing?

I stumbled onto this post (via Angry Chicken, man I love her) and you know who can deliver some brutal, brutal smack talk? Authors. That's who.
Apparently canny wordsmiths are MEAN when you get 'em riled.
This list of the notable authors verbally decimating each other is entertaining reading... at first...
But then, well then it's sort of... icky.
Elizabeth Bishop slamming J.D. Salinger (#8) makes me wince,
 8. Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger  “I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?” 
Elizabeth! That's the kind of thing that could cause a person to retreat into crazypants seclusion (sorry J.D., but yuh-huh).
I think what bothers me is that it seems cheap somehow to have the ability to write extraordinarily but to use  your skill to hurt people's feelings. Like having the ability to fly but using it exclusively to fly around doing retaliatory poops on pigeons. (No wait, that actually sounds kind of righteous).

The rare occasion that I manage to spit out just the right mean at just the right time; I feel TERRIBLE about it afterwards. Even if it was deserved.
Because that's not who I want to be.
I'm not saying I want to hold hands with the world and sing Kumbaya and roast marshmallows but -  wait, actually, WHY AREN'T I saying that? That sounds like funtimes. And I love roasted marshmallows.
 I guess I don't really have a point here, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I think maybe my mum was right (she usually is) when she told us as kids,
"If you don't have anything nice to say then you should shut the f*ck up" 
(For reals, she has a mouth on her to make a sailor blush, and it's incongruous 'cause she looks like such a lady).
BUT I think I would still like the ability to think up the instant-zing, because then I could feel all smug that I wasn't using it. Instead of just all hurt-feelingy.
How do you guys feel about this? Do you zap and regret? Or ZING and high-five? Or  keep quiet then lay awake for hours staring at the shadow on your ceiling that looks like chubby-Elvis face until you come up with the perfect comeback?
And do you think it's different on the internetses? Where anonymity and time to plan a response seems to give people the idea that "DUDE. YOUR COUCH SO UGLY" is appropriate (hello Apartment Therapy commentors!).
I'm genuinely curious here. Thoughts? Feelings? Cuppa tea and a scone?

Oh hey! I just thought of something I wanted to add (I guess this whole thing is really jammed into my head but good)...
I read and follow quite a few blogs, some by folks who's politics, religious beliefs and lifestyles are different from mine. I can read a glowing "why I love Mitt Romney" post and completely disagree with it but still wish goodthings and funtimes for it's writer. BUT when one of the bloggers I used to read (I'm not naming names here), decided to write a scathing report, apropos of nothing about  just why and how another blogger's project was lousy. Well, click. Unfollowed.
Ok, rant over. I think I'm done here.


  1. Yeah, hand over the tea and the scone! I have things to say! ;-)

    Seriously, I do, but this could get very long--though part of your post actually ties very neatly into a post I've been contemplating since last evening, when I was emailing a friend about a (different but) similar subject.

    I think being kind is almost always the right answer, even in the face of someone who bugs you on whatever level. I also think the internet is more of a community than people realize--so, sure, anonymous crappy comments on Apartment Therapy are cheap and easy. On the other blogger being vile to another? Um, I'm not sure how anyone could have thought that was an advisable posting plan. The blog world is like anywhere else, it seems to me: Smaller and more tightly knit than you might imagine.

    In general I think kindness is a practice, like anything else. Sometimes it comes easily, of course, but the times when you take a moment to breathe and then offer kindness to someone who has just offered you something very different, those are the moments when you stretch and grow and maybe even change the energy of the moment entirely and/or make a new friend. Or at least make someone miserable a little less miserable.

    That said, I also think there are moments when fighting fire with fire is a very, very healthy idea. When? I don't know that I can be specific, but you know...I suppose it's like that old line about pornography: I know the moments when I see them.

    As for artists being mean to one another about their art...that's closer to the subject of the post I want to write, so I'll spare you. But it's safe to say I'm against it.

    And also, I totally dig your mom. Hilarious!

  2. Sometimes I get lucky and have the best, well-worded zingers just fly right out. Mostly though, I am a 2am zinger. It is infuriating. However, I would never dream of zinging a stranger on the internet. There is a difference between putting your cocky friend's buddy in place and being hurtful just for hurt's sake. I think people like to hide in the anonymity of cyberspace and bash for bashing's. In this case, it is best to shut the eff up, as your mother says.


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