The Dripping Sarcasm Voice

When I started kindergarten, I could already read. I had basically badgered my older sister into reading me some book five bajillion times until something sank in.

Now, I don't even remember this incident, nor the book in question. It was some Lassie book, I think. I remember reading Tweety books to my mother as she ironed, but I don't remember this book. However, when she was in her thirties, my sister could still quote large passages of this book in retelling me the anecdote about how I harassed her into teaching me to read when I was about four years old.

So, from the start of school, I was already ahead of the curve of most my classmates. The difference between me and them only seemed to get larger as I got older.

I was one of the top three students of my graduating high school class. I took Algebra in 8th grade and I had a bunch of other classes in high school that were the equivalent of college level classes. Not one-for-one, mind you. An entire year of high school geometry was maybe like one quarter of college geometry or something like that.

In kindergarten, I took some pennies from a classmate. It was intended to be a silly joke where I was pretending to hide the pennies. I didn't mean to keep them. But he seemed genuinely fooled and I didn't know how to say "Um, yeah, just kidding. Here are your pennies." After all, I was only five.

I felt really bad about that and that incident has always stayed with me. I recall his name as being George and it just really bothered me that George completely bought my ham-handed attempt to trick him. I honestly did not believe he would fall for it. I sincerely thought he would know what was up and we would have a good laugh and I would give him his pennies back.

But, in the end, he never did catch on and then I couldn't figure out how to admit to what had really happened without basically calling him stupid to his face and admitting I was a thief. I had not intended to steal anything. It was supposed to be a lighthearted game to pass the time and it went sideways.

With that incident in my past and still weighing heavily on my mind, in high school, I was painfully aware that many of my classmates simply did not have the background knowledge I had and this gap in knowledge about the world was growing with every single passing day as I continued to take yet more advanced classes. It was in high school that I developed The Dripping Sarcasm Voice.

I don't recall a specific incident, but I believe it grew out of the fact that I would crack some joke and people would take me seriously because they weren't taking physics and chemistry and higher order math or whatever. So, they would miss the fact that it was sarcasm or irony or I was being ridiculous. They thought I was real smart and they just would believe anything I said.

When they straight up believed things I intended as ridiculous silliness, things went weird places. Worse, I again found myself with the same problem I had had in kindergarten with George: Explaining the joke would require me to basically call them stupid to their face. I wasn't comfortable with that and it wasn't going to go over well even if it had not bothered me.

So, in order to sidestep this problem, I began very, very obviously signaling "This is sarcasm -- I am joking here" with my voice. Thus, The Dripping Sarcasm Voice was born.

When I had children, I continued to use The Dripping Sarcasm Voice out of respect for the fact that they were just kids, so they simply wouldn't know all the things I knew. So, it was important to me to have a mechanism to signal to them that they should not believe what I was saying. It was something ridiculous.

My oldest son is pretty seriously socially challenged. He has no formal diagnosis of Asperger's, but he probably qualifies for a diagnosis of some sort of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Many ASD kids are easily lied to and fooled. Many of them have enormous difficulty with sarcasm because they are so literal. They tend to take what you say at face value.

But my son learned what sarcasm was at a fairly young age because mom had The Dripping Sarcasm Voice. It was impossible to miss that something was going on here. He eventually figured out that what was going on was that words said in this voice did not match the message. The message was typically the opposite of what was literally being said.

I placed a very high value on making sure I was honest and real with my kids. The Truth was important to me. I have never understood parents who think little white lies or the like are okay. That makes no sense to me.

If you are a parent, you are raising one or more future adults. The little white lies you tell when they are three or four because you aren't comfortable telling them the truth for some reason become bugs in the wetware. Over time, they tend to grow and get worse.

I am still trying to figure out how to clearly, effectively and consistently communicate on the internet when I am being straight up serious and when I am kidding. I have yet to figure out an internet version of The Dripping Sarcasm Voice. That fact sometimes gets me into all kinds of trouble.

But, it is slowly getting better.


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