Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Funny Person Syndrome

I grew up a “funny person.” This is a clinical condition. One of the fatal attributes of funny person syndrome is an uncontrollable need to have the last word in any exchange. The last word is where the joke lies. The last word sends the conversation off to the next topic in a blaze of hilarity and glory. The last word wins. Funny people can’t feel successful losing a conversation unless they set themselves up for the loss in order to be funny. Funny people have control issues. My name is Eleanor Thibeaux, and I am a funny person.

What is misleading about funny person syndrome is that most of the time, the side-effects are the antithesis of amusing. It’s a compulsive desire to be the ending punctuation in any interactive event. Funny people seek a certain level of supercilious personal validation from having the final say or getting the loudest laugh. This works just fine in social situations and the blogosphere *cough right guys? cough* but not so much in intimate relationships. The last word, like any drug addiction, leads funny people like myself shaking and spinning out of control in between fixes.

I never considered myself a last word addict. I like to make jokes, and often see any conversation as an opportunity to banter and stretch my rhetorical legs. While I do have a flair for the dramatics and an eye for the absurd, I understand that in the real world, where I occasionally vacation, there is a time and place for everything. So two weeks ago when my relationship ended prematurely, I thought only to suffer in silence. I have lived in shame of many dozen overly emotional live journal accounts to know that some personal information is best kept to the messy handwritten notebooks of yore. But in spite of my radio silence to the outside world, the ideas began to gather. First I thought only in sad phrases; then as the hours ticked away, the justified resentment and frustration scratched and clawed my pathetic weepy words into scorned sentences.

Before I knew it, I had a paragraph; then suddenly I had a short answer essay. How exonerating it would be to spin my words around his dizzied head just once more. Surely after everything that happened, I deserved the chance to defend myself! With my inner crazy person at the helm, a scene with blurred edges plays just behind my eyes of venomous words and objects thrown. The crazy person is free from any social obligation to remain calm and civil; she doesn’t buckle under the weight of anxiety or worry about his feelings. When she’s in charge, I say things like, “You can’t break up with me. That’s not how this works. Redo. I break up with you. There!” She’s fun.

Unfortunately, too much exposure to the real world and a substantial amount of years logged as a girl scout has its pitfalls. As the golden rule pulls annoyingly at the sleeve of my conscious, I catch my tongue. Because even if I were to say all the things I want to say, would it really be the right answer?

The last word might just be the singular “goodbye,” and there is a very likely chance was not meant to be mine to speak. The issue at hand is that everyone goes on and on about closure, like it’s this crucial goal we need in order to survive the rest of our life. Books and movies drill it in to our brains; the only way to move on is to recite a heartfelt speech that is both honest and vindicating in the middle of the street, or maybe under an awning at a coffee shop with rain spilling down over the sides creating a curtain of sadness and feelings that would bring even a soulless individual to tears. My speech houses all that was left unsaid. My speech has swear words and more cons than pros. My speech has literary devices to really drive the message home.

Yet, the problem with my speech is glaring. Only one side of it is within my control. Even if I found myself in this movie moment, I can only script one character. That’s the beauty and curse of reality – it’s all improv. You can choose the scene and the characters, but the dialogue is ever-changing. It’s why the phrase, “that’s not what I meant,” is so damn popular. Real life isn’t a movie or a book or a blog. The grace of the real world is in the things we didn’t mean to say, or the things we know we shouldn’t have said. Does he regret showing me a pros and cons list about myself? I can venture to guess he does, and after my blog went up, I can only assume he REALLY does now.

So if I catch him at Starbucks and it’s raining for the first time all winter, and my brain implodes and the lines I have been repeating since the day he told me he couldn’t think of a reason to be with me come cascading out, will I find the personal validation I so vainly seek? Will he see the metaphorical light and realize what a huge mistake he has made? Despite the fact that I am confident our relationship has run its course, will telling him everything I think he should know really make him miss me like I want him to? And if he misses me, will that be the closure I think I need in order to move forward?

In a moment of brutal clarity, I realized the answer is not the one I wanted. Telling him the things that he did that drove me insane won’t make me feel any less sad that the relationship is over. Listing off all the super cool qualities about myself that he so casually left off his stupid list won’t make him really see me the way I think he should. Even if he realizes he misses me the way I want him to, he won’t tell me. The closure isn’t lying in wake of my self-proclaimed protagonist monologue; it is in accepting that the validation I seek externally must first exist internally. If I truly believe I am all those things that should have been in the pros column, then it doesn’t matter if he knows it. More to the point, if he needs me to tell him what is great about me, maybe throwing in the towel was for the best.

If he doesn’t see the significance of my qualities, or the humanity in my flaws, it is because his values are focused elsewhere. Just as he could never make me love rollercoasters or get a cockatoo for a pet, I cannot redirect his vision of what makes for a worthwhile partner. For the first time, I am beginning to understand that the last word isn’t the final moment. There will be other stories with more moments and happier endings. And if I can keep my mouth shut, maybe there will be a story that doesn’t need a punch line at all.