getting better at being embarrassingly earnest in a snarky world

This post is a part of my sporadic Little Victories series. My mom really likes this series, because it forces me to be positive and I think she thinks that’s healthy. 

Once I fell for this guy who was very cool. We used to have these witty little conversations on Facebook and through strings of pithy text messages that spooled out for weeks on end. I tried to be funny, composing one-liners in my head and editing them several times before sending. I’d had a crush on him for a long time, but I kept calm and played my cards carefully. I felt gaspingly thankful that he wanted to talk. I felt like this was my chance.

Sometimes he edged closer to me, and it seemed like he might say something real. Something about caring about me. Something about the way he felt. But then instead he’d flip it over and there’d be this big joke underneath. Or he’d back suddenly away, busying his thumbs elsewhere, his voice quick and distant in our hurried phone conversations. He was always on his way somewhere. I was always just a brief break, an errand, a place he’d paused for a moment to stand, smoking a cigarette and squinting.

(don’t let them see your eyes! or your spy gear. source)

So I was always on my way somewhere, too. Even though really, I was just sitting at my keyboard, staring at a picture of him and writing a song about the miraculously perfect planes of his face. Yeah, it was like that.

It got to the point where I could feel the words stuck in my throat. I could taste them in my mouth. I was desperate to tell him how I felt about him. But I couldn’t, because it seemed like it was too late. Like our prolonged, playful flirtation, this game I had gotten tangled in, had become our whole relationship. To confess was to lose, to admit weakness, to rip open an awkward gaping opening where before there was some solid-looking sheetrock.

That was a long time ago. I’m better now, at being the way I am. I’ve shaved my head. I’ve told a few of my sadder stories.

I think I’m getting better at being earnest.


I live in a snarky world (Brooklyn!). People wear ironic shoes. I laugh at snarky jokes. I even like the word “snarky.” It sounds like a shark with a turned up nose. I don’t know why- that’s what I think every time.

I read snarky pieces all the time. Jezebel is a good example. I want to sound like a Jezebel writer. Sometimes I sit perfectly still for a good thirty seconds after reading one of Lindy West’s pieces, just wishing with every last membranous cell wall that I could write like her. Think like her. Wash my hands with her squirty bathroom sink soap. Life would be better.

Being sarcastic and viciously sharp-witted seems pretty ideal, sometimes. It’s like this full-body shield that you carry around, light as air, impenetrable. They are testing it for special ops forces as we speak. It is a triumph of scientific innovation. It’s the thing. All of the best and the brightest are making fun of everyone else. Being sarcastic at the speed of light. Wit is a weapon, it’s a fortress, it’s a precise surgical instrument, it’s a badge of honor.

Earnestness is the opposite of cool. For a lot of my life, it’s struck me as sort of lame. Earnest people are the ones who aren’t funny enough to not be earnest. Earnest people are suckers. They’re the ones who don’t “get it.” Their shoes are serious, and you can tell. They sell their souls for cheap. When they succeed, it’s only because there are enough suckers in the world to support them.

Earnest people are in danger, and they don’t even know it.


Sometimes I feel like I am all exposed clammy flesh and visibly rapid heartbeat. And what’s worse, I do it on purpose. I mean, I choose to be here, writing about how I got a nose job, and then that one didn’t work, so I got another one, and there was all this blood running down my throat, and also, my boobs are small. Did I mention that my boobs are really small?

But that’s just part of it. I am stupid enough to tell you what I really think about things.

Eventually, the cool boy I fell for told me that he wanted to be with me. Which seemed like a happy ending, at the time. Hell, it seemed like a friggin’ coronation in which I became queen of the universe. We were dating! He was mine! He had a perfect face and I owned it! I wrote a happy song. I was happy all the time. I was so happy at first that I almost didn’t notice that he was still unavailable. That I was still playing it cool, somehow. That I was still too careful and funny and snarky and independent to tell him what I needed. To show him that need, because I was afraid that it would be like looking over the lip of a cliff, and there’s mist down there, you can’t tell how far it drops. I was sure he’d be scared of heights.

I never got to know him.

Neither one of us was willing to admit ourselves to each other. To confess. To reveal.

So we slipped together and apart again like dry leaves dropped into a current.

It’s not stupidity, really, I’ll say in my own defense, about my clammy-skinned vulnerability. It’s a different kind of control. This is me. I look like this. I am like this. Now let’s talk.

I feel safer, starting somewhere sturdy.

I want to know other people, and it’s so much easier, when I am willing to let them know me, too.

By the time I met Bear, I was a total dork. Thank god. It’s the only thing for love.

In a snarky little world, in a place where irony buttons your vintage jeans with long, skeletal fingers, I think I am growing towards the sun, opening, stretching upward, revealing my naked flaws. The gap between my pants and my shirt, where my soft belly is pale and helpless. It’s a cute belly. I wouldn’t want to hide it behind a shield.

(apparently these sold for $36,000? source)

*   *   *

Do you let yourself be earnest? Are you getting better at it?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in boots and jeans. I find myself wishing it was colder, so that I could do that.


Kate on September 5th 2012 in being different, life, Little Victories, new york

24 Responses to “getting better at being embarrassingly earnest in a snarky world”

  1. NB responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    This. Just. Whoa. All of this.
    In a world of totally delightful snark that sometimes leaves me feeling cold and lonely: three giant, unabashed cheers for earnesty!

  2. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Oh dear, you must have met a full-on Scorpio, LMAO…that push me/pull me dance is a trip ain’t it? I love this post and can relate. I’ve always had a sharp wit, but I do love it when I can be earnest…and it definitely takes courage and an ability to be truly vulnerable. It has to do with wearing your heart on your sleeve and not giving a shit who listens…or who doesn’t. It simply feels good to be that way!

  3. lik_11 responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    The last paragraph in this is beautiful.

    “Neither one of us was willing to admit ourselves to each other. To confess. To reveal.” This pretty much sums me up. I used to be earnest- but after a heart wrenching rejection, I think I’m still too afraid. But I’m working on it.

  4. Melanie responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Adored this. My snark and sarcasm is giving way to openness and honesty. I like that I have the quick wit to say biting funny things. But I find as I grow I use it less and less. I actually like saying honest and sometimes uncomfortable things. I do wear a lot of silly shirts and shoes, but I try not to use them as a shield against getting to know the real me.

  5. Heather responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I love this so much.

    I’ve been described (by friends, in a positive way) as snarky. As a very sensitive child, I think I built up my sarcastic side as a defense against the world. But I’d spend too much time caught up in my head forming the perfect response that I’d miss the perfect time to deliver that response.

    It’s been a process to let myself be vulnerable, show my true self. And after getting my heart spectacularly broken, it’s a process to remind myself that it’s brave to open yourself up. I took a risk and failed, but I’m better off for it.

  6. TrueMountain responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    yup, i love this one too. the last paragraph is so evocative of what it means to be whole, authentic, and vulnerable.
    Do you know about Brene Brown’s shame resilience work?

    your courage to be real is a victory that benefits more than your shelf. It helps all of us “Come Out.” as our true authentic selves.

  7. Chantal responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I think this is the best piece of yours that I have read. Not so much the topic (which is good!), but your writing is really great, and I love the images you create.

  8. Robert Timms responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Yeh, very good,positive and universal.Should be in a newspaper to cheer people up. That would be an important job.A little piece near the front of a magazine,say third page in after the contents.

  9. Courtney responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Love this. Snark and sarcasm have become so ingrained in my personality, it’s hard for me to quit. I’ve been at it so long that there are times I want to be genuine and find myself clamming up a bit.

    Also: I totally love Lindy West too. :)

  10. Sheryl responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    I’m sarcastic, and I can definitely have some snark to me at time (I totally see the upturned-nose-shark thing, by the way) but I can also be really vulnerable and earnest. The earnest is a lot harder. It’s kind of like sitting there, naked, in public in broad daylight.

  11. Netta responded on 05 Sep 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Gosh, Kate, sometimes I feel like we’re the same person (is that creepy?)

    I too love Lindy West and wish I had half her wit, but I too im my real life am trying to be more earnest. I think it’s better. If only because it saves you the trouble and energy of putting up pretenses and then having to keep up with them.

    There’s something really uncool about being earnest, but it feels courageous to me at the same time.

  12. contrary kiwi responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 5:39 am #

    This is very nicely timed, because I just earnestly asked out a boy who I was pretty sure liked me because I don’t like playing the “does he like me/does he know I like him” game for very long. It worked out well, as he very much likes me and was planning to ask me out, only I beat him to it.

    I am a strange natural mix of snarky and earnest. I’m snarky about things that don’t matter and uncomfortably open about things that do matter. I’ve met people at parties and made up an entire persona to pretend to be for a while until they’re completely convinced and then dropped it to confess I’m not that person at all. And I’ve told people I’ve been raped and it’s had a very strong effect on my life.

    I think the world is sorely lacking in honesty. When playing around stops being fun and starts being a trap, we lose people. I don’t wanna do that and I’m glad you don’t either, because your realness helps us so very much.

  13. shana responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 8:54 am #

    thanks for this post! i just started a dissertation writing help-group thing this week and the first thing the prof. said was here we can (and should) all leave our prestigious university snark at the door. YAY.

    also i love this paragraph: “In a snarky little world, in a place where irony buttons your vintage jeans with long, skeletal fingers, I think I am growing towards the sun, opening, stretching upward, revealing my naked flaws. The gap between my pants and my shirt, where my soft belly is pale and helpless. It’s a cute belly. I wouldn’t want to hide it behind a shield.”

  14. Alpana Trivedi responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Hello, Kate. I’m one of those “uncool” earnest people and I don’t apologize for it, but I’ve been told that “you can’t let people see that, because they’ll eat you alive.”

    Also, it seems that nowadays part of being “knowing” and sophisticated involves a certain amount of jadedness and detachment. Like you can’t show your vulnerable side AND be this worldly, cultured person. Sometimes it’s worse, because being grown-up has the same connotation to it as well. Kind of like “you’re upset/crying about THAT? Grow up.” I guess the “you can’t get upset about stuff like that is the sister statement to “you can’t let them know your vulnerable side.”

  15. Kate responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Grad school is a great example of an environment full of people carefully protecting themselves with their wit and knowledge. I like your professor! I hope the group is great!

  16. shana responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 9:46 am #

    thanks!! and you said it, whew. it’s a den of snark over here :D

  17. Jeneveve responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Very insightful. I think, for me, learning to be okay with not being snarky is part of growing up. Realising there are better things to be than ‘seen as cool’ and that it usually results in more fun.

    Also, this:

  18. soft’n’crunchy « Jiminy's Blog responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 9:57 am #

    [...] `it’s in the middle` between a black and a white. I wish I could choose and/or plead for heart-on-your-sleeve instead of sarcasm – or the other way round. I wish I could stand up for things with more [...]

  19. Kate responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Adorable. I love xkcd.

  20. gwen responded on 06 Sep 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Kate, your earnestness is one of the reasons I love reading your blog! You are very present, and it is very lovely.

  21. Heather responded on 07 Sep 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    I totally relate. I”m someone who feels earnestly about certain things but protects myself by following up any earnestness with sarcasm or self-mocking. It’s safer to call out what you make be mocked for yourself then to leave yourself open. I love that you are earnest without defense. Your words often echo my earnest thoughts. Thanks for being awesome!!

  22. raquel responded on 10 Sep 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Oh, how many times I have been so guarded in my relationships, romantic and otherwise. I hate the cool guise. I’m still trying to break down my defenses and just let myself flower.

  23. Mary responded on 11 Sep 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    well you’re my Lindy. How do you like that?

  24. bethany responded on 19 Nov 2012 at 2:38 am #

    i found you on jezebel….. and you’re 100000x better! bringing smiles instead of hard hearts. keep on being earnest.