Mama always said, “If you’re going to insult somebody, do it with a smile on your face.” (Mama always talked in bold face.)
That admonition has served me well for years.
Daddy always said, “You can take the sting out of profanity by putting it in quotes.”
As I noticed on Facebook, the Internet’s great forum for esoteric and learned debate, there’s a world of difference between saying, Bob, you’re really screwed up AND Bob, you’re really “screwed up.”
People think you love them when you add a smile and quotation marks even if you have to raise your hands and extend two fingers on each. Extending one finger on each doesn’t smooth things over.
People become used to humorous insults. That’s why Don Rickles got so many laughs. When he made fun of people, they thought he loved them. Most of my friends think of me as “Mister Warmth.” They knew I grew up with the commandment, “Mama don’t allow no swearing ’round here.” So, when I tell them to go to hell, they think it’s satire or love, sweet love.
It takes many years of practice to get people to laugh when you’re dead serious about the “sanity” of their families, the “beauty” of their daughters, the “honor” of their sons, and the “stunning” breakfast of burnt grits they prepared for you.
It’s become clear that a well-publicized “wacky” belief system goes a long way in getting away with stuff. The people who know I believe in reincarnation and not hell, think that when I say “Go to hell,” I’m talking about Michigan.
Actress Barbara Stanwyck purportedly told Fred MacMurray that the secret of acting is truthfulness. “Just be truthful – and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Faked sincerity covers almost as many “sins” as a “wacky” belief system. If you sound sincere, people want to go to hell and want to be screwed up.
Sometimes when people learn that I’m a writer (which is just as handy as a “wacky” belief system), they say, “OMG, will you put me in your book?”
My response is usually something like, “You’re already in my book. I just changed your name to keep your spouse from divorcing you.”
“Aw, shucks,” they say, genuinely proud of themselves.
My friends variously think that I’m joking, being wacky, being satirical, and being a writer even when I’m not. Their kind thoughts in such matters have kept me from having to censor myself very often.
I’m a lot more like my Jock Stewart character in “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” than most people suspect!