Thursday, May 31, 2012

Peevishness is My New Pet Peeve

I've developed a nasty pet peeve and it won't leave me alone. It's of the spoken variety, and it goes like this - 
(unbelievable or irksome revelation, followed by) "... really?... REALLY?!"

Alternatively, it may go like this -

"Seriously? No, really, SERIOUSLY?"

Do you remember when 97% of your acquaintances didn't utter one of these statements every day? I do. It was a glorious era when we could conceive that dumb and frustrating things happen all the time. Yes, that other driver did cut you off in traffic. Your boss did keep you late for no good reason. Your stupid cat indeed did pee outside of the litter box. It happened and it sucked and maybe you groused about it, but you never wondered, "Is this reality? Was my cat just joking?"

Until recently, I had no idea how this rampant bout of incredulity got its start. Then I learned that it emerged from that hotbed of catchphrases both irritating and irresistible - Saturday Night Live. Since I haven't watched a full SNL episode in nearly twenty years, I had no idea. Apparently, "Really!?! with Seth and Amy" was a Weekend Update feature during the Meyers/Poehler era starting in 2006. This social tic is six years old, yet never so inescapable as it is now. Check out this headline from the Guardian UK website, back in January.


All I can say to Ms. Harding or whoever wrote that headline is, you didn't know that guy is a complete piece of shit? He is. I'm not trying to downplay his awfulness. You should never cease to find him disgusting, and it's good that you're letting others know what a horrible person he is. But your disbelief is rather unbelievable in itself. In fact, it's kind of a drag.

Exasperation is a turn-off, people. It's a weak, whiny response to life's unpleasantness. And please don't mistake this as me saying, "just suck it up." Bitching is great and complainers are some of my favorite people. What bugs me about the "really/seriously" trend is that it posits suffering as something new, which leads me to my theory on why it's so popular.

I'm now aware of its SNL origins, but I hate to blame my pet peeve on Amy Poehler, whom I adore. Based on my undocumented, unscientific observations, I suppose that the "really/seriously" trend gained enormous popularity in the past four years. I think it's largely a response to the recession. For anyone who is deep in student loan debt with only a minimum wage job to show for their degree, or who lost their retirement fund and now looks forward to working until they die, or who lives in an apartment when they used to own a McMansion, or is an out-of-work professional competing with hundreds of applicants for a gig at Home Depot... well, I guess "Really?!" is an appropriate response.

My problem with this trend is that these expressions have spilled over into the way we handle everyday difficulties. Now we have a cliche. And as cliches go, it's a downer. The problem is that it's so insidious. Unlike "a couple of wild and crazy guys" or even "not!", it's so easy to insert "really/seriously" in any complain-y conversation. I catch myself almost doing it all the time. Fortunately(?),  I find it so grating that I'm usually able to avoid usage. I just step back and remind myself that annoying shit is commonplace and I don't need to sweat it. I can respond in so many other ways - criticize, mock, ignore. I try to save my exasperation for a special occasion, like this blog post.

I'm requesting that you do the same. It seems sometimes our world is defined by unfairness, maybe more so than ever. Or perhaps it's just that we Westerners are feeling it more than we used to. What can you do but make the best of whatever shitty hand life dealt you? Whether that means shrugging it off or starting a revolution, I wish you well*. Just keep this in mind, a poker face can go way further than - "Really? Seriously? My high card is a seven?!"

*unless you're Rick Santorum, or someone who would vote for him.


  1. "Seriously?" and its stablemate "Really?" have become the kinds of interjections (largely thanks to work) that I think are no longer acceptable unless one does it on one's own, where and when no one else can hear. Like whistling, really. The problem is that I find myself doing all three now and again ("Seriously?" far more than the rest). It's a hugely pernicious habit, and I've been working to stop it, or at least find a more interesting substitute...

  2. Yes, social whistlers are terrible! The only thing worse than a social whistler is the dude who, without invitation, busts out an acoustic guitar at a part. Now if I happen to overhear someone whistling to themselves, that's cool. But it's also scary because it reminds me of "M".