I was texting a friend of mine the other day, and he was being motivational (as he does, because, well, he’s full of the awesome) and he said something along the lines of “it is what it is.” Then he said, “but not that, because I hate that. My boss says that ALL THE TIME. And I hate that. It is SO STUPID.”
So that started me thinking (because listen, you can tell me one thing, and my brain goes in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT DIRECTION, it is INSANITY, or maybe BRILLIANCE, yeah, probably brilliance, I mean, who am I to argue with the path my brilliance chooses to take?) about platitudes, and proverbs, and motivational sayings, and the like. Yes, yes, we talked about idioms once before, I KNOW THAT BUZZKILL MCGURK, THIS is DIFFERENT, so stop RUINING IT for EVERYONE, you’re totally the reason we can’t have nice things.
Sometimes you want to cheer someone up, or cheer someone on, because they are having a totally horrible day/week/month or whatever period of time is sucking for them. Some people do this with gifts; some people do this by visiting the person and being cheerful and helpful; some people do this by spouting nonsensical platitudes until you want to spin their head around until it pops off like the safety top of a tube of Krazy Glue.
Also? Most platitudes/proverbs are VERY VERY STUPID when you look at them closely. There are much better things you can say to someone who’s having a hard time of things than a regurgitated, overused, trite saying that’s been said so many times it stops having any meaning at all, like when you say the word “turtle” too many times and it starts sounding weird, like it’s not even a word at all anymore.
Let’s take a look at some, shall we? I chose some that are especially irritating to me, but I’m sure there are more. I’d be glad to dissect and snark at your least-favorite platitudes or proverbs for you, for a nominal fee, somewhere down the line. I’ll send you my PayPal address.
It is what it is
What this is supposed to mean: “Don’t stress too much; there’s no point.”
What this really means: “I’m a dumbo and I just spit out words like I’m a cheap whore of a word vending machine. Also, I don’t care one iota about whatever you’re telling me but I’m saying this to make it look like I do.”
This has become a thing recently, and it needs to stop now. It’s something that bosses say a lot, I’ve noticed. I think they might think it makes them look intelligent. SPOILER ALERT: it makes you look the opposite of that.
“I’ve lost my keys, my cat died, and my boyfriend’s cheating on me with a syphilis-ridden whore!” “Eh, you know. What can you do? It is what it is, Judy.”
“My mom just called. My brother’s been in a car accident! But I’ll lose my job if I take any more personal time!” “It is what it is, Fred. It is what it is.”
There’s never a time that saying this doesn’t make you sound like you’re bored out of your mind with whatever the person said to you. STOP SAYING IT.
A better substitute: “That totally sucks. Who can I put a hit on for you to ameliorate this situation?”
It’s always darkest before the dawn
What this is supposed to mean: “Just when it seems things are at their worst, they’re about to get better.”
What this really means: “I have no idea how the world works, astronomically or meteorologically.”
This is wrong on two levels.
One, things DON’T always get magically better just when they’re at their worst. TRUST ME. Sometimes, what you think is the worst? Is just the teeniest, tiniest iceberg-tip of worst, and you’re about to get hit with MORE of that sucker. I mean yes, someday, things might get better. But don’t automatically assume, just because things seem like they’re at their absolute nadir, they’re about to make an uptick. That’s not always the case.
Two, I want to know on what part of the globe it’s darkest before the dawn. Right before the dawn, little fingerlets of dawn-light are peeping out. It’s that weird, almost sepia-toned light. It’s darker at 2am, honestly. Who even wrote this nonsense? The interwebs just tell me it’s an old proverb. UNHELPFUL INTERWEBS. I want to BLAME someone.
A better substitute: “What you’re going through is horrible. Can I bake you some cookies? Or possibly put a hit out on someone for you?”
There but for the grace of God go I
What this is supposed to mean: “I should feel sympathy for that person; he or she could be me.”
What this really means: “I’m blessed by the Lord Almighty for my righteousness, while that poor sap is cursed, possibly because he spilled his seed, like Onan.”
People who are very religious say this (and I’m sure non-religious types, too, don’t want to be exclusionary), usually when an acquaintance is gossiping. “Did you hear? Dorothy’s husband was found asphyxiated in his closet wearing only a clown wig and her wedding dress!” “Aw, bless her heart. There but for the grace of God go I.”
Really, what you’re saying here is that God loves you, so he didn’t pass this judgment onto your head, while, conversely, he HATES that other person SO MUCH that he SMOTE him or her. That’s totally judgey of you, right? Who are you to say that God had a hand in that dude’s autoerotic asphyxiation? I think God took one look at that situation and was all “NOPE GROSS I AM OUT OF HERE CLOWN WIG HARRY” and went off to play Skee-Ball at the Jersey shore. (If you get that reference, I love you long time.)
A better substitute: “That sucks for Dorothy. You should stop gossiping, Myrtle. Or someone might let it drop you’ve been soaking your morning cornflakes with gin instead of milk every day. Just saying.”
If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.
What this is supposed to mean: “Don’t strangle people with love, it doesn’t work.”
What this really means: “I’m a dirty hippie! Peace, love, dope!”
I love my cats. I really, really love them. Like, crazy amounts. So when I get home, I think I’ll just open my front door, because they’re really curious about the world out there. If they come back, THEY ARE MINE.
I also totally love The Nephew. So I’m going to ask his mom if I can take him shopping when I go home for Christmas. Then I’m going to abandon him in the middle of Kmart, and go out to the car and wait for him to come to me. I’m pretty sure he will. He’s a pretty smart toddler. When he does, HE IS MINE.
What the hell with this saying? I think it’s from that horrible Love Story novel that makes me throw up in my mouth from all of the sap. I mean, I get don’t be too needy and strangly (well, no, I don’t GET it, I totally DO it, I get the SENTIMENT behind it, it doesn’t mean I’ve ABSORBED it) but I’m supposed to, what, tell my true love (is it the same asshat who was buying me all those birds the other day?) to go out and grind on a stripper, and if he comes back, THIS IS MINE I KEEP THIS NOW? Eff that.
A better substitute: If you love something, let it know you love it. If it doesn’t love you back, punch it in the neck super-hard and then drink a lot of wine and listen to Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” on repeat for a week or so. All will be well, my little butterbean.
Always look on the bright side/every cloud has a silver lining/when God closes a window, he opens a door
What these are supposed to mean: “Cheer up, peanut, nothing’s 100% bad!”
What these really mean: “My overwhelming cheeriness is desperate in its cluenessness!”
Let me know if this sounds familiar. You had a shitty day. I mean, the shittiest. Your alarm didn’t go off, so you were late getting up. You had to rush around to get ready. You got toothpaste all over your work shirt so you had to change. You get to work and they just keep piling it on and on and ON and they’re all “deadline! Deadline! Move FASTER! You don’t need to take LUNCH, do you?” so you scarf your sad sandwich at your sad desk and keep working. When you get home, you realize you should have stopped for groceries because you have, like, nothing to eat but you were SO GODDAMNED EXHAUSTED. So you write to a friend, just blasting, as you do, telling them about your shitty day.
And they respond with, “Always look on the bright side! Some people don’t even HAVE a job!”
SHUT YOUR EFFING CAKEHOLE.
Yes, yes. First world problems! You knew that when you started blasting. But sometimes? You just need a sympathetic ear. You don’t want someone to point out all of your blessings. You want someone who will say, “THAT SUCKS; I LOVE YOU.” That’s how you know who your true friends are, in my opinion. Sure, they try to help you out when you have problems, but also, they know when you just need to vent, and their answer is, “THAT SUCKS; I LOVE YOU.” (All caps and semicolon are, of course, not mandatory; however, extra points for me if included.)
A better substitute: “THAT SUCKS; I LOVE YOU.” Also, “That hit I said I’d put out on someone for you is totally still on the table, babe.”
There are many more. TONS more. But this is getting way lengthy, and I kind of have to pee. So, in summation: be more creative with your cheerleading. Your friends will appreciate it. And if you keep trotting out these boring old standards when your friends are having issues, I give your friends permission for neck-punching or hammer-hitting. PERMISSION GRANTED. You’ve been warned. Remember: you can never go wrong by offering to take a hit out on someone who’s being a douchecanoe to a friend. It PROVES you LOVE them. I promise.