I recently read a piece in New York magazine that said the “central tenet” of actress/writer/director Miranda July’s art is that she believes “openness and honest emotion trump cleverness and snark.”
This quote stuck out to me for several reasons. One: it pinpointed my wonky feelings about July. I’ve always liked her work—the few short stories I’ve read and her film Me and You and Everyone We Know were very true to life and its peculiarities—but there has always been something about her as a person, in interviews and as an influence in those works, that makes me uncomfortable—her gosh darn sincerity, and more so because she doesn’t apologize or hesitate for it. Like if I asked her how she can be so freakin’ sincere, she’d say, “What’s wrong with sincerity?” and mean it. No blinking, no winking.
And two: It felt like that statement was a direct jab at my tenet. Am a less honest person because I’m fluent in snark and cynicism (as noted in why she bothers me so)?
Well, let me try things Miranda’s way and be sincere about my tenet. I am a self-deprecator because I care what others think of me and people usually like jokes. Jokes go over much better than self pity, which is what I’d really like to indulge in most mornings as I lay in bed checking Facebook updates, torturing myself about not going to the gym and dreading having to inspire students who need inspiring. I believe laughing at myself is the answer to most of my insecurities and poor decisions because it is my hope that others will laugh with me instead of find me moany and boring. Boring is the worst thing I could imagine being. A person who takes herself too seriously comes second.
Now, let me be sincere about sincerity. To me, sincerity means letting yourself off the hook from time to time. To survive, I have to let loose, I have to be silly, sometimes I have to put up a wall of smiles when I don’t want to or pour an extra drink when I shouldn’t because being an open receptacle to everything that’s around me is draining, exhausting and anxiety-making. I’m a sensitive person for whom depression and neurosis can easily be triggered, but I don’t get off on it. I don’t thrive by making art from it. If it happens, it happens, but I prefer to be an affable, likable person in my everyday life, someone who’s trying to hold on to perspective. And living in everyday life’s complexities and imperfections means I’ve become more open and more guarded, more hopeful and more cynical.
And finally let me be sincere about Miranda July (and bring it on home). When I Googled images of July and got 20 similar expressions to the one above, I snickered. It’s hard for me to believe that after 37 years of living, she can still make unaffected doe eyes like that; I believe maybe she wants to be that uber sincere person, maybe she thinks she is that person, but no, it’s impossible to be 100 percent genuine, no motives, no walls, 24/7. This is my experience and often I like to project my experience onto others because picking apart things and trying to make sense of them is what I do. It may also mean that I like to digress and make up logical excuses to ease the scrutiny off of myself and my own choices. Right now I’m PMSing, which has aided in completing this exercise and giving it an emotional edge. Hormones are no joke.