Jul 14, 2010

Just kidding

Disclaimers are a lot like luggage locks and elections - we know they don't make much of a difference, but we use them anyways. We suspend reason and put our trust in them, pretending they somehow make us safer as we do something ill advised like check-in a precious guitar at the Nairobi airport, vote Green, or (gasp) diss ice cream on a blog.

Granted, I buried the disclaimer in the 2nd to last paragraph: "I'm all for the occasional treat - even, I admit, an imported non-organic big-corporation one - but not as a habit." But regardless of placement, it would not have mitigated the perception of me as a self-flagellating, judgmental, or neurotic fool. Commenting friends applauded Sarah for supposedly corrupting me with Breyers Caramilk ice cream the next day, even though I'd just openly acknowledged a weakness for it. Either no-one read the disclaimer, or (more likely) no-one believed it.

Back in April I knowingly walked into it even deeper, noting what I still believe to be a fact that women take more personal retreats and bubble baths than men. I put in a huge, genuine disclaimer about valuing women, and another bald disclaimer about overgeneralizing about both genders. I then wrote the meat of the article, about my perception that men are doers (saying nothing at all about women being or not being just as do-oriented - I considered adding that as another disclaimer, but knew it would do no good.) Sure enough, when the facebook comments flooded back, it was all about how women really want to work, not soak. Once again clear that either no-one read the disclaimer, or (more likely) no-one believed it.

"You're really ugly - just kidding!" A grade eight teacher taught us that "just kidding" more likely means that you do mean it. That is, he suggested, a disclaimer is not only ineffective, but that it accentuates the impact of the rest of what you said.

So I'm just going to stop writing advance apologies for people I may offend or omit, stop pointing out that what I say about myself probably doesn't apply to many or most others, stop trying to point out that in sharing my own personal struggle to walk my particular path of faith I'm not implying judgment of other peoples' paths. I'm just going to write my view of Truth and let it be taken as it may. That's the only real thing I have to say anyways - what I believe and experience, not how others may experience it. In fact, viewed in that way, a disclaimer could be seen as a form of vanity or disrespect - trying to anticipate the reader's reaction or experience and in a way discredit it.

So, no more disclaimers. Just pure unobliging obnoxious annoying me (just kidding :)


  1. So. What about disclaimers as a form of irony/sarcasm or double-entendre? I'm curious what you would think of my use of the disclaimer in my recent blog post at cozymess.blogspot.com. Sheer vanity? Disrespectful? All my respect, Nadine

  2. First of all, great article Nadine (as always). I'm so dizzy by the menagerie of disclaimers, explanations thoughts and strategies that i'm not sure which is which anymore.

    I've learned that as dangerous as irony/sarcasm and double-entendre are in real life, they're even more prone to fall flat or have unintended effects on screen. In fact, Sarah just convinced me to change the last ironic punchline of this posting to be less aggressive.

    As your reader I skipped right over (or enjoyed the irony of) anything that looked like it may have been a genuine disclaimer. Your beliefs are so strong and eloquent, it's untenable that you could simultaneously accept other people's endorsement of Bob. A genuine disclaimer would have no hope of being believed, and would just weaken the power of the article were it to be intended as such.

    So I suppose the stronger we write and the stronger we believe, the less able we are to hide behind disclaimers. Is this "sheer vanity or disrespectful?" No. It's what you believe, and you respect your reader enough to just put it out there and let us reflect and react as we may.

    I suspect when I read my own post tomorrow it will sound belligerent - thanks for the reminder that it should have sounded courageous.

  3. Dear Rick
    Please just keep writing. Your blogs are a companion view, an inspiration, and they make me think - even if they are a little silly and about ice cream. Made me think twice about some routine treats/addictions.