I have this habit of feigning ignorance or even extreme bigotry for the sake of humor, and they have the habits of believing it. There is something hilarious in embracing negative values that those around you know you don’t hold – at least, when they recognize that you don’t really hold them.
Just yesterday I joked that the rise in anti-religious sentiment was because, “their religion isn’t a religion, you see. Theirs is just the truth. Yours is a religion because it’s false.” My friend of five years condescended to correct that their beliefs were probably as crazy to others as the beliefs of others were to— and so on. I was corrected back to a position I already held, and my joke was hit in the head with a sledgehammer.
Another time –two other times, actually-- my sister drove me home from college. We passed a stately boarding school. In total deadpan, I said, “I wonder who lives there,” suggesting one person owned the entire three-storey complex. I thought it was funny. She thought it was a cry for help, and explained that it was a school. I explained that it was a joke, and got a pity laugh. All would have been fine if I did not make the same joke to the same sister passing the same school the next semester, only to receive the same explanation that it was a school.
Now any time we pass a university I ask who she thinks lives there. She gets the joke now, but she hasn’t gotten it enough for my tastes.
There is normal condescension that we all experience and must endure: somebody’s hip intellectual roommate dissects the current political race with observations we’ve read a dozen times already, carrying on with an indignation that is purely his own. We've got to endure this condescension, or at least I do, since I'm pretty sure I've been this hip intellectual roommate before.
But this strikes me as a purely abnormal condescension, abnormal in everything except that it is incredibly common. These people – the ones who should know me better than anyone – can’t tell I’m just pretending to be an idiot. It’s starting to scare me. It may mean they’ve perceived another act I didn’t even know I was putting on.