On Having “Too Much Style”

Today, I published an article in the Huffington Post in which I describe what would happen if God made a “your momma” joke. This got me thinking about feedback I got on a presentation this week; I was told that the levity in my presentation was incongruous with the gravity of the content.

And that reminded me of the time Dr. John Thatamanil (now at Union) introduced me before a lecture by saying, “David has style…” and then adding with a wry grin and a glance, “perhaps sometimes too much style.” It was a subtle dig at a comment he recently left on a paper, a comment that amounted to, “Maybe you don’t want to open with ‘pipe bombs’.”

None of this is news. There has been many a time when I found myself thinking, “Yep. I should have ended that anecdote one sentence sooner.” Sometimes it feels like the more serious something is, the less seriously I am inclined to take it. I am not sure why that is. Perhaps it is a nervous tic. I definitely tend to make one joke too many when I feel unprepared for something.

On the other hand, I also think that on the whole we take ourselves too seriously. There is a way that our seriousness can get in the way of clear and consistent thought. It can put up some kind of mental block. Or it can actually keep us from being honest and real with each other. I feel like we are putting on airs too much.

But sometimes airs are what people need. They need to be reassured by our gravity. If you are never serious, then nobody will ever take you seriously. And I certainly don’t want that! So I am still practicing trying to turn off the levity and turn on the grownup. I am 38 now. In another couple of decades, I might just get there.

Your momma.


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