Barbed wire wrapped in seersucker
Pecan Pie for the Mind, my old humor column which ran from 2009 – 2014, was a fun and rewarding expression of eclectic and safe humor. I didn’t use the column to attack or belittle, except when I went after generic targets like political wonks who should have left office decades ago.
The column’s language was clean and the morals were clear: “The good guys always win.” When I ended the column, it was after much personal debate about whether I wanted to “be funny” anymore. Anyone who knows me knows that humor is a mask I wear; it’s a comfortable mask and it’s far prettier that what lies beneath. I was struggling with that mask, feeling like I always had to be a laugh-a-minute, and it got old as I tried to live up to an expectation that was probably ephemeral at best. Add to that America’s obsession with mean humor – from internet trolls to sitcom psychopaths – I felt I had to end the column to see how I really felt about being called “a humorist.” So the fun ended in early 2014, and when I wrote my last installment, I sincerely expected to move on to short stories and leave the giggles behind. Well I missed humor more than I thought I would, and thanks to my publisher, Pat Cavanaugh, who also missed my writing, I’m returning to print with a new series entitled: Barbed Wire Wrapped in Seersucker. That name was selected with great care, so let me explain how it will guide the column.
Barbed wire is ugly stuff. It rusts and maims if you aren’t careful. No one ever says, “Aw! Your little baby is as cute as a barbed wire fence.” If they do, you need to find a pediatric plastic surgeon or find new friends. The South – a term I’ll always render in initial caps unless my editor overrides me – is like a big bale of barbed wire. The underside of this land is ferocious and it can cut and maim. Crime, anger, prejudice, and graft are the tines of the barbed wire. To live in The South is to know this. Yet how many times do we see this southern barbed wire reality sweetened and prettied up? “Oh, he didn’t mean what he said! Deep down he loves all kinds of people! He’s just mad right now.” We wrap our barbed wire reality in soft comfortable lies and we hope no one presses too hard. If you do squeeze your subject, you’ll feel the sting. If you just admire the seersucker covering, you’ll think everything is safe and pretty.
And this is the theme of this new column series: the duality of life in The South. I’ll be as funny as I can be, but I’ll be honest and look beyond the pretty covering. Some of that honesty will mean exposing what might best be left hidden. But that’s okay. As a humorist, I’m also barbed wire wrapped in seersucker. I have a closet full of the crinkly stuff, and I wear it well. Oh, I’ve decided that I’m okay with being called “a humorist.” Humor can heal, when it’s done with the right frame of mind, and we need some healing humor in America, don’t we?
David McCoy is a lifetime resident of “The Glorious South” and a repeat winner of the Georgia Press Association’s Joe Parham Trophy for his humor column, Pecan Pie for the Mind. David lives in Covington, Georgia but can often be found among the North Georgia mountains, depending on the weather and the availability of clean towels and fresh, hot coffee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, David McCoy in the subject line.