When I was in high school, I worked a retail job at the local outlet mall. Mostly the work consisted of manning the men’s dress-shirt wall, continually refolding and repinning and restacking to keep everything in order. But sometimes I’d work the cash wrap, a job I thought, naïvely, I would like because, unlike the wall of inanimate shirts, it meant I’d get to talk to people. This was, I quickly discovered, wrong. Because it meant listening to the same, bad joke a zillion times a day. A scene:
Customer: Oh and this sweater. [Places sweater on counter.]
Me: [Scans sweater tag.] Oh, hmm. This doesn’t seem to be in the system. Let me do a price check.
Customer: I think that means it’s … free.
Me: [Laughs and smiles to conceal a deep yearning for a time machine to go back decades and stop the Polo Ralph Lauren franchise from ever being born.]
This is what November’s “Don’t say it” memes are all about. Ignoring that voice in your brain that tells you not to say the stupid, obvious thing and then saying it anyway. Of course that sweater isn’t free. You know that sweater isn’t free. You know that joke is bad and unoriginal, but you make it anyway. Muting the mounting chorus of “don’t say it” singing in your brain.
Another perfect distillation of this meme happens at the movie theater. You buy a ticket. (Assuming MoviePass hasn’t run out of money and hasn’t blacked out the movie you want to see and it’s not totally sold out and wow going to the movies is exhausting.) You open a vein and spill some blood on the concession counter to pay for your $367 popcorn and Diet Coke combo. And then you hand your ticket to the ticket taker. They rip it, hand it back to you, and say “theater seven, on your left, enjoy the show.” And that’s where you should nod. Or say thanks. Or nothing at at all, if you really want to be rude. But instead, if you’re like me, here’s where you tell the ticket taker to also enjoy the show. Which is, of course, a truly stupid thing to say since they are not going to the movies with you. But you say it anyway.
Anyway, the moral here, if memes even have morals, is that blurting out the dumb thing you’re trying not to blurt doesn’t make you funny … it just makes you like everyone else. Which, coincidentally, is also what doing the Don’t Say It meme on Twitter makes you at this point. We reached peak saturation the week, which means everyone and their mother and also brands have started using it, so the once-funny meme no longer brings any joy. Don’t meme it. Don’t meme it. Don’t meme it.