Sucks To Be You

Ever feel like being sincere–but want to hedge your bets?  To sincerely empathize with another–but not lose your hipness?

Then it’s hard to beat, “It sucks to be you.”

The phrase has been around at least a decade; it was the title of a 1999 hit record by Prozzak, and a song in the play Avenue Q.

Which is more popular: self-pity, or sarcasm?  Here are googling results for:

    “Sucks to be me”    111,000
    “Sucks to be you”    215,000

Sounds like sarcasm wins.

I was reminded of this phrase a few days by a scene in the TV show Scrubs, wherein a new intern used it in lieu of a more traditional bedside manner.  (Another Scrubs moment: Turk tries it on Carla, with not so funny results).

Here are some snarky definitions from the Urban Dictionary

When something bad happened to another person, it sucks to be that person.  “Your daddy is in jail for getting you pregnant. Sucks to be you.”

A phrase which expresses mild sympathy for the plight of another, while implying greater relief that those circumstances have befallen someone other than the speaker.

An expression of acknowledgement of hardship. Depending on context, can be sympathetic or taunting.

“You: My car broke down, and I have to get to the other side of the state tonight!
“Me: Damn, dude. Sucks to be you.

“Her: I totally blew my interview, and now you’re going to get the job for sure.
“Him: Ha ha! Sucks to be you!

I’m fascinated by this phrase, and I’m not entirely sure why. 

•    On the purely aesthetic side, it is an artfully efficient expression of ambivalence—in only four words, it confuses the listener as to the speaker’s intentions.

•    Like much slang, it can change meaning depending on intonation alone.

•    Like doublespeak, it can hide motives, while appearing clear.

In other words, it’s the ideal phrase for those seeking to remain ambiguous.

I have no idea whether the phrase has gotten more, or less, popular in recent years, but I suspect it’s a phrase for the times–when the times are slippery, hip, frivolous, and when sincerity is slightly out of vogue.  Like, a few years ago.

If that’s true, then I suspect the phrase is in for a decline.  The times right now are darker, less celebrating of witty repartee. In such times, snarky humor just isn’t as funny.  

We are inclined to be more frustrated, seeing that our fates more are tied to those of others. If it sucks to be you, it probably sucks to be me too. It behooves us all in such times to relearn trust in each other.