It was a catchphrase. I listened as people would say, Oh, he’s a sincere kind of guy, or she’s so sincere, earnest even, in her dedication. But they weren’t being nice. No. The subtle meaning of the word was locked in the wickedness of the times, the cynical, feckless, rock-bottom nastiness of the times.
The truth is he was sincere, and she was earnest. Nothing had changed for them, although they’d probably both admit to feeling a little uncomfortable, vulnerable even, just being who they were. Sincere and earnest. They both showed up to work on time, performed their jobs to the best of their abilities and didn’t make a lot of noise about it.
But these days those very qualities—sincere and earnest— seem to have lost their meaning, their solidity, their currency, as it were and are instead indicators of a certain dull wittedness or blindness to the rampant and necessary self-interest that is sweeping the land.
He was a sincere kind of guy, they said following his dismissal at the company. Right? said another, and they laughed knowingly, fist-bumps all around, pleased that they could in no way be accused of the same.
Too earnest, said one woman, she just didn’t fit in. And that was the kindest thing anyone in the group would say about her after her termination. That kind of sincerity…well, anyway, she’s gone finally. And I get her office, so yay!
I listened to these conversations from the quiet of my cubicle and felt a bubble of…what, anger? rebellion? Something. But it was probably around that time that I started signing my emails: Sincerely.
And I meant it.