The year was 1998. I was a freshman in high school. Brandy & Monica were fighting over a boy and Savage Garden loved me Truly Madly Deeply (with a side of cherry cola). I was sitting in English class laughing about last night’s Ally McBeal episode and drawing doodly hearts around Leo DiCaprio’s face in my planner. Then my English teacher, Mr. Miller, stood in front of the class, cleared his throat, and pointed to a word he scribbled on the white board.
He shuffled around to face us and asked the question he would soon regret.
Hands flew up, smiles lit up our faces. He called on each one and the answers followed something like this:
“A black fly in my chardonnay!”
“A traffic jam, when you’re already late!”
“A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break!”
“Meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife!”
He smiled. Scratched his bald head, and blinked.
“No, no, no. That is not ironic. That is just unfortunate.”
I stared at him. Wait. What? But Alanis said this is irony! I mean, the song is called “Ironic.” You cannot disagree with a Top 40 song. I heard it on the radio, it must be true.
Hands went down, I shuffled my doc martens and adjusted my overalls. The class had no response. We just opened our books to page 52 to read the true definition of irony – some poor married couple that didn’t have gifts on Christmas because they wanted to surprise each other by selling their most prized possessions for each other. (100 points if you can name this story!)
I will never look at irony in English the same way again.