Dear Mr. Payne,
I have been thinking of offing myself for years, but can't go through with it until I figure out my suicide note. I keep searching Google, but can't find the proper formatting for such a document. What are the grammar and etiquette standards for a suicide note?
Crying for help about my cry for help
Well CFHAMCFH, this isn't really a Miss Manners column, but I'm always happy to help
those in need. Let's go through your note step-by-step.
Remember, a suicide note is intended to add some theater to your death, so it is important to strike a good balance between high drama and making others feel guilty about your miserable life.
After all, the point of a suicide note is to make people sorry you're gone. A sloppy, thrown together note that sounds like an outtake from American Beauty is just going to make everyone happy you offed yourself (as opposed to just your exes). I think we can all agree that there is nothing worse than a suicide dilettante.
Do not address the note to a specific person. We live in the era of Twitter and Facebook, so if your note goes viral, you want to make sure everyone reads it all the way through. A specific greeting at the top will alienate most of your audience right off the bat. My suggestion: go with something like "To whom it may concern (OR NOT, HENCE THE NOTE!)."
The Body (Three paragraphs only. Suicide is show biz, and you always want to leave them wanting more):
Explain how you got here. If substance abuse is your problem, cite the specific
drugs or drinks. Vague terms like "Mr. Brownstone" or "the monkey on my back" are hacky and make you sound like a common, dollar-store drunk. Instead, say something like, "I'm being slowly lynched by a man from Tennessee named Jack Daniels." It will make you sound poetic and reflective in death. It may even get you a few retweets from MADD.
If it is a string of artistic failures that has driven you to suicide, allude to a dumb society that doesn't get what you do. Remember, everyone thinks their taste in art is the correct taste in art, and that any person who disagrees with it only disagrees because they are too dumb to get it. This works in your favor if you word things vaguely enough. Say something like, "In a world full of Dogs Playing Pool, I am a Van Gogh playing cornfields." Van Gogh was a tragic artist who was universally respected, while dogs playing pool is pretty much universally reviled. This will score major points with the back and front of the room. In fact, that line is so good I'm trademarking it as we speak. Don't cash it in until I've cashed your check.
Be sure to separate your exes into two distinct categories. Believe me, it is every person's dream to drive someone to suicide. I think it was Cleopatra who said: "Wow, you mean you killed yourself because you couldn't live without me? Flattery will get you everywhere!"
Announce that the people you dumped were precious jewels. And stupid you, you dumped them so you could focus on the losers who needed someone in their life, you know, because you're charitable and stuff.
And who are those losers you wasted your time trying to save? Why, the people who dumped you, of course! This approach will redeem you two ways: the people you dumped will suddenly like you again, and will no longer bash you for dumping them. In fact, they will forever go around saying that in hindsight, you were actually pretty great. Lucky you, you may even become their "one that got away."
And the ones who dumped you will not only be insulted one last time, but will also think to themselves, "Ohhh, so that's why he kept doing [insert annoying trait]. Because he wasn't really into me in the first place." Suddenly all of your obnoxious traits will be seen through the prism of "That wasn't the real him," which gets you off the hook and makes you look a lot better.
Their next horrible thought will be "Wait, so does that mean I'm a loser?"
C'mon, who doesn't love the thought of leaving an ex with that maddening internal monologue?
And even if the people who dumped you try to turn it around and say that you're the one who sucked, the fact that you got them first will make everyone else suspicious of their insults. Everyone will say, "Oh, they're just saying that because they were losers who needed pity sex."
Ingenious, isn't it? If you were this brilliant you probably wouldn't be killing yourself right now. But I digress...
List only two family members. Be sure to single out one relative who was helpful, so
as to create tension among those still alive (it is no small feat to ruin Thanksgiving from the grave). Also reference one distant relative in an ambiguous way, so that for the rest of his life he and the rest of your kin are left confused about what kind of impact he
could have had on you. This mystery (everyone loves a riddle!) will ensure that the family doesn't try to sweep your memory under the rug like they so often do with relatives who commit harakiri.
By the way, don't say things like harakiri, or else some suicide snob will read your note and say, "Well actually, harakiri is a ritualistic form of suicide. Worst note ever!"
Just stick with Goodbye. No "Goodbye cruel world" or "See you on the other side." Those sound like bad teen poems and will cancel out all the suicide street cred you have built up to this point.
And remember, you've got all the time in the world to be dead, so by all means, take a few seconds for spell check. Unless your name is Lazarus, chances are you won't be able to return from the dead to change that "your" into a "you're."