“Wit is a weapon. Jokes are a masculine way of inflicting superiority. But humor is the pursuit of a gentle grin, usually in solitude.” ~Frank Muir
With the recent celebration of April Fools Day, humor has been much on my mind recently. I have to admit that this is probably the one holiday of the year that I actively dislike. It seems to me that it is just an excuse to spend our effort making fools of those around us so that we can laugh at their expense.
Now, to be fair, I know that many people would claim that I have no sense of humor. I will even admit that I tend to take life relatively seriously and that I often fail to see the humor in things that other people find funny.
I used to beat myself up about this until I realized that most things that others found funny that I didn’t see any humor in were situations where the laughter was at someone else’s expense. I couldn’t see beyond that hurt or embarrassment of the one person to see anything funny in the situation, and that is not something I think I need to apologize for.
I still remember the day I decided that. I was in the car with my (now) ex-husband and his two kids, and somehow they had gotten on the subject of wishing they could have slaves. They went on to laugh and joke about all the things they would make their slaves do and the ways in which they would torture and kill them if their slaves ever displeased them. They all thought it was hysterical. I was horrified! I was so sick to my stomach listening to this that I nearly vomited. They accused me of having no sense of humor, but I decided that if that was what a sense of humor entailed, I am grateful to go without.
That’s not to say that I never find things funny or that I never laugh. Actually, I love to laugh! My cats rather frequently do things that make me laugh until my sides ache. I’ve read many humorous stories with situational humor that can make me laugh until I cry. (In fact, those are some of my favorite authors!) I have stories from my own life of things I’ve done (or tried to do) that I can hardly re-tell because they make me laugh so hard.
Unfortunately, I’ve also caught myself making fun of people who annoy me in order to get the laughs from others, but any humor of this kind that involves making someone feel inferior or less than in any way leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I am done, so I try to remember to avoid it.
When it comes to April Fools Day, I find that most of the jokes come down to seeing which of ones friends one can get to believe some well-crafted lie in order to make them the target of laughter later. I saw quite a number of instances this year on Facebook where people claimed some sort of good news (an engagement or a new job), waited for all their friends to chime in with congratulations, then laughed at these same friends when revealing that it was just a joke. It made me sad. It also makes me hesitant to be too quick to believe any good news they share in the future.
One life coach whose blog I follow wrote a post with wonderful news about how she had been struggling with life direction and had finally made a big decision about what to do next with her life even though it was going to mean shutting down her coaching business. Again, after receiving lots of loving congratulations and sweetly supportive messages, she exposed it as a joke. She even said that she almost started to feel bad about the joke as she watched all these sweet messages come in, but she decided that it was just too funny watching people fall for it for her to feel bad about it. This has left me so deeply uncomfortable, I’m not sure I want to continue to follow her blog because I sense such a disconnect between her idea of what is funny and mine.
I know people who use wit like a weapon to draw the blood of their enemies—or anyone else who displeases them. Their words draw laughter from those who agree with them but leave scars on those who are the object of their attacks. I find myself withdrawing from people like that over time because I know that it is only a matter of time before the weapon-like words will be turned in my direction (either to my face or behind my back) when I don’t measure up in some way.
I suspect I am probably a bit over-sensitive about this from being on the receiving end of too many put-downs disguised as “jokes.” After all, in the passive-aggressive upbringing I got, that was the classic way humor was used. So perhaps I tend to see more of that intent in most jokes that is necessarily meant by the joker. Then again, I can’t argue that I would value an “improved” sense of humor more than an “improved” sense of compassion. So if I have to choose, I’ll stick with my “deficient” sense of humor and continue to work on increasing my ability to have compassion for others.
I’ll probably continue to annoy others with this, but that’s ok. This is one of my quirks that I’ve decided to embrace instead of continuing to try to fight. This fits better with my truth about life, so I’m owning it—not out of judgment of anyone else, but as the right thing for me. Sorry I’m not sorry. I own this “deficient” sense of humor of mine. It fits me. (And thank goodness April Fools Day only comes once a year!)
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