This is a disconnect between how others currently see me and how I currently see myself. I know it’s in part to do with my being more tired lately than normal (long weeks; you’ll know more a bit into this entry), but recently I’ve had more trouble feeling funny. And it’s like one of my eyes is winking in and out of existence: something that’s been reliably there, sometimes, isn’t.
So a-ponderin’ I shall go:
Someone was once described as “hilarious, but couldn’t tell a joke to save his life.” That could also describe me. I find absurdity and weird specifics funny (“My childhood was typical: Summers in Rangoon; luge lessons; in the spring we’d make meat helmets…”), and I can convey that -- heck, one of the bigger laughs I once got was just from an opportune yell of “Yahtzee!” -- but setup-punch line? Surprisingly hard.
I’ve thought about this before, and know I can get hung up on the logic of a joke: Does this actually make any sense? Why would a rabbi, a Justice Leaguer and a Mentat be juggling ducks? Overthinking: one of the perils of being an English major. I was like that even before I was an English major…and I’ve been an English major since 1992. It’s a habit.
But I got thinking of this, and other issues came to mind:
For one thing, humor’s often unfair.
I’ve seen plenty of people show that they don’t “get” something by joking about it. Very often, it’s mean joking. Because, of course, if you don’t get it, then it’s stupid or silly or something you can belittle. Not a fair reaction. “Humor is the ultimate oppressor” is how Matt Groening once put it. And as I often react badly to mean humor, with exceptions (cf. Sam Kinison), I try to avoid using it. I’ve worked with people who make mean jokes, and that chafes me. I don’t want to be
My sense of fairness might in fact be a tad overdeveloped, like my jaw muscles. (Really, they were. I was a clencher, thank goodness not a grinder, in high school, and at one dentist appointment my dentist started calling people from throughout the office into the cleaning room to feel me clench. I got a guard after that to wear on my teeth at night and give my jaw a rest. But I digress.) I don’t want to belittle. I don’t want to betray my lack of understanding. So a lot of my attempted humor doesn’t get said.
And another thing is, humor can require lying.
Here’s a big reason this is on my mind: A few weeks ago, a co-worker called me a liar. Flat-out, yellingly, called me a liar. And s/he (I’m not ID’ing the gender) was not joshing: s/he was genuinely angry and upset. And this made me angry and upset.
It rocked me, being accused of that. (To the point that I almost quit on the spot.)
I am not a liar. At times in my life, I’ve been honest almost to a fault. (Relevant me-quote: “I’m honest. Makes me a lousy joker.” I said that years ago.) Nowadays I’m likely cagier, more careful about what I say, but I. Do Not. Lie. I even hate when I inadvertently lie, i.e. think something’s true and say it and then find out it’s not. I TRY TO CORRECT WHAT I SAY WHEN THIS HAPPENS. (You can tell this is one of my issues.)
Here’s the thing: I’ve been at this office for four-and-a-half months and I have not cracked the office’s Joke Code. My sense of humor and my co-workers’ senses of humor do not overlap at all. It’s a bizarre disconnect for me. Some of my co-workers I like, some I don’t, but almost everything I say to them has to be functional. Job-related. Procedural. Like expository dialogue. I can’t speak with flair. Which is a habit of mine. Makes lots of people say “What?,” but I do it. And since that confrontation, here’s the added pressure in my head:
If I so much as exaggerate for the sake of a joke, let alone tell a genuine whopper for the sake of a joke, Co-Worker X could see that as proof that I lie. Co-Worker X likely can’t tell when I’m joking, even if I talked about the days when Sting was an Amish spelling-bee prodigy. Co-Worker X already doesn’t trust me, and may be primed to look for clues that I’m a liar, and I can’t prove a negative: I can’t prove I’m not dishonest. The best I can do is say as little as possible, be careful what words I let out, and be able to explain/defend every damn thing that comes out of my mouth in case something does become an issue.
Co-Worker X is the person I most often deal with in this office.
You can see how it’s maddening. And funny-killing.
So. I find humor where it can be found. I still have my private jokes (haven’t tired of them yet! When you tire of your private jokes, they’ve really gone flat)., I still know funny people, and I still make my family members and friends laugh.
And: if you’ve been funny to me lately, THANK YOU A WHOLE LOT. Otherwise right now I’d be even darker and more intense.