09 July 2014

What is a Joke?

a thing someone says to cause amusement or laughter...

make jokes; talk humorously or flippantly

I have a friend who said to me, “You better watch that you don’t turn into one of those women who lives alone with 30 cats.”
I didn’t laugh.
I called him on it and said, “that was a stupid thing to say. People with 30 cats usually have psychological problems. And in a lot of cases they are hoarders.”
He said, “well you brought it on yourself for saying that you’d prefer to just spend a night a home with your cats after work.”
He didn’t apologize for insulting me. He didn’t get that the point was after work I’m too exhausted by people to want to spend time with people.

What is a joke? I know he was trying to be amusing. And I also know that his behaviour has gone towards snide remarks. Those comments that take pot shots at your way of life, letting you know that in his opinion you’re a loser.

What do we do when a joke falls flat? What ever happened to people understanding that if others don’t laugh, it’s not a good joke?

It’s not that I can’t take jokes but when did it get to a point when the only jokes a person makes are ones that are at my expense? Or someone else’s expense? We’ve all been there. We laugh off the potshots as jokes and walk away with a bad feeling in our stomachs. Those potshots as jokes become these insidious thoughts in our heads that slowly transform into insecurities. (And as an aside, it’s the beginning of the end of a relationship. We don’t stay with people who don’t make us feel good. right?)

I especially take issue with potshot jokes about our bodies. I have a male friend who cracks jokes about his girlfriend’s body. As if women don’t have enough body image issues especially as we age and our body changes in ways we couldn’t expect.

“Yeah they were talking about you baby. They were talking about pears, just like you except you’re a juicy pear.”
She gave him a look before she asked, “what did you say?”
We all knew she wasn’t laughing at his ‘joke.’
He covered it up by clearing his throat and saying he was craving juicy pears.
She shook it off and didn’t push the issue.
In my body of uncomfortable breathing and thoughts, I said nothing, even though I had a lot to say. But the experience has stayed with me.

As a 50 year old peri-menopausal woman, I am ever in touch with how quickly my body has changed. My body flashes hot at the most inconvenient of times. I have a running joke that in Human 2.0, we will be able to program our hot flashes when we need them. Like in the winter when it’s minus 30. Right?
I have never studied my body as much in the mirror as I do now. I study my body’s changes. I study what I deem flaws. I have never checked and re-checked how my body looks in what I’m wearing before I leave the house. “How will others see/judge me? Will they notice this bit of fat, that jiggle. Do my thighs rub together in these pants?”

I think it’s time to start calling people out on their jokes. Because, truly, a joke is supposed to be about everyone’s amusement. I’m no longer going to accept so-called jokes about my life and jokes about my work or work ethic and jokes about my body. I don’t need other peoples garbage in my head. Insults veiled as jokes.

What is a joke? When is a joke not a joke and who gets to decide? Is it a joke or is it a manipulation to get me to lose weight, change my way of life because you don’t approve, or a myriad of other judgements? Aren’t those jokes an undercurrent of unexpressed anger?

Deep down I know there’s nothing wrong with me finding sanctuary in my tiny home with my three cats. After a hard day’s work, that’s what soothes my soul. As does writing and listening to music. These are the activities that my resources currently allow.
Deep down I know there’s nothing wrong with my body. Whether I’m a pear shape, an hour glass, I have large breasts or not.

I’m saying it’s time we become “joke” detectives. It’s time to start asking the questions. What was the purpose of saying that? Oh, it’s a joke? Why would you think that ‘joking’ about my sagging breasts is something to laugh about? Is the fact that my thighs rub together so offensive to you that you have to crack a joke about it? What are you thinking I should change about myself because you think I’m not good enough the way I am? Because I look in the mirror, I already have my list. What are you still mad at me about that is bubbling out as potshot jokes about my so-called flaws?

It may make me come across as crazy and I think I’m willing to be crazy for a time. But the gist of all this is how we feel, how I feel. If it doesn’t make us laugh, make me laugh... If it doesn’t make us feel good, make me feel good, it’s not a joke.

When Harry Met Sally - 1989 Film written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner
Harry: You know the first time we met I really didn't like you that much.
Sally: I didn't like you.
Harry: Yeah you did, you were just so uptight then. You're much softer now.
Sally: You know I hate that kind of remark. It sounds like a compliment but really it's an insult.
Harry: OK, you're still as hard as nails.
Sally: I just didn't want to sleep with you and you had to write it off as a character flaw instead of dealing with the possibility that it might have something to do with you.