My dad was a laugh-out-loud 3 Stooges fan. My mother, a borderline personality disorder with a sadistic bent. Meaning, they both laughed if someone fell down a flight of stairs. The difference, of course, was that if the person was actually hurt my dad would immediately stop laughing and offer help. My mother laughed harder. Anyway, I once laughed for close to two weeks at the memory of watching someone put a large Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on the roof of her car and drive away. The woman, herself, wasn’t upset. She smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, as the coffee poured down the windshield, tinting her view a hot mahogany color.
I’ve been thinking a lot about laughter and joy and happiness lately. Partly because I have been feeling a bit perkier myself. Partly because I have been talking a lot in my sermons about “serving God with joy” and wondering out loud what that really means. And partly because I have a 4 year old who thinks the word “poop” is the funniest thing ever.
I admit I have a relatively stunted, uneducated, somewhat base sense of humor. In other words, bathroom humor makes me laugh fairly often. I’m not proud of it. I’m simply admitting it. It makes Emily nuts. In my defense, or, to my credit, I have never liked the kind of humor that makes fun of someone or makes anyone feel badly. That kind of humor leaves me anxious and uncomfortable. But dumb, slapstick, life’s daily mishaps, (like have you ever strained to open a large bag of say M&Ms and pulled so hard that the bag burst open and literally spewed forth candy in a shower of colorful tinkling, bouncing and skittering?), where suffering isn’t part of the equation, those I find hilarious. Did you not read my last blog post? Tommy Boy, one of my favorite movies!? My sense of humor may be dumb, but it is not hurtful or mean.
No one gets hurt in Tommy Boy. Tommy’s dull-witted simplicity is actually quite endearing. And he knows that he’s a few colors short of a rainbow. The Office, now that’s a different story. I cannot watch that show. I practically hyperventilate with shame for Will Farrell’s character. I feel the same way about watching any of the reality shows. I don’t even allow them in my house. They are mean. And mean is not funny. At least to me.
One of my hockey friends suggested good-naturedly, that I have a “guy’s sense of humor”. I cocked my head curiously. Really? And what does that even mean? Is there a gender differentiation in humor? And if there is, what is it? Are there specific and certain things relegated to the realm of men’s humor and others categorized as women’s? And lastly, is it nature or nurture?
I don’t know. At any rate, I do like a good laugh. To me, laughter is chocolate for the soul. That burst of happy energy that chocolate gives the body, laughter gives my heart. But laughter is not joy, nor is it happiness. I would say I am and have always been a joyful person. But not necessarily a happy one. I find joy in a great many things. But I have taken myself too seriously for too long to claim the frivolity of happiness. I think that was my grandmother’s problem too. I’m trying to change that for myself. Or at least understand it.
I do find joy fairly often. More, I think, than a lot of people. And those bursts of joy and laughter make my heart and soul glad. Joy leaves me grateful. And Brother David Steindl-Rast says, “It is not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy.” Hmm, well that’s certainly something to chew on. In the meantime, I will continue to laugh at stupid stuff and yes, Nina, poop is a pretty funny word.