A few weeks ago a friend of mine read a short story I was getting ready for submission. She said she was surprised that it wasn’t a comedy and her words made me pause for a moment. But she’s correct. I don’t write funny even though I call myself a comedian. Or it might be more truthful to say I don’t write funny very much.
I started out blogging the funny – searching for the humor in my life as a stay-at-home mom to three small children. It was how I coped with all the varied frustrations of my life. I looked for the funny and then shared it in hopes of making other folks laugh with me, as if having a whole group of folks shaking their heads at my kids’ antics would somehow get me through those moments with more grace.
And often it worked. But it was a coping strategy. From it stemmed my experiences as a comedian and those sets I wrote over a nearly three year period were much the same: coping strategies wrapped up in funny. But all this blogging has led me to the place where I think of myself first and foremost as a writer when thinking of my “on the side” activities. And as a writer, I don’t write funny.
I write what I see and hear and worry will happen. And I write what I know happens to people every day.
And yet in my “real” life, I am pretty funny. Or at least people laugh at me quite easily.
Now that I parent a middle school I am learning so much about myself. Namely, parenting middle schoolers is both the best thing in the world as well as a great time to develop a case of rhino-hide. Because middle schoolers (I’m specifically talking about my middle school boy, here.) are sarcastic as hell. And I like sarcasm. In fact, I like sarcasm so much that I’m fairly confident that I’ve alienated entire groups of people by my heavy-handed application of sarcasm.
Sarcasm and it’s cousin humor are the ying and yang of one way people find to fit in. And being funny has always been the easiest way for me to find my way. Mind you, not always the best way, but the easiest way.
My last spring in elementary school, I told ribald jokes every recess. In third grade I had my name and three checkmarks behind it on the chalkboard every single day. I was the class clown, the first one with the side comment, the one always looking for ways to make people laugh.
Because if people are laughing, they are less likely to notice what makes you cry. The class clown is the kid who learned well that “if they are laughing with you, they aren’t laughing at you.”
The mantle of humor is a wonderfully comforting thing to hide behind.
But it is also a bit lonely in there.
In a social situation, I most likely will be the first one to start finding the humor…teasing it out and fleshing it out in each conversation. The temptation to make people laugh is simply too strong.
But in my writing, as I quiet the jumble of thoughts filling my head, the lonely and often crying side of me comes out. And the lonely and crying side of me doesn’t make jokes. It rails against the injustices of life and the monsters that hide behind doors and under beds and in the sly smiles of strangers.
People say I have a great smile, that it makes others want to smile.
Those who know me know that I also have great sadness. And if I share it, it isn’t to make others sad, but instead to help us both find a way to smile through the tears.