There’s a woman in the coffee shop, standing around waiting for her $4.50 espresso drink, and I’m guessing she’s impatient because she’s pacing in a wide 8 figure. She needs a cello accompaniment, something moody to go with her dark gray fleece jacket cinched tight at the waist, and her Ralph Lauren glasses (worth approximately 100 pricey espresso drinks). I’m betting she’s a little guilty that she’s such a Type A personality, because every so often she flashes me a smile and then it’s gone as she checks her gold watch again. I like her but I find myself mildly worried for her. I want to invent a whole back story for her but I can’t decide where to begin. I think it’s a funny story but nothing is coming to me.
Two years ago, three and four years ago I loved writing humor, loved making people laugh, especially if adversity was the target. It’s been such a long-used coping mechanism of mine that I figured it was part of my personality. Coping skills what they are, I see retroactively that it was in response to a 25-year long string of stressful episodes, and not me. I hate giving up pieces of myself when I think they’re real, because blah, change sucks and is hard and all of that. But it’s also the only lasting path to improvement that I’ve found.
I’m not saying, for anyone gasping at my assertion here, that I don’t have a sense of humor. I do, I swear. But laughing at the madness of everything isn’t me. It’s a tactic that makes terrific sense to me. It’s not that I’m funny, it’s that I really super enjoy funny things. But as far as laughing into the storm, it’s a semi-conscious practice I picked up early that works for me. Who I am, at the core perhaps, is the resistance to adversity. The humor part of it is just a great way to face that adversity in a way that more often than not offers strength without collateral damage to other people. I don’t pretend that humor never hurts, because who hasn’t bristled at the “lighten up, it was just a joke” excuse after something (previously) offensive? But humor isn’t armed resistance, either, or at least, it’s not designed in the same way. I’ve found that humor can help people connect to an issue or an injustice while providing little for critics to push back.
These days my personal life is busy, productive, and loving. What’s the need for humor there, except to share the latest giggling episode as our toddler learns to interact with adults, or takes up the complexities of English, or asks why this much toilet paper and not that much toilet paper, Daddy. So when I sit down to blog which I know is infrequent (see earlier reference to being busy), it’s not humor that’s calling me. It’s an attempt to be articulate, sometimes even wry, but not funny per se. I struggled with this over the past year or so, feeling out of sync with my thoughts, before it occurred to me that my tone has shifted. So what kind of writer am I? Should I lose the “humorist” sign outside my studio (Hint: I don’t have a studio.)? Have I lost my interest in the world around me?
I haven’t I promise. Practically nothing is less absurd today than it was in 2011. Including the politicians, literary theorists, and espresso drinkers. But I may not be writing about humor or writing or people or the government or civil rights in the same way anymore, and that may mean that people won’t feel as connected to these things by my words, and maybe I’ll have to struggle with such things for a while longer. Because using humor feels more like a tool these days and less like a strip of my DNA. I think that’s okay. Stuff changes. My fingers on a keyboard are the same, my brain is a supposed improvement over my dendrites I’ve linked together up until this newest moment. I’ll keep pushing on. Because that, above all other things, is who I am.
A pusher. I mean, someone who pushes forward.
Ha, that was a little joke right there.
Afterward: This was supposed to be about pissing off Salman Rushdie on Twitter the other day but I didn’t even mention it. Take that, Salman.