A Funny Perspective: How Laughter Helped Us Survive Our Struggle and Embrace Adventure
If you knew that my Dad found it comical to pose department store mannequins suggestively and/or in a state of partial undress while shopping with his young daughters, then I guess you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that I’ve inherited a somewhat inappropriate sense of humor. Now you know.
While my unseemly, untimely jokes (and potty mouth) might make me a danger to sheltered ears, they’ve also served me well in times of crisis or depression. When employed strategically, one might even call them...a superpower.
One of the first occasions I recall wielding this ability was shortly after my parent’s initial fallout and decision to separate. I was 13 years-old and facing what at the time, seemed like a catastrophic life change. Mom desperately needed a new start in a new place. After a very quick pow-wow (essentially consisting of Mom closing her eyes and pointing to a spot on the map) it was decided that me, Mom, and my sister, Samantha, would move to Charlotte, North Carolina.
We would be moving to Charlotte just two weeks before school started.
I’d begin my freshman year of high school in a completely new place, at a public school for the first time since the 2nd grade.
The circumstances surrounding the move were dismal at best. My mom was brokenhearted and torn. While my mom cared for my father deeply, after 18+ years of struggle with his alcoholism and related antics, she’d had enough. My sister and I hurt for the change and the situation, but also so, so much for mom. It broke my heart to see her cry.
And then one day amidst packing, I had a brilliant idea. This was circa 2005, when the reality TV show Survivor was still wildly popular. I grabbed a blank piece of paper, wrote “Dad”, and presented it to my mom with a very solemn nod...
I "voted" Dad off the island.
Mom burst out laughing for the first time in months.
(**Dad if you’re reading this I love you, it was a terrible joke, but I learned from the best, yes?)
This was a kind of turning point in our story...
The big NC move shifted from a depressing wiping of the slate to a hilarious adventure.
When I reflect on that time in our lives- 2005-2006 - transitioning to life in Charlotte with Mom and Sam, I feel overwhelmingly positive. We laughed so much. We cemented our bond. It was us three girls against the world.
Instead of letting our challenges get the best of us, we took advantage of every opportunity to crack a smile. We bickered and giggled like roommates in the 2-bedroom apartment we shared. We chuckled at how “Stepford” Charlotte felt in comparison to Laurel, Maryland. “Did you see the produce section in that Harris Teeter?? I mean, really, is it a grocery store or an art installation?”
Mom supported my cosmetic experiments. A brilliant move on her part. There was distraction galore in the many botched hair bleaching jobs, orange, streaky fake tans, and heavy-handed makeup trials. I was a part-time Oompa Loompa. We were babes on a budget, so naturally, we frequented Sally’s Beauty Supply for our DIY makeovers and my ridiculously talented mother learned how to apply acrylic nails at home. Every error along the way became a gut-busting punchline.
Don’t even get me STARTED on online dating. Not for me of course. A hormonal teenager going from a class of 9 to a class of 500...my dating pool needed no expansion. No, one of the highlights in our adventure was observing my mother enter the world of internet romance.
Hysterical, laugh-till-your-stomach-hurts, moments were had while weeding through the men of Match.com and eHarmony. There WERE a couple of genuinely decent men, but many more of the stereotypical “I’m middle-aged, but the only picture of myself I could find was this one from my first wedding 20 years ago with my ex cropped out and I like dogs.” Profile surfing made for better entertainment than TV.
Samantha and I served as official photographers and stylists of Mom’s online dating account. Many hours spent in dressing rooms, many thousands of cruddy, blurry, off-center pictures, with the occasional usable shot taken, and we laughed all the way through.
Was it weird to see Mom date? Absolutely. But I think to some degree, we all sensed that this foray wasn’t the real deal. Not yet. And for the time being, it was making Mom feel good to get out and do something. She had a new reason to dress up and look pretty.
More than anything, it felt great to just open the shades and let some light in.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but when I’m upset, or sad, or angry, I sometimes- consciously or not- refuse to let anything good in. My ego-b***h stubbornly crosses her arms and says “uh-uh. I’m upset. IT’S TOTALLY JUSTIFIED. Everything is bad and nothing is funny right now.”
The circumstance isn’t an entity holding us back…it’s just us.
It takes some GRIT to redirect your thoughts. It takes strength to stand up to yourself and say “No, I’m not going to assume the persona of this shitty situation today.” It’s tough. No one can do it for you!
Maybe start when no one’s watching. Go ahead. Giggle at that taboo joke. Car- karaoke it up. Remind yourself that immensely painful life hurdles and laughter are not mutually exclusive.
Cry, scream, whatever, but try to summon the strength to find something to smile about. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re at a funeral, a parent-teacher conference, or in line at CVS...there are times in our lives when laughter is the best medicine, be strong enough to take it, bees.