Even Though Sometimes My Punch Lines Fall Flat

6 years ago

I’ll admit –- technically speaking, I’m not a very funny person. By this, I mean that I can’t remember any great jokes, and I can’t entertain a crowd with a hysterical story. Sometimes my punch lines fall flat, and jokes in movies often fly right over my head. I can never come up with a witty retort when teased by my husband (however, I can always think of a really funny response two hours later). Don’t get me wrong –- I’m outgoing and friendly. But legitimately funny? Not so much.

So when I was asked to write about humor and beauty, I was stumped. It’s easy for me to see why humor is a beautiful characteristic –- after all, the sound of laughter and the look of a big, wide smile are two very beautiful things. But cultivating humor is hard -– truly amusing people, I suspect, are just born that way. Most people are probably like me: personable and fun, but not actually funny-funny. Does this mean I’m missing a key beautiful quality? Do funny people shine a little brighter than the rest of the ho-hum world?

Last week, I was contemplating baking sugar cookies. I reached up to the highest shelf in the pantry, snagged the bag of flour with the tips of my fingers, and pulled it down. The bag was lighter than I expected, and my gentle tug sent the flour flying. I watched -– in horrifying slow motion –- as the bag fell straight down onto my (freshly mopped) floor. The force of the bottom of the bag hitting the tile sent the contents up in the air in a powdery POOF, raining white flour all over the floor, the cabinets, and my dachshund Maggie, who simply blinked, lick the flour off her nose, and stared dumbly at the mess.

Last week was not a good week, and the flour disaster was enough to put my nerves over the edge. As I surveyed the ruined kitchen and my freshly powdered wiener dog, I realized that I had two choices: I could sink into a complete meltdown, or I could ...laugh. So I laughed. I laughed until my sides hurt; I laughed until tears leaked from my eyes. I laughed while I mopped up the floor; I laughed as I discovered Maggie had walked through the flour and tracked white paw prints down the hall. I laughed while I wiped down the counters. And, I’ll admit, I’m giggling right now as I recount the story of the exploding bag of flour.

And in that moment in the kitchen, I realized: Maybe humor is not just about telling a good joke and making other people laugh. Maybe humor is really a broader life philosophy that no matter how crappy a given moment seems, there’s something to smile about. “Don’t take life too seriously,” my grandpa used to warn me. “You’ll never get out alive.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the most mundane hassles of life often exercise the most control over our happiness. We encounter a road rager on the highway, and the interaction ruins our day. A truck roars past and, to our great dismay, splashes mud all over our freshly washed car. We cry over spilled milk. These small things add up, and without humor, we’re wrecked to pieces by each crisis. And when our happiness is dampened, our true beauty dims, too.

After wiping my eyes and cleaning up the last bit of flour, I surveyed my spotless kitchen and decided to go out for ice cream. Some things –- like exploding bags of flour -– are inherently humorous, if we only choose to look at them the right way. I challenge you to laugh the next time you want to scream, cry, stamp your feet, or flip the bird. Just take a deep breath and let the laughter go.

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Caitlin Boyle blogs at Operation Beautiful.

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