22 December 2008

a forced smile

me trying to fake smile

ring lardner, the 1920s humorist, didn't like jokes. once, he sat in a bar for more than 6o hours, leaving only when someone came up to him and said, "have you heard the one about. . . "

he didn't like jokes for the same reason i don't generally like jokes: the implied laugh contract. it is polite to laugh.

"have i told you this one," someone says. i don't recognize the joke as it starts, so i say no. then it comes back to me. i know the punchline as the joke goes on. it would be rude to interupt the joke teller and say, "oh, i do remember that one. johnny gets rid of the rake and grabs a hoe, right?"

i know it's rude, because i've done it.

so, one must suffer doubly. suffer from the joke contract itself--straining a smile from the beginning to prepare the laugh muscles for a heartfelt fake laugh at joke's end--and suffer from the knowledge that it will be even harder to fake a laugh while not even listening.

to share a joke is a very intimate thing. it's like making a pass at someone. refusing to enjoy the joke is like turning down a romantic gesture with a kick to the pelvis--whatever a pelvis is.

sure, every so often, i find a joke funny--but more in the aha, clever sense than laugh out loud sense. but i have to give the outword loud fake ha regardless. no one feels satisfied with "i found that joke to be clever. i'm not laughing, but i appreciate the humor in it and thank you for your kind gesture of cheer."

for the same reason, this won't work:
he: hey, you're looking hot tonight.

she: that's probably true, but while i appreciate the compliment and admit it helps my ego, i'm afraid a giggle here would give you the idea that i might be romantically interested in you, which couldn't be further from the truth.


ugly wife said...

hey, have you heard the one about the old man and his cat?

Ugly Angie said...

I hope I never see you smile at me like that...it would make me sad.