I want a wife! (Thanks, Judy Brady)

I would be grateful if you would visit http://palestineinsight.net/
my new blog of news and opinion from Palestine
with a growing anthology of work by Palestinian poets.

msmagazineIt is often assumed that humor benefits both physical and psychological health; however, research thus far has yielded equivocal results. . . Nonetheless, humor does appear to have physiological benefits, which may be especially important to the well-being of older, more sedentary adults who can benefit from the increases in circulation and immune function brought about by laughter (1).

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we realized what many families do at such times.  We realized we might have seen what was happening to her much earlier if we had known what to look for.  We missed the small presentations such as her feeling safe in wearing certain clothes—in having certain items in her purse—and her gradually becoming more and more critical and judgmental of nearly everyone.

The most surprising discovery we made, however, came when the doctors said she was no longer competent to manage affairs, for example, by signing checks. We discovered much to our amazement that she had been almost completely in charge of the family finances. Dad was somewhat at a loss to know how to take care of such things. I often wondered why Mom knew on any given day what the stock market had done. It was simple. She was keeping track of their investments.

I want a wife.

I want a wife to take care of my finances. At least to run interference for me with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

There, folks. That’s a joke. I often feel that I need to explain when I’m making a joke. No one misunderstood Judy Brady when she declared that she wanted a wife (2). But it seems to me that, if I quote her, most people don’t get the joke. Maybe I’m just not self-assured enough. Maybe I’m so accustomed to living in my own little mental bubble I can’t believe anyone can relate to what I think is funny. Of course, everyone gets the joke about Judy Grady. She was an early feminist hero.

When I make a joke, I most often assume the effect is like the doorbell in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano. “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there” (3). Experience teaches us that when I make a joke there is never anyone there (to laugh).comedy&tragedy mask

Now, I’m showing the depth of my insecurity.

[Self-defeating humor] . . .  involves. . . attempts to amuse others by doing or saying funny things at one’s own expense as a means of ingratiating oneself or gaining approval. Those high in this style of humor tend to be high in shyness, loneliness, and anxiety and low in intimacy and the satisfaction they get from social support (4).

Of course, some jokes are unkind. I try not to indulge myself in those. I’m not making a joke about my mother’s dementia or about my father’s inability to keep finances straight. I am, however, joking about our family’s misunderstanding of our parents’ situation (remember, they were married in 1937, long before Judy Brady wrote her legendary essay).

I think (although I’m not certain) I am fundamentally incapable of the “self-enhancing humor. . . [of] individuals who [are] so upset by another person’s anxiety and negative feelings that they would psychologically distance themselves from that person (5).”

I don’t—really, I don’t—know how to enhance myself through humor. My jokes are almost always either ridiculously obvious (almost as ridiculous as young children’s bodily-function humor) or so concealed in meaning that they are beyond “esoteric” (no one, that is, no one could possibly get them). (This, paragraph, for example, is to me an attempt at humor. Did you get it?)

The one kind of humor I almost never use is “aggressive” humor.

Aggressive humor is the tendency to use humor to attack or put down other people, and thus involves sarcasm, teasing, ridicule, derision, hostility, or disparagement humor. Those high in this style of humor tend to be high in hostility and low in agreeableness (6).

My inability to use aggressive humor is one more example of my general personality trait of always wanting everyone to like me. Except when I’m being self-righteous or indignant. Then, I’m just plain not nice. For example, tell me once more how you think laws need to be passed to prevent voter fraud, and you will get a response that has nothing to do with humor. I will simply show you what an idiot you are.

BlueCross-BlueShield-of-Texas-LogoOK. So I’ve never perfected the use aggressive humor. I know it’s not, but I wish it were because I’m such an empathetic person. Hampes says there is a

. . . a negative correlation between aggressive humor and empathic concern, perspective-taking, and personal distress, since these individuals’ hostile orientation towards others would seem to preclude empathy for others (7).

It’s a difficult call. Simply because I don’t use “aggressive” humor, I can’t assume I don’t have a “hostile orientation towards others.”  And because I use self-defeating humor, I can’t assume I’m “ingratiating [my]self or gaining approval” from others.

So, when I say this blog is “a light-hearted look at my experience of getting old,” I still, after 133 posts, don’t know for sure what that means. I need a wife to tell me.
(1) Freeman, Gillian P. and W. Larry Ventis “Does Humor Benefit Health In Retirement? Exploring Humor as a Moderator.” Europe’s Journal of Psychology 6.3 (2010), 122-148. Web. (2) Brady, Judy. “I Want a Wife.” Ms. Magazine 1.1 (1970). Print. (3) Ionesco, Eugene. The Bald Soprano.  1950. Print. (4) Hampes, William. “The Relation between Humor Styles and Empathy.”  Europe’s Journal of Psychology 6.3 (2010), 34-45. Web. (5) Hampes. (6) Hampes. (7) Hampes.

About Harold Knight
Retired English prof, SMU. Old man. Musician. Passionate about justice, equality, freedom. Therefore, I am a fervent supporter of and advocate for the Palestinian People as they struggle to survive genocide. That also means, of course, I have no use for US 45.

One Response to I want a wife! (Thanks, Judy Brady)

  1. Pingback: “. . . Vainly we offer each ample oblation. . .” (Reginald Heber) | Me, senescent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: