Tuesday, December 04, 2012

LOL All the Way

One of the easiest ways to tell if a person is funny vs a person who is being funny is that the former is usually much more in his/her skin and humor is a part of their DNA. The person who is being funny, the so-called class clown, the life of the party, who needs the entire attention of a room to sell their jokes... now, that is a sign of something a little deeper. This is nothing new, of course. Clowns have some of the most saddest eyes. Comedians have been known to be some of the more morbid, depressed people- you need to just look through a history of the SNL cast to know who overdosed, drank, and killed themselves while making a living out of making others laugh. But take a look at those around you, perhaps even close to you. And maybe yourself. Do you use humor as the safest, the most predictable form of a defense mechanism?

This question came to me through a random conversation with someone who had just been to one of those spiritual weekend retreats and had reached a number of epiphanies. One of these epiphanies included the discovery that this person often uses humor as a primary form of defense... startling, but not entirely surprising, since i knew this person well enough. I guess we all have different fears and insecurities and usually it (fears, etc.) manifests in forms of blocking people out, making up for lost competencies, turning to substance abuse, projecting those fears onto others, and yes, being The Funny One. In short, we overcompensate by something we know will work in pretty much any given situation. Shy and nervous? Passive aggressive? Bitchy and insecure? Overwhelmed and can't think? Dealing with any number of issues from your job, family, or past? Avoiding an intervention? Walking away from taking responsibility? Running from a confrontation? All these are neatly dealt with and can be put away for the time being - by just being funny, cracking a joke, breaking the ice, and hey, did you see there's even an app for all that right now! Sure enough we're defending ourselves. I'm pretty sure I've used humor for all of these situations I described above. But if you know me well enough, you also know there is something crazy funny in my gene pool:)

I think what stirred me about the conversation was that I realized how many times I had laughed at someone's jokes or puns at a particular moment only to comprehend later what that person was actually hiding, avoiding, running away from. We conveniently forget the icky, serious, rational, grown up stuff we have to deal with - whenever we hear a good chuckle. And we all condone this behavior, it's practically de reguer.

So they say don't take life too seriously- and that humor is the perfect antidiote when you're dealing with any major crises; and we can't imagine the expression "a good time was had by all" without picturing peals of laughter; and what would any healthy relationship be without this most precious, and vital ingredient? hint: a not healthy one. but human behavior is funny... and for those of us who try too hard to be funny sometimes, well, maybe it's time to wind down the clown act. just a little bit.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making New Friends is a Busy Trap

A couple of recent articles in the New York Times have prompted a lot of discussion and general introspection. The Busy Trap is an excellent piece on how people like to inflate their images by saying how damn busy they are... when they are not exactly saving lives or finding the Higgs Boson particle. But society deems "busy" as "good" because if you were the opposite you must be a total loser. Or why in the world would you want to be doing absolutely "nothing?" In my case, i am a strong proponent of doing "nothing." My idea of a lazy Sunday is not just stay at home, it's to stay at home and do "nothing." If I'm being productive for 6 days of the week, how about not contributing to squat for at least one day? It's just a thought, of course, and I usually end up doing something- even if it is 6 hours of watching Law & Order re-runs.

I think half the reason people ask you what you're doing this weekend is to make sure you know what they are up to! And, of course, they are frightfully busy attending some social event or the other. The workaholics are also sooo crazy busy because their work is tantamount to saving the world from disaster. And probably their job of color coding an excel spreadsheet might just do that. Just like happy hour, it's always the busy season in some part of the world! I think the saddest is when I hear someone give a complete itinerary of what they have planned for the next 3 months... then it's just obvious they don't want to be alone (if single) or they want to be a 100 percent sure they are not bored out of their minds (if not single). My point is that we all like to be productive at our work, and have fun with our friends, and spend time with our amazing families but what's the point in beating your chest with the "i'm so busy" refrain? You think the rest of us are just twiddling our fingers?

So the busy trap very neatly tied in to this piece called Finding Friends of a Certain Age It definitely struck a chord with a lot of folks since major life events and changes can make you lose touch with so many of your friends. As the article points out, it gets harder when you're married and you're "matchmaking for two." When you have kids, you're often hanging out with other folks because they have kids who play with your kids. No other reason. This brilliant stand-up routine by Louis C.K. could not have explained it better.

There are legitimate reasons one can't connect with people - busy trap being one! - and of course, if you move to a new city for a new job and know absolutely nobody it can be difficult in the first year or so. But I think it has a lot to do with your personality, too. If you're shy or stuck up, you may never be the first to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. If you are classist or any -ist you are bound to make hasty judgements and close yourself off to a potential friendship. And, finally, if you have a partner who is not as social as you are, or if you have a demanding/sick parent or child your priorities will be very different.

But I call BS on whoever whines about not finding friends or how it's so sad but such is the fact of life. First of all, you will never find friends like the ones you made in school and college so get over it. Second, make some effort to talk and get to know people. It doesn't have to be just folks from work. Take it from me- i've gone to 3 schools, 2 colleges and moved 5 different cities in 2 continents. All my friends have not been from school/college/work environments. You could say I've been lucky but I think I was just open - to learn and listen and form a connection.

I also learned a long time ago there was no such thing as a "best friend" - that term is almost infantile - and one has to be happy with 3-4 "good friends" in your life. No one is perfect and it's unreasonable to have expectations on people you call your BFFs. I also don't agree that you must make friends in your own age group- in fact, as I've grown older, I find it easier to connect with people from all different ages and backgrounds. So I have friends from their mid-20s to the mid-40s, single, gay, straight, married, divorced, single parents- variety is the spice of life, after all. I also count some of my parents' friends and some of my friends' parents as my friends- my mother was right when she said "make friends with anyone who you can learn something from."

At the end of the day, friendship, like any relationship, is a two-way street. You do "love" your friends and you sometimes have to "break up" with your friends, too. There will always be hangers-on, situational, happy hour buddies and other selfish dogs who quickly label you as a "friend" but only you know the ones who really love you - you know the ones without any sort of agenda or ulterior motive, the ones who you can call any time of the day or night, regardless of the fact they're in town or not, single or married, with or without kids. They're the ones who matter.