Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll considers THE HUMOR FACTOR. She writes:

A while back on the Ace of Spades blog I read a great quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe: “If you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything.”

I cannot speak for every woman – though nearly all unelected Grievance Grubbers seem to believe they are qualified to speak for the totality of the aggrieved group he/she/xe represents – but I think there is a lot of truth to what Marilyn said. When you contemplate the glue that holds long-lasting marriages – or, indeed, even friendships – together, the ability to laugh AT (gently) and WITH each other looms large, in my opinion.

I recently lost my longest friendship. My dear friend Carol lost her brave battle with cancer. Carol and I met in second grade. We sat across from one another, started giggling in the manner of 7-year-old little girls, and were friends for the next 65 years. She was my first appreciative “audience”; she laughed at pretty much everything I said, which is a much-prized quality to a future comedienne — though, perhaps, it gives one an unrealistic expectation of how things will go, say, at Union Night in a rough-and-tumble Wisconsin bar.

There is a hole in my world that will never be filled. But this is not meant to be a sad column or even to elicit the sympathy that our kind commenters give us in rocky times. I mean to discuss the importance of humor to a relationship.

As regular readers know, Mr. AG and I have been together for hundreds and hundreds of years. Okay, over half a century. We have very different tastes in food, music, clothes (his are much bigger), books, and art. But we have nearly-identical tastes in movies and comedians. Go know. And we have been making each other laugh for a long, long time.

An old joke about prison acknowledges that men who have spent many years together would soon use up all the jokes they know. A newbie lying in his cell hears someone yell out “62” and everybody laughs like heck. Another guy says “39” with a similar response. The guy asks his cellmate what is going on and he tells him that they have numbered their stock of jokes to save time. The newbie wants in on the fun and yells “44”. Nobody laughs. He asks his cellmate why nobody laughed and he says, “Timing.”

Families and long-married couples will also develop a kind of shorthand to remind them of shared experiences. Let me give you two examples.

The first example is from my “family of origin,” as it is called in therapy. My mother did not countenance swearing, but even more than vulgarity she hated when we kids were mean to each other. She particularly hated us telling each other to “shut up.” Once when I was about 10 and my sister about 5 Daddy was driving us uptown and a man stepped out from between two parked cars. Daddy slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Daddy said a naughty word and my sister chimed in with the worst word she knew: “Daddy, that is just a shut-up man.” Forever after, when someone might deserve a description as a Son Of a $#%^&, we would say, “Now, there is a real shut-up man.” Okay, it’s not hilarious to anyone else; it is a private in-joke – every healthy family has them — but it amused us for decades.

The second example is from my son when he was also about 5. One evening he was pretending to be a detective. He had a small notebook and was interrogating his grandma, his father, and me and making notes on our responses to questions about a pretend crime. By his grandma’s name he had written an “R”; by mine, an “LW” and by his father’s, a “VW.” When asked what his abbreviations meant, he said, “I felt that Grandma was acting Regular; Mom was acting a Little Weird and Daddy was acting Very Weird.” And so was born a secret code for categorizing people we meet as Regular, a Little Weird, and Very Weird. You can nudge your spouse and whisper “LW” and no one is the wiser. Feel free to use it.

By the way, the older I get, the more convinced I become that there ARE no “Regulars.” Virtually every one of us is a Little Weird. And that’s OK.

When I shared Marilyn’s quote that “if you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything,” Mr. AG brightened. “Can you make her cook and clean?” Evidently.

I remember reading (another) great column by Dave Barry wherein he questioned the evidence that women prize a “sense of humor” as they are constantly asserting on dating sites. I am paraphrasing from memory now, but he wondered aloud where all these alleged humor-loving females were when he was in high school because it seemed to him that what they prized then was “hotness” in the form of athletic ability or a cool car. He had wit up the wazoo and yet apparently was not considered a good catch back then. (He has done very well since.)

I am very blessed with funny friends besides my best friend, Mr. AG. My walking partner, The Paranoid Texan, could have been a standup. There’s Barb and her two hilarious sons, Bonnie, Heather, Angela — all are people who can make me shriek with laughter to the distress of passersby or other restaurant patrons. And, of course, our immense stock of witty commenters routinely cracks me up.

Highbrow wit is all well and good and Mr. AG can be very droll and witty. But do not discount just plain silliness as a day-maker. The other day Mr. AG insinuated that I did not know how to “gallop” properly or shoot with my finger the way kids played cowboy in the halcyon days of the ’50s when biting your bologna into the shape of a gun and going “bang” at your cafeteria-mate would not get you indefinitely suspended from school.

Mr. AG’s completely unfounded and almost-certainly sexist accusation quickly resulted in a challenge and mad galloping around the house, slapping our thighs and making horse sounds, hiding around corners and aiming with our fingers. A stranger coming upon the sight would have called some sort of Agency charged with carting off the senile and denying us the right to own weapons. But we had a lot of fun in the brief time before I pulled a thigh muscle. I certainly don’t remember that being a problem galloping around the “‘hood.” Memo to self: galloping now out; maybe a slow trot, or calm canter, so as not to irritate my “shut-up” thigh.

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