Did You Hear The One About…

by Jake Block

I once read an article that angered me.  In the August, 1992 issue of The Pryor Report, Regina Barreca wrote on the offense of an “off color joke” to a woman.  It is Barreca’s contention that such jokes “often expresses, in masked form, hostility toward the listener.”  Now, I don’t know what Ms. Barecca’s credentials are.  She probably has more degrees than a thermometer.  I assume that she’s an intelligent woman…she wrote a book called “They Used To Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor.”  But degrees don’t necessarily mean that you’re able to think…and a book doesn’t necessarily make you an expert.

Now, I collect jokes.  I enjoy a laugh as much as anybody, and I know that there are jokes that can get under anybody’s skin…if it’s thin enough.  There are jokes that are corny and there are jokes that are too bawdy for the younger set…not because they’re bad; because a youth might not understand a reference due to limited sexual experience.  But a joke is a joke is a joke.  Laugh and the world laughs with you, but cry and you cry alone.

It’s come to the point in society today that you can’t say anything without offending someone.  I remember when it used to be a compliment to tell a woman that she looked good.  Now it borders on sexual harassment.  Satanic women are expected to look good…translate: feminine, yet with an air of confidence that marks them as a force to be dealt with.  Who says a woman can’t “look sexy” and still have a brain?

The biggest joke played on women in the 20th Century has been the de-feminization of women in the name of the “feminist movement.”  While women of groups such as NOW advocate the right of all women to find employment in any field that they choose, how quickly they change their tune when a woman chooses a field that is not to their liking.

I watched one of the “tabloid TV” programs, and there was an “attractive” but stern-faced woman, flanked by the familiar NOW shields, lambasting women who would have the audacity to pose for pin-up calendars or become strippers.  The women in question countered that this is what they wanted to do.  No one was forcing them, and in fact, they were having fun and harming no one.  The NOW spokesman was adamant.  Women had no business allowing men to look at them.  To be honest, she had little to worry about.  An unattractive attitude tends to make for an unattractive individual.

I agree with NOW on many points…and I find that I am in contention with them on others.  But I believe that women (and men) do have the right to find employment in any field that interests them, so long as they have the ability to do that job.  If that means posing for a poster or being a stripper, more power to them, so long as they are happy and they apply themselves to their chosen field.  It really doesn’t matter in this life whether you’re a doctor or a trash collector, so long as you’re the best doctor or trash collector that you can be.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change professions if you want.  I know a lovely woman  that worked her way through college as a stripper and now is a practicing psychologist with two (count ’em) offices in northern California.  Does she regret her “less than feminist employment?”  Quite the contrary.  She feels that she gained quite a bit from it in terms of “people skills.”  Aside from that, she paid for her college education and is beholden to no one for her life today.

Today, she’s a well respected member of the medical profession.  She dresses “sexy,” and turns heads when she walks by, and is seldom insulted if she garners an appreciative whistle.  She has the lithe body of a dancer and an IQ well into the “genius” range.  She feels good about herself and the life that she’s managed to build for herself.

Now, this is not to say that you have to be beautiful or sexy or even a dancer to be a success.  It’s in the attitude, pure and simple.  And if you have a good attitude, feel good about yourself and apply yourself to your chosen profession, you will be a success.  An attractive attitude makes for an attractive individual.

Given the choice of a “beautiful woman” with an “ice queen” attitude and any other woman with a ready smile and a sense of humor, I’ll take the latter.  If you like yourself, others will like you.  That has nothing to do with beauty, politics or wealth…it’s all ATTITUDE.

Too many of us walk around with a sour expression and feel that there’s just nothing to laugh at in life.  You’re born, you work and you die.  Well, just as there are plenty of things to be angry about in this life, there are plenty of things to bring us joy and plenty of things that are just plain funny.  All you have to do to find them is to relax.

Those who go through life with little or no sense of humor are pathetic in their wretchedness.  They find that they must drag others into their dour world of bitterness and genuinely detest those whose hearty laughter fills the air.  The saddest thing is that the only joy they gain from their lives is in the misery of others, and the only joy they give is in their passing.

The sharing of a joke can be a bonding mechanism for the teller and the listener.  It can provide insights into the psychological makeup of either…or both.  It can relieve tension, it can stimulate thought and conversation.  A joke can do many beneficial things.

Now, there must always be a butt of the joke…the schlimazel to the schlemiel.  Politicians and religious leaders make great butts because their pretentiousness and outward displays of pomposity already make them comic characters against the backdrop of world affairs.

Some of the funniest jokes, told by consummate comedians are self-deprecating jabs at one’s own foibles and eccentricities.  To find the humor in your own life and share it with others implies humanity and the ability to understand that even in the darkest of times, life can sometimes be humorous.

Even in times of tragedy and darkest catastrophe, people joke.  Jokes were told in the concentration camps of Germany and the “detention centers” of the United States.  Jokes are told by soldiers in the quieter moments of war, and at times when death stares them in the face.  I have even heard anecdotes cross the lips of those about to die.

I can associate with people who have no sense of humor, but I don’t think that I could ever “like” them.  I want to be able to see a person’s eyes light up with mirth from time to time and hear them chortle when something strikes their “funny bone.”

So when I read an article that equates my noble friend the joke with a weapon, I am angered.  But I am saddened as well for those who have no sense of humor or lost it for one reason or another.  Without the ability to laugh and to find humor in one’s life, one might as well be dead.


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