By Rachel Shope
I once got into a debate with one of my male friends about whether or not men are funnier than women. He had read an essay (penned by a man) alleging that men are the more comical sex because eons of peacocking around in attempt to woo women have necessitated that they develop stronger senses of humor. Let us set aside every issue I have with this statement and say, for the sake of argument, that a funny guy is funny because he feels like he has to be. What, then, is a woman’s sense of humor born of? As a funny girl, I’d say that it derives from a keen eye, a sound intellect, a dash of cynicism, and the need to protect a hypersensitive heart. Added together, those factors roughly equate to a curse.
It’s hard to say exactly when or where it begins, but post-puberty, the curse flares up in slightly uncomfortable social situations. For the funny girl, the art of humor is synonymous with the art of defense. There are a couple of different ways to go about it depending on the situation—the crowd, the noise level, how comfortable you are, how much alcohol you’ve had, etc. My go-to methods are Deflection and Orchestration.
Deflection is for the quieter nights. Maybe this is my first time meeting many of the people in the group I’m with. Maybe we’re in a loud bar and it’s difficult for anyone to say too much. Maybe I’m just too sober. Whatever the reason, when I’m in Deflection Mode, I keep quiet for most of the time. Then, when the conversation is directed at me, when I’m asked something a little bit personal, I throw in something sharp and send the attention back to my opponent like a tetherball.
Orchestration is more of a performance. I save this for when my mood is on the sassier side of things, whether it’s out of anger or glee. In Orchestration Mode, I have the precise amount of confidence to steer the conversation wherever I want it to go. If I reveal things about myself as my small stand-up act gains momentum, they are only as personal as I allow them to be. Admittedly, Orchestration is also something of an ego boost—I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get satisfaction out of evoking a steady flow of laughter.
The point is, both methods allow you to participate in social interaction without actually participating. You speak and exchange anecdotes, but do you connect? Not usually. It takes a very specific, likeminded person to really get it, and those don’t come around too often. It’s not difficult to see how this all translates into the realm of dating. Being funny in the Friend Zone is all well and good. Try to tiptoe into romantic territory and now you’re intimidating. What kind of game can a “funny guy” bring if you have—and enforce—your own standards of humor? And even if you can get past that, even if your prospective flame is amused enough by you to let you be the comedian, a genuine connection is still difficult to establish. It’s all the same as every other social situation except the element of actually wanting to connect is thrown into the mix.
So there you are, funny girl, trying to simultaneously deflect and attract. This almost certainly cannot end in anything other than disappointment, which will sting until you distance yourself from it and work the new material into your repertoire. Because you can’t do anything else. You can’t even explain your hurt without making a joke, and therein lies the curse. What began as a defensive parlor trick has evolved into a compulsion.
Being a funny girl means sitting on both seats of a seesaw that ceaselessly teeters between self-satisfaction and self-loathing. You create the set-up that leads to the punchline, which is that your system works. You crack the jokes; your audience laughs and keeps a safe distance. You are the entertainer, not to be taken seriously and not to be approached, because you made it this way. You put the curse on yourself, and you perpetuate it with every sabotaged connection. And isn’t that just so funny?