Friday, May 24, 2013

When Did It All Stop Being So Funny?

My 16-year-old son has a shirt that says, “Fear the Couch.” It’s one of his favorites. He came home with it after Quiz Bowl practice one afternoon and said it was their official shirt. Something about whoever was sitting on the couch usually won the round. It’s one more example of the teenage silliness that fills my house. That and the plethora of rubber chickens, the pirate metal (yes, it’s a genre) music blaring on the ipod speakers, and the sign on the fridge which says, “This Freezer is Not Out of Control.”

I remember being silly myself when I was a teen, saying and doing odd
things just because it made me and my friends laugh. I’m sure, like much of the humor that I find around my house, it wasn’t quite as funny to the adults around me.

One time, on a trip to the Capitol for a Youth in Government Seminar, a friend and I stood in front of the elevator doors in the Senate Building with a camera, waiting for the doors to open. When they did, we snapped a picture and ran away giggling. I’m sure if you tried this today, you would be tackled to the ground and your camera confiscated. Things were different then. The funniest part of the picture is that when we finally had the film developed (remember when you had to wait for your pictures?), Ted Kennedy was in the back of the elevator! All of the well-dressed people, plus one service person in a gray jumpsuit, looked very surprised. I wish I knew where that picture was now.

Our other elevator stunt (we lived in a small town and there weren’t many elevators to play in) was
to enter the elevator with the crowd of people and then not turn around. Normal people enter an elevator and immediately turn around to punch the button and face the door. You can probably imagine how uncomfortable it makes adults when two loudly dressed teenage girls stifling giggles stare you down in an elevator at less than 15 inches.

Climbing trees in front of the Capitol building and making weird animal noises was another favorite activity. And when we walked by the FBI building, which was under construction, we stole a brick and kept walking, laughing so hard tears rolled down our faces. It seemed to be the funniest thing imaginable to steal a brick from the FBI.

As a parent of several teenagers, it does occur to me now that the trip was lacking in adult supervision. Or maybe adults didn’t worry about kids back then the way we do now. My youngest is preparing to head off on a three day trip to study Oceanography with the school district. I went to the meeting and listened as the leaders explained how carefully supervised our children would be right down to taping their hotel doors shut from the outside (not to keep the door from opening, just to make it obvious if the door is ever opened during the night). I can only imagine the fun we would have had as kids trying to get around that safety measure. I don’t want to imagine what my darling son might do (doubtfully nothing since he’s such a rule follower – lucky for me).

In the book, The Happiness Project, the author Gretchen Rubin sites a study that says children laugh an average of 400 times a day and adults laugh just 17 times. It begs the question, what makes us stop laughing? Why is the world funnier to kids? And why do we have to be so serious all the time?

Most of us would probably say we’re too busy taking care of our kids, our houses, our jobs, our lives. I, for one, wish there was more room for humor on a daily basis. My daughter accused me recently of “never laughing” and when I argued, she said, “But you never laugh out loud.” And she’s right. I chuckle, I smile, I snort, but it takes something big to make me truly guffaw. I don’t know when I stopped laughing or when everyday life ceased to be so comical. It probably happened right about the time I had to start paying for my own insurance.

Each morning I listen to my children banter back and forth as they pack lunches and eat breakfast. Everything is funny to them. My daughter asks my son a question about school and his answer is “Road Whales!” and then the two burst in to laughter. I shake my head and smile. They are silly people. I hope they will always be silly people.

I’m going to look for more opportunities to be silly. I’m sure it won’t be so easy, as my sillimeter is surely rusty at this point. Lucky for me, I have these three experts living in my house. I’ll just take my cues from them.

As I said to a friend who recently melted down her daughter’s four new pacifiers when she intended to
sterilize them, “You have to laugh, because if you didn’t you just might cry.”

No comments:

Post a Comment