Nov 092010
 

Oh god you guys, I have discovered that a long-time semi-crush object turns out to humorless. No sense of playfulness or the absurd. A sourpuss, if you will.

I can’t explain how it became clear – it was one of those things where people were joking and teasing and playing and having fun, and then crush-object came clumping in with a big, self-congratulatory turd of a joke.

At first it was okay. I shrugged it off, attributed it to “a bad day.”

But then it happened again on another occasion.

And then again.

It was a major blow. My crushiness shriveled and expired under the weight of it.

I have no empirically-based idea why sense of humor is important. There’s probably research on it that I’m unaware of, but at the moment I’m just going to speculate irresponsibly, if that’s okay with you. I think sense of humor is important because it denotes two things:

(1) shared experience of culture, which has to be valuable for something, surely – an indication of like intelligence and social values; and

(2) ability to stay calm, which must have advantages when it comes to conflict resolution. Folks who can stay relaxed and not get defensive when they feel criticized have longer, happier relationships. The science tells me that much; but surely the ability to laugh at yourself helps with that skill.

Now I’m not saying that an attractive (i.e., kind-hearted and egoless) sense of humor honestly advertises these characteristics, but I think it’s like mannequins in a shop window; if you like what you see there, you’re tempted to explore further. Or maybe a better simile: it’s like a great meal at a new restaurant – you’ll go back again because of it and, even if the next thing you try isn’t as good, you know you can always go back to that first favorite.

Regardless of the REAL reasons it’s important, sense of humor has climbed over the backs of every other trait to the top of my mate choice heap. Money and looks are squashed down at the bottom with the trash juice and the stray bits of junk mail. Articulateness is somewhere floating around the middle, in the vicinity of self-regard and what my sister calls “art.” Way up at the top is sense of humor, supported by progressive politics and the ability to learn to tolerate intensity.

Especially on the subject of sex, people can’t take themselves too lightly. Bodies are too ridiculous, the fluids too sticky, the body movements too silly, the noises too odd. If you can’t laugh about your own body, you’re doomed to a lifetime of angst and melodrama and problematizing in your sex life. (I wonder if anyone has done any research on the relationship the between ability to laugh joyfully at oneself and frequency of orgasm. Bet there’s something there.)

Dorothy Sayers made Peter Wimsey say, “I do know that the worst sin – perhaps the only sin – passion can commit is to be joyless. It must lie down with laughter or makes its bed in hell – there is no middle way….”

And in the next book, on his wedding night, Peter crawls into bed beside Harriet for the first time, cold and damp, “scrubbed like a puppy under a scullery pump,” having spent his wedding evening wrestling with an uncooperative paraffin stove, and he says, “What does it matter? What does anything matter? We are here. Laugh, lover, laugh. This is the end of the journey and the beginning of all delight.”

Confidence and joy, friends. Joy.

Too bad about the crush object.

emily nagoski

  3 Responses to “laugh, lover, laugh”

Comments (3)
  1. Emily is single?!

    Must…write…love…letter…

  2. Somewhere I read there was a correlation between sense of humor and intelligence? Except it was long ago and I have nothing to back it up now and no way of know how they were measuring these things (how do you measure a sense of humor?)…possibly because my laptop died a peppermint-tea-soaked death this weekend :*(

  3. a laugh, a twinkle;
    shared ridiculosity;
    whispered promises

    a curvy maiden
    who knows how to laugh and tease
    wins me every time

    (“confidence and joy” is my new watchword — thanks Emily!)

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