I worry that I’m not funny anymore. I’m certainly not funny in Germany, or Italy. I spend too much time being too practical; too much energy translating the punchline for cultural digestibility. The offbeat stuff doesn’t work so well when the conversation’s moved on but I’m still paging through the dusty dictionary in my head, trying to remember if spinach is masculine*.
A few weeks ago, though, I got to have laughs with an old friend. She’s 41. Ha!
A few weeks ago, though, I got to have laughs with a dear friend. We were college roommates, soccer buddies, travelers and sunny, bright young things together. She was the one who asked me, pointedly, why I was marrying my first husband (back when I could have done something about it.) When I’m wondering how sad I should be about a C-section, she’s the one who helps me figure it out. She cares for me, I care for her, and we have two decades of mutual fandom and practical support as a basis for some pretty torrential conversations during the 30 hours every two years that we heroically manage to get ourselves face to face.
It is so refreshing, such a joy, to make her laugh.
Frida finds me largely unfunny, I’m afraid**. She deadfaces me when I clown around, and rarely has the context needed to get my asides (without which they just sound snide. My asnides.) Mostly she just doesn’t find my humor to her taste. I am delighted when, red-faced and sweaty from a sprint through the train station, we wait for whole minutes for the train’s doors to close after we’ve burst through them. It was delayed? But we ran to catch it? And we could have walked? Hilarious! Frida nods sympathetically when I try to explain how funny this is. I probably am going to regret every time I’ve let her hear me say ohmygodfuckinggermans under my breath – she’s German – but oh my fucking god, Germany, why do you not train children to seek humor in the absurd? Poor Frida’s American half has a pretty heavy lift!
It doesn’t take much to add some laughs, like sprinkling in some garlic salt while you’re sautéing spinach, but it makes it all so much better. I’m going to keep trying.
*of course, right? Trust yourself, Betsy, if you feel in your bones that spinach is very much masculine, choose the pronoun and move on.
Or maybe we could just call spinach ‘they’.
**for the non-MidWesterner, I should explain that ‘I’m afraid’ is not used to describe something that I’m afraid of, but rather something indisputably true that I am sad about, e.g. “I’m afraid she didn’t pull through surgery.” (Oh also, ‘didn’t pull through’ means she died.)