Poop, butt and vomit jokes are one of the delights of early childhood. I don’t know how long it takes us to tire of the butt jokes. Maybe as long as it takes to accept those not-so-crude aspects of life: a common daily reality, not so odd, ironic or absurd. I am guessing that doctors Freud, Jung, Erickson and Spock have explanations, something that explains this transition from being comfortable eliminating our waste into our pants to finding the elements of that process the most hilarious idea we can conceive of on the planet.
I recall a day in grade school when every boy in the middle grades was fascinated with a turd soooo big and long it would not flush. Everyone elbowed their way to the door of the stall in the boys’ bathroom for a chance to see the spectacle as one of our teachers tried to encourage and then order all of us back to our classrooms. Urging us out of the bathroom did not, in the least, halt our exclamatory banter, filled with “Holy cows” and “Did you see that?” and eyes as big as the phenomenon we had, prior to that day, never seen.
In time, we tired, outgrew, or just forgot to laugh at unless adorned by some cleaver sophistication.
In a way, we never quite get comfortable with any of that, the body parts and the functions that go with them. There are still ways to make poop, butts and puke funny. It works in some movies for some people on some days: I guess it’s all in the timing—and maybe in not being the ones who have to clean it up: either the physical stuff or the pitiful emotional fallout that accompanies the physical mishap.
While still children, we graduate to the next order of strange and uncomfortable body parts and functions: it’s about sex. We are kids, with no or very warped contexts of this life reality and, thus, still naïve enough not to confuse this caricature of sex with love. We can conveniently not see that sex and love are things that could go together, even if we know too much about them than is healthy for a child.
Sex and love: they are funny.
Bobby and Suzie
Sittin’ in a tree
Or, “Bobby has a girlfriend! Bobby has a girlfriend!” More giggles. More embarrassment. As many denials of “Do not! DO NOT!
When do we grow out of his stage? Hopefully not too soon, because it really is something children have to grow into, spend time uncomfortable with and out of that discomfort, spend an appropriate amount of time growing, establishing their personal space, identity and sense of self the discomfort helps us grow into. The taunts work for comic relief: Little Bobby with “First comes love/then comes marriage/then comes Bobby with a baby carriage is supposed to be an uncomfortable absurdity.
Even as adults, though, we sometimes—and for some, every time– do not avoid being as unripe as Bobby. And maybe that is why it is hard to graduate out of that stage of bad humor that it follows us into the spaces and time of life when it can no longer be a silly absurdity: the places in which we live and have to care in those relationships, with those real people.
Not being that undeveloped person is hard in our “Two and a Half Men” society. Once I got past being offended and realize it is just television, a comedy, it reminded me of some of the Greek classic comedies. So absurd. Silly. Such shallow attitudes on some things that are of ultimate importance: family, sex and love—or the absence of love. Absurd. Silly.
And maybe it would be funny, if only it lasted the two and a half hours it takes to present one of those Greek comedies. But it goes on and on, week after week, day after day, rerun after rerun. And then I realize that it is not just a fiction. It’s more real than we will admit, even though the implicit admission is as plain as the popularity of the show. It is hard to deny when the show’s star repeatedly shows the real consequences of what happens when the plot of the show comes to real life. It is hard to deny when the trail of ruin left by that star shows up large—and we still want to reward him with our attention, money and an even bigger stature than we provided him before.
It leaves us, still as adults, afraid to fall in love or to let anyone know, even the target of our affections. Will people laugh at us? Will our love laugh at us? Is love a joke with which those around us are still way too comfortable? Will our love be so uncomfortable with the love that the realm of the comic will be the comfortable refuge?
If I say, “I love you,” will you say, “Oh, that’s so funny,” and laugh?
And I can laugh, too, make us both comfortable and say, “Just kidding.” Freud, Jung, Erickson and Spock have theories on this, too. I am not sure I want to know. Instead, we can turn on the television and learn what love is about.
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