Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate is a comfort food after all.

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My girlfriend has had a very close friend since high school, and I’ll be honest, she’s a bit of a character. Standing about five foot five, she is slender and equally intelligent, currently studying at NYU, and prides herself in disliking things that others, en masse, like. Yes, she is the ever-confident nonconformist. Growing up in an affluent and predominantly white neighborhood, just like hers, I could identify the fact that she wanted to stick out and at the same time hide from the world.

Considering herself a citizen of the entire world rather than of any small Maryland suburb, she fell in love with the romantic misfits of New York City. Here her differences were embraced, and yet she could still do her best to stick out—sort of an incongruent cohesiveness, a heterogeneous mixture if you will. However, I daresay that she was still somewhat surrounded by upper-middle class citizens, most of which were white. Despite the backdrop of New York City, her main contact was with the student body of the prestigious university, not the residents of the diverse metropolis surrounding her, and although NYU does reside in an extraordinarily diverse environment, around fifty percent of its student body is made up of white/Caucasian students, and thirty percent of the student body is Asian.

My point is not that Loyola is or is not overwhelmingly diverse—cough cough white suburbia—only that this girl was not experiencing what might be called the height of diversity. Eventually, she became romantically involved with another student at NYU. Their relationship began to escalate and she could often— and I mean very often—be heard saying, “How could I be with anyone else?”

Well, months passed and very recently the two decided that it was time that they try to explore other avenues (so that’s what they call it) of life, and they parted ways. In passing I told one of my roommates that the pair had called it quits and with a laugh that he had no intention of hiding he said, “ How could she be with anyone else?” We laughed. Another roommate of mine chimed in, “Maybe she just needs a little chocolate.”

I was puzzled. I looked over at the six foot five Nigerian whose bright white teeth shown in a grin that was radiant against his night-dark skin…his “chocolate” skin. At once my other roommate and I took his meaning and soon we were all three in fits of uncontrollable laughter.

At first, it was his simple phrasing and unexpectedness that made us laugh, but on further thought, the idea only grew more hilarious. A little, white NYU student coming home to her two high-earning parents in a town where people kept a close eye on Democrats, let alone a wandering six foot five Nigerian from Baltimore. “But, Daddy, I just needed a little chocolate.”

I’m not sure whether or not Descartes, Spencer, and Freud would consider the laughter that my roommates and I expelled at this absurd thought completely physiological. Perhaps it goes along with the Relief Theory more than I though at first. After all, the breaking up of a loving couple is not often something that elicits fits of laughter. Perhaps Freud was on to something when he said that the hearer copies the mental processes of the humorist. I, for example, felt no inkling of humor in the fact that the two had broken up, but when my first roommate laughingly made a comment, I laughed along with him, perhaps releasing other emotions that could have potentially arisen from the ending of someone else’s relationship. Spencer might have seen my second roommate’s comment as an unexpected one that allowed my other roommate and I to release even more physical ‘anxiety’ I suppose.

Like the theories we have read before, I don’t think that the ideas of Descartes, Freud, and Spencer are wholly true. However, I do think that they comment on important aspects of humor (especially considering the human body) that might otherwise be overlooked. These philosophies do not encompass all aspects of what we ourselves know as humor, but nonetheless they are important factors to consider in the search for what makes us laugh.

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