Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Humor Mask

When first entering Cristo Rey Highschool, all of us volunteers were a little befuddled; kind of lost, kind of nervous, kind of giddy. And as we walk up the stairs we are met by a younger man in charge of the volunteer program. We shake hands and of course, I have NO clue what his name is when shaking his hand. Isn't it funny that that always seems to happen? We shake hands with people and don't actually listen to their names. He informs us that we will each be assigned a particular student. We all nod our understanding in a very formal and polite way, making sure to listen to everything he says.

A young student walks up to us and the man introduces him, (Forgot his name too, naturally). Suddenly he turns to Mary and says "She's single" (or so I thought). Later we found out that Mary thought he said, "she’s a singer". Either way, the situation was immediately awkward. The meeting exchange had been thrown by the boys interruption, and the man in charge was equally as perturbed. He interjected saying, "well now I'm embarrassed."

It is interesting how humor can connect us and then divide us, how much humor is situational, and how much we cherish or rebuke humor under certain circumstances. I found myself amused at how each of us reacted to the boys comment. The director was indeed embarrassed, his cheeks turning a slight shade of pink. It was as if he could not laugh because of his role as a superior in this situation. He was our boss, and therefore his laughter it seemed could be misconstrued as unprofessional. Tyler Perry alludes to this separation of humor, in which sometimes we can laugh, depending on who we are in a situation. However, I stick to my conclusion that we give words controversy, and assign problems with words, when we choose to exemplify them. If the director had shrugged off the situation, and ignored the comment, we wouldn’t have all acknowledged it, and it would have been lost in conversation. However, because the director made it known that he was uncomfortable, we were uncomfortable.

Having said that we were probably all uncomfortable, we all laughed. It was as if nervous tension was released in our laughter like Freud explains. We often laugh because we are uncomfortable, and that’s the only thing we can do. I have to note however, that personally, when I was in this situation, what I found most humorous was the reaction of other individuals. I blatantly was laughing at the discomfort of the director, though I could hide this reaction because everyone else was laughing.

It caused me to wonder, when we are in situations when humor is utilized, we might all laugh, but are there different reasons why we laugh. Are we uncomfortable, nervous, giddy, upset, judging, aloof, or just plain amused? Humor has become a multifaceted and quasi situational tool which is as different as we are as individuals. I suppose we will never know the emotions that we were all feeling on that day. I may have felt completely different from Mary (perhaps because one of us heard him say she is single, and one of us heard she is a singer) but also because we felt completely in that situation. Whether we acknowledge it or whether it is don’t unintentionally or not, humor differentiates us, divides us, and lets us hide behind its mask.

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