Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It’s Funny Because We've Been There

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid made me laugh out loud. It did so because I haven’t been in middle school for seven years, but I’ve been there. As I read the book I found myself separated between two consciousnesses of maturity and age. On one hand I am currently interning as a teacher in both middle and high school settings. As such, I am nearly an expert on the antics of members of that age group in question. The alter ego through whose eyes I also found myself reading was the alter ego of my own middle-school self.
The ‘teacher in training’ inside me chuckled because he had seen the self-centered behavior shown in the book in the classrooms and hallways of schools around Baltimore. The ‘teacher in training’ inside me absolutely cracked up (while being simultaneously disturbed) over the section when Greg gets placed into the gifted reading group in school and tries to act stupid in his assessment to get moved down. However, in spite of my recent experience with the middle school twerp demographic, I felt a strong tug of personal experience which made the book much more powerful. My logical mind wanted to laugh at Greg and his cohorts for being so silly and narrow minded, but I knew all the while that I had acted the very same way.
I recall most fondly the stupid games that my friends and I derived during some of the more boring times in middle school. Just like the ‘headphone rodeo’ game Greg and Rowley play after they find out that the CD player is useless, my friends and I invented many exceedingly stupid purists of fun. Most often these would attempt to involve some possibility of physical injury to prove our fledgling man-hoods. For instance, after school we would lure a swarm of wasps and bees using some sugary soda and then would try to kill as many as possible by swatting them with empty soda bottles. In another instance I recall competing to see who would dare to jump down more of my basement stairs without padding.
The most surprising thing I have learned from all of this is that I found much more humor from realizing how embarrassing and immature I was than from laughing at the fictional characters. Kinney made middle school Josh come back to life in my mind. With him he brought my friends who were Rowleys and Rodericks. This realization opened my eyes to a very personal form of humor which I had not experienced yet this year.

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