I am not funny. I am not funny. I am not funny.
Okay, I may be funny. But this morning I’m just not feeling it.
I’ve had the title to this particular blog tucked away for months. And I’ve written it in my head a dozen different times. There are subtle variations, but the theme is always the same.
I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now, and I realize that very few people actually read my stories. Most read the one-liners, which I totally understand. But I recently wrote a pretty funny story that began with a paragraph about old age. EVERY SINGLE COMMENT was about the old age stuff. I mean, dude! Really? The rest of that story was gold, I tell you. Pure gold! Yet no one bothered to read to the end. They were content to read (and comment on) a few sad little sentences about aging. If you are curious, it’s “Macka Macka”. Go read it now…all the way to the end… it’s okay, I’ll wait.
Welcome back! So, was it funny? No, I’m actually asking. And here’s why:
First let me tell you a little about my mom. She does that sweet mom-thing when it comes to complimenting me. She is queen of the superlatives. I could write an entire book (all about me, so it might be a little boring, so I won’t… but I could) about how every questionable hair style and bad business decision was, in mom’s eyes, “the best ever!” Don’t get me wrong – I was a rebel child and mom and I fought our way through my teenage years. I am personally responsible for any gray hairs and wrinkles she has (this line doesn’t work very well because at age 80, my mom has no wrinkles and very few gray hairs…but I digress…) I feel like if I committed murder, she would lovingly point out what a great shot I was. Or how I chose the perfect knife. Or “what an interesting choice of poison… how creative!” In case you don’t fully get the picture, there is a story I like to tell about toast. Hold on, don’t leave now! Toast can be fun!
During my growing up years, mom and dad would go out to functions (parties), and (sometimes) the next morning (Saturday) there would be a note posted on their bedroom door about food poisoning (hangovers). I was never allowed into my parents’ bedroom, so I always just read the note, padded into the kitchen, poured myself a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and settled into my beanbag chair to watch cartoons. But one morning, I felt like doing something nice. I remembered that every time I had an upset stomach, mom would make me toast. So, that’s what I decided to do.
I made the first piece. Not too dark. With just enough butter so it all melted. I put it on a plate along with a little note and left it by the bedroom door. To this day, I’m not sure how I kept the dog from eating it. Anyway, they didn’t wake up any time soon, so I decided to make a fresh piece. Another perfect piece, along with the note, sat in front of their door, unnoticed and uneaten. Again, I tossed it out and made a new piece. This went on all morning until, 24 pieces later, the loaf was gone. Eventually they woke up, saw the note, ate the toast (maybe), and when mom heard the whole story, she didn’t punish me for wasting a loaf a bread. Instead, she raved about how sweet I was to think of her. When she would tell the story, it was “The Best Toast Ever!”
I get it. That’s the good “mom thing” to do. I would have done the same. But what I’m saying is that was my entire life as a child. So, by the time I was in 6th grade, I thought I was pretty special.
For my birthday that year, mom made me the dress of my dreams. It was an emerald-green velvet mini-dress with long, white, see-through sleeves. I wore it, along with my first pair of pantyhose and (low) heels, to the Magic Time Machine to celebrate. When we got home, I opened the door and found the house full of my girlfriends who were there to surprise me with a sleepover. Life was grand!
Then came the end of the school year. On one of the last days, we had a class party. I decided to wear that dress (and hose and heels) for the occasion. I felt spectacular! Up until this moment, I had been a nerd. A Straight-A Goody-Two-Shoes who only had one (best) friend, and never got in trouble (sidebar: to any of you who met me after 6th grade, I know that’s hard to believe, but yes, it’s true). The teacher turned the lights off (oh stop it… it was broad daylight and there were windows) and turned on some music. We were able to leave our seats and roam about the room. For the first time ever, I felt pretty. I danced and flirted and laughed and carried on. I was having a ball… at the top of my game… pick the winning phrase, that was me.
At one point, I came back to my desk and noticed a note perched on top. It was folded into one of those little triangles that all the cool kids knew how to make. I had never mastered the art of the folded note, but then I had never written or received one. I was so excited! A note! I slid into my seat and gently began to open it. I was secretly trying to remember the pattern so I could write a note back and fold it the same way. Who was it from? A boy, surely. After all, I looked amazing!
I finally opened it, and smoothed it out. It was still pretty dark, so I had to lean down to read the words. And there they were. Two words. Right in the middle of the page.
That was it. I peeked around the room, just to see if anyone had noticed. Then I realized whoever wrote it was probably watching, so I faced forward again. The air left my lungs and the blood left my face and the muscles left my legs. Time stopped.
I remember once, while roller skating on my driveway, I fell flat on my ass. It knocked the wind out of me. In a panic, I whispered to my sister to get mom, because I was certain I was dying.
This was worse.
All the toast-filled compliments could not fix this. I had let myself feel good. Feel pretty. Feel normal. I fit in. But the truth was, I wasn’t and I didn’t. At least that’s what I believed at the moment.
Of course, that was a million years ago. Yet that moment has stuck with me all my life.
Like anyone else, I have been shot down when I didn’t see it coming. I have also been put in my place after getting too big for my britches. And of course, I’ve had to deal with the insecurities that moments like those bring. But that’s not my problem.
My problem is that now I don’t believe compliments. I actually hate them. And… I hate that I hate them. Pretty crazy, huh?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want insults. But I live for constructive criticism. I love honesty. Give and take conversations that help me grow. I enjoy feeling better about myself BY myself.
So now my dilemma is this: When something funny happens, I write about it. It’s funny when I write it, and then, suddenly, it’s not funny to me anymore. I tried to explain this to someone recently and he said it’s like trying to tickle yourself. It doesn’t work.
I am about to submit some of my writing for publication (fingers crossed), but since none of my writing is funny to me, I feel like a fraud. I need real help. A fresh set of eyes to read my writing and tell me what is funny and what is not.
I posted a request for help on Facebook last week, and my sweet readers (friends and family) all rallied around with compliments galore. And although I appreciated each one, they all made me cringe. Because, of course, I don’t believe them.
I feel like I fed them all 24 pieces of toast.