Oh, sure. Men always say they like women with a sense of humor. In fact, they often rank it right up there with a knockout figure and ravenous sex drive. But sometimes, I have my doubts.
I say this because of my experience after my husband got a really small laptop computer five years ago. It had a tiny split keyboard and minuscule screen. You’ve probably never seen one like it, since it cost a billion dollars and was pretty much useless. Every time one of his friends would come over, my husband would have to display the laptop and rave about how tiny it was and had they ever seen anything like it that was quite that small? He usually neglected to mention how much he’d come to dislike it and couldn’t have typed an illiterate ransom note on it. Finally, he just left it in its tiny case, stopped talking about it, and got a more accessible laptop (thank God for government grants is all I have to say).
“I’d never seen anything like it,” I once told a mixed group of people at the office where I used to work. “Have you ever heard a man brag about how ‘mine is smaller than yours’?”
Later, one of the man I worked with approached me. “I can’t believe you said that,” he announced, visibly aghast. Looking at his face, I could clearly read the message of sympathy for my husband: God! What that poor man must have to live with!
Oh! A sensitive topic! I love it when I innocently identify a sensitive topic — especially when it’s with somebody who likes to razz me upon occasion. I took to noticing what else this guy — let’s call him “Michael” — found patently offensive.
One day, during an office baby shower, I casually mentioned that during the 1960s, some women — in a desire for a more primitive birth experience — had gathered around after a baby was born to dine on the placenta. I mean, it was just an observation. I’d never eaten a placenta myself, nor did I have any particular desire to.
“Michael,” though, looked paralyzed with horror. The word “placenta” had greatly upset him. He looked green, he looked nauseated, he looked awful. Pay dirt!
As the weeks passed, I challenged myself to use the word “placenta” around “Michael” whenever possible. You’d be surprised how often placentas can come up in a work environment if you’re motivated enough. Say, when you’re sitting around a lunch table and someone brandishes a piece of octopus.
“What does this taste like?” he asks.
Oh, just like, well, placenta.
Again and again, that same look of horror and disgust was my only reward. I don’t ask for much.
Placenta, placenta, placenta!
I have a sense of humor. I live to amuse myself. But does anybody love me for it? Sometimes, I’m not so sure.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)