Monday, October 13, 2008

Dark Humour

I'm discovering there's a fine line to be walked with the cancer jokes. There's this weird kind of responsibility that comes with being part of a minority group around a majority. For example, sometimes I send "Stuff Christians Like" links to certain friends who are not Christians. I might do it to show that I have a sense of humour about my subculture's foibles, or to try to explain a perspective on an issue I've been talking about with whomever I'm sending it to, but I find that there's often a kind of disconnect. The recipient isn't from that sub-culture, so they can't exactly know what it feels like to be in it. And they might not be sure they're allowed to laugh.

It's kind of like that with cancer, only maybe a little more selfish. There's a significant group of people out there who have or have had cancer, but most of the folk with whom I rub shoulders don't or haven't. And there's a need, when you have cancer (and when you're me and tend to look at things a little wryly in the first place) to find the humour in the situation or you just won't make it out at all. On the other hand, you can make people Extremely Uncomfortable by doing it. I regret to admit that for me at least, sometimes there's a certain appeal to that factor.

The other day a lady came into Starbucks and said, "Jenn! How are your book sales doing?" I haven't really heard anything about my book since the signing, and frankly, I've had other things on my mind so I haven't tried to hard to track down this information recently. There was a significant part of me who wanted to respond loudly over the tops of the espresso machines, so the entire store could hear, "Yeah--I'm not really sure. I just found out I have cancer, so book sales are kind of 'Enh--you know.' You know?"

Internally, I was cracking myself up imagining myself doing that and picturing the deer-in-the-headlights looks I would have elicited on the faces of all the customers. But (I fortunately realised), that would just be mean. So I said, "Actually, I don't really know. I've been a little busy and overwhelmed lately to pay attention." Which was true enough, although I didn't get as much entertainment value out of it.

On the other hand, when Bentleman said, that same evening, "Hey! What's everyone going to be for Hallowe'en?" I couldn't resist saying, "The cadaver."

Well. My surgery is on Hallowe'en. If the idea on Hallowe'en is to dress up as something scary without actually being it, how much more Hallowe'en-y can you get?

"Um, Jenn?" said Bentleman (or maybe 409-Caitlin), "That's just gross."

Right. Right. But . . . see above. Also. Let's not forget my last name is "Grosser."


chris said...

No one is taught how to react in these situations - which always leads to a certain mental freeze when presented with them.

I suspect you'll get a lot of nervous laughter.

Praying for you.

Barry Pike said...

I'm praying for you, too.

But I do think this post is hilarious. I often like humor that is akward and inappropriate. I have a good friend who is an undertaker and another who owns his own small, specialty casket manufacturing company. They are both hilarious jokesters...

jasdye said...

it's comforting to know that you have a morose sense of humor (we are in the US, right?), jenn.

Jenn said...

Chris--yeah . . . and I'm not sure it's even possible to teach how to react. Mostly so far I've gotten somewhat horrified expressions. Thanks for praying. And for praying about the cancer, too.


Barry--I'm glad you thought it was funny. I can imagine hanging out with people who work with dead people would be . . . interesting!

Jasdye--Well, YOU might be in the US. ;) (Okay, fine. So am I.) Ironically, two women commented to me on this post (elsewhere than here), and of all the men who commented, the majority were British . . .

Scott R. Davis said...

Hi Jenn. This being from an american man. Hope that you are doing well. And don't forget to bring the trick or treat bag in the o.r. so goodies can be dropped in. not flesh but moments of hope and prayer that will be surrounding the o.r. table. So that you can pull those prayers out and the comfort that was lifted up along the way.

a good excuse not to go trick or treating or in a holiday party.

and you do have a good sense of humor mixed in with the reality of it all