Subtle Shifts

Have you ever remarked that a kitten has gotten quite big, and its owner is surprised by that? You haven’t seen the kitten in weeks, so its growth is obvious to you. The owner, on the other hand, has seen it daily, and therefore the change in size has been subtle to him or her and therefor easy to overlook.

We experience subtle shifts every day without giving them much notice. For example, when I was a kid, I used to drink Hawaiian Punch practically by the 50-gallon drum. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Now, I can barely tolerate even a sip of it. It’s way too sickly sweet. I couldn’t tell you, though, the exact point in time when I shifted from being a Hawaiian Punch fan to a Hawaiian Punch disdainer. It just sort of sneaked up on me.

My perception of humor has apparently shifted as well. A week ago, if you had asked me what the funniest thing I’d ever seen on television was, I’d have responded, Season 4, Episode 4 of the sitcom Perfect Strangers. Based on its air date, I must have been 24 when I first saw it. I remember laughing so hard as Larry and Balki struggled to get a piano up ten flights of stairs that I nearly lost my breath, and I had tears streaming down my face. This was TV at its best, I thought.

So I was delighted when I discovered that Hulu was now showing every episode of Perfect Strangers. I would start with that iconic episode, and then binge watch the entire series. What fun!

I fixed myself a bowl of popcorn, got into some sweat pants and a t-shirt, snuggled in with my dog Quagmire, and prepared to be entertained.

Imagine my shock when I realized just how bad the show really was. Poorly written, cheesy, in fact. Poorly acted. Predictable. What a freaking disappointment. Needless to say, I won’t be binge watching any other episodes.

But I used to love that show. I really did. What the heck was I thinking? Who was I?

Now, if you ask me what the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on television is, I’ll respond the episode of Carol Burnett in which Tim Conway discusses the Siamese elephants, joined at the trunk. I’m happy to say that that one STILL cracks me up.

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Humor Expires

I used to know someone who would tell the same jokes and bad puns over and over and over again. They were funny the first time or two. But as the years went by they kind of got irritating. Then I started feeling sorry for him, because I’d see the looks on people’s faces when he’d trot out the same hackneyed quips.

I guess he figured that if they worked once, it was best to stick to the tried and true. But trust me: humor has an expiration date. Especially topical humor. I’m sure there were jokes about Abraham Lincoln, for example, but who would laugh at them now? And some humor stops being socially acceptable with time. (“I beat my wife up every morning. Ha!”)

The most annoying thing is that I can still hear him telling these stupid jokes in my head when the circumstances are right. That makes me grit my teeth. It’s like I’m stuck in a bad joke feedback loop and I can’t get free no matter how hard I try.

So here’s my advice for people who like to make others laugh: change your material frequently. The funniest people have creative minds. They are in the moment. They adapt to circumstances. If you stick to one never-changing routine, people will get sick of hearing it, whether they admit it to you or not. Predictable isn’t funny. Just saying.

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Dog Humor

Do you ever get the feeling that your dog is laughing at you? I do. All too frequently.

Back when I still kept larger dogs, I had a Chow that liked to quietly sneak up behind me and let out one loud woof. It always made me jump out of my skin. When I would whirl around, he’d just be standing there, smirking at me.

My little dog Devo likes to play fetch with a twist. He’ll retrieve the ball, but stay just out of arm’s reach. He’ll then place the ball on the ground and back away a step or two. When I reach for the ball to throw it again, he’ll snatch it away and run a victory lap around the yard. Psych!

My dachshund, Quagmire, is quite the little clown. The other night I was trying to sleep but he kept fidgeting. After some time I decided to reach out in the dark and pat him on the head and tell him to settle down. That’s when I discovered he was trapped deep inside a pillow case and was wrestling with the pillow. I laughed so hard I gave up trying to sleep. (Another time my wake-up call was him sneezing decisively in my face. That makes for a harsh start to the day.)

I once had a dog that was a hound dog in every sense of the word. One time we were quietly standing in line at the vet’s office when he looked up at me, then gently peeled his lips away from his front teeth, and then reached out and nibbled the pantyhose of the woman in front of us. He pulled it, and then let it snap back into place without even causing a run, which I found fascinating. When she turned to us, he was gazing off in the middle distance, acting all innocent. I swear, if he could have whistled, he would have. All I could do was apologize.

My sheltie, Sugar, used to go in the back yard and howl whenever she heard a siren. For a while it broke my heart. I’d call her back inside and comfort her. Then one day I happened to be watching her out the kitchen window when an ambulance came by. She was howling, yes, but her tail was wagging and she was prancing around. She wasn’t crying. She was singing along!

The best dog I’ve ever had was an Australian Shepherd named Mocha. She was extremely intelligent and affectionate and very attuned to sound. She loved to dance to music, and she’d get very excited when you’d say particular words. Eventually I figured out that she loved any word with a hard k in it. Her favorite word was “infrastructure.” It still makes me giggle, thinking about how happy that word would make her.

So, when asked what qualities I look for in a dog, my first response will always be, “A sense of humor.” Most people are perplexed by this, but it makes perfect sense to me.

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Tickling

I don’t like to be tickled. That should be all I have to say on the subject. But unfortunately there’s this weird tickling dynamic out there.

Some people actually think that there’s some get out of jail free card for tickling. It’s as if this form of space invasion is somehow more acceptable than any other inappropriate touch. Many people, who otherwise understand that no really means no, will cross that line when it comes to a tickle.

If you tickle me, I will laugh. It’s a natural reaction. But it doesn’t mean I’m having fun.

Here are two scenarios which will explain my stance on the subject:

First, there were a few times when I was a child when an adult tickled me and it got all creepy. And it’s a fact that pedophiles will sometimes use tickling as an inroad to even more abusive acts. Tickling should not be a socially acceptable way to cop a feel.

Second, tickling can be a form of aggression. One time a boyfriend tickled me so much it became painful and I cried. And he was kneeling on my hair so I couldn’t get away. And even though I was screaming for him to stop, he didn’t. And he had this glazed look in his eyes that chilled me to the bone. It was bad.

So, yeah, if you’re one of those people who thinks tickling can be fun, make sure the other person is genuinely on the same page. Otherwise, take the hint. And keep your freakin’ hands to yourself.

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The Humor Spectrum

When I was young I couldn’t stand British humor. I just didn’t get it. That left me feeling as if I were not in on the joke, and naturally I didn’t enjoy that. I avoided British humor for years.

About a decade ago, though, I decided to give it another try, and now I love it. The difference between British and American humor, I often find, is that British humor assumes you’re intelligent and goes from there. American humor often seems to assume you’re stupid, and therefore goes for the lowest common denominator. British humor forces you to think, and American humor spoon feeds you as if you were a baby in a high chair. (Of course there are exceptions.) I think that says a lot about our respective cultures and our general expectations in life.

Last night I was introduced to, of all things, Finnish humor, in the form of a movie called Ariel, by Aki Kaurismäki. Many Americans might not view this as a comedy, because no one in it laughs or even smiles. Not once. But once you get used to that, you realize that in actual fact the film is hysterical. All these strange and, frankly, tragic things keep happening to the main character, and everyone, including him, seems to take it as commonplace. It’s life, you know? What are you gonna do? No, this film did not make me laugh out loud, but inside I was ROFLMAO. And in the end, I came away still smiling. You can’t say that about many experiences these days. I highly recommend this movie.

This got me thinking about the many forms of humor that are out there. I absolutely despise humor at the expense of others. If the only thing that makes you laugh is humiliating someone else, then I think there’s something seriously wrong with you. I don’t particularly enjoy practical jokes for that same reason. It takes sophistication to toe that line without lapsing into cruelty, and most people aren’t that sophisticated.

I once saw a viral video that everyone seemed to find hilarious. This guy unscrews the railing on his stairs, greases the top step, and piles pillows up at the bottom. He then does something to his sleeping wife (I can’t remember what because I was so horrified by the aftermath) that causes her to leap out of bed and chase him down the stairs, and sure enough, she flies down the stairs and winds up in a heap at the bottom. She’s clearly hurt, and he’s clearly remorseful. But she’s lucky she wasn’t killed, and could very well be in some form of pain for the rest of her life. That’s funny? Here’s a useful rule of thumb: if when setting up a practical joke you say to yourself, “What could possibly go wrong?” Don’t do it. Just… don’t.

Puns, on the other hand, generally don’t hurt anyone. I love a really, really bad pun. I think they appeal to me because they poke fun at my favorite thing on earth, the spoken word.

My favorite form of humor by far is the self-deprecating kind. I think it takes a very confident person to be able to poke fun at himself, and I find that to be extremely attractive. But again, this requires a certain level of sophistication. I dated someone many years ago who lacked the necessary amount of subtlety. He would insult himself brutally, thinking people would find this funny. In fact, it made people uncomfortable, and caused them to pity him. It’s one of the many reasons we broke up. Frankly, people felt he was weird, and it’s hard to remain in a relationship with someone you feel sorry for.

Humor comes in all shapes and sizes. Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate a wider swath of the spectrum. You gotta love variety.

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The deadpan humor that is Ariel.

 

A Dog’s Worst Nightmare

Hi! I’m Devo! Mom let my brother Blue write a blog entry once, Blue Explains Why You Should Support Rescue Orgs, and I’ve been hounding her to give me a turn ever since. Being a dog, that’s something I’m rather good at. Hounding. Get it? Mom says I have a great sense of humor, and that’s an important quality in a good dog.

But today I don’t feel like laughing. Not at all. So I have taken this blog by force to protest a great injustice. My mother tortured us today, and I may never get over the trauma. Really! This has got to be a canine rights violation! I demand reparations!

Every once in a while, without warning, mom declares that it’s Puppy Spa Day. First of all, what gives her the right? You’d think she was the head of this household or something. But we are the ones who get to decide when she sleeps and when she wakes up. We force her to provide the kibble. We make her do all the hunting and gathering. We’re not the ones who clean up the poop around here. Does that sound like a leader to you?

Maybe that’s what Puppy Spa Day is. Payback. Yeah, that’s it. Revenge. She may act all loving and kind most of the time, but mom is evil to her core.

The first clue that this is going to be a bad day is when we come inside after a good romp, and she ushers us into the back half of the house. She acts like we’re playing. How sick is that? And we fall for it every time!

Next thing we know, the front rooms are closed off to us. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. And then I see it. The instruments of torture laid out in the bathroom. Uh oh…

Next thing you know, she’s carrying my brother Blue in there. She always tortures him first, because she says he’s easier. It’s diabolical, I tell you! He looks desperately at me over mom’s shoulder, but I’m helpless to intervene.

It seems like he’s in there for an eternity. I hear splashing water. Is she waterboarding him? What confession is she trying to exact? I’m the one who chewed that sock, not Blue! I cast about for a hidey-hole, but there’s not so much as a pillowcase to crawl into. The closet door isn’t even open. Because she plans this. I’m telling you, it’s premeditated.

Next thing you know, the bathroom door opens, and out bolts Blue, not only wet, but smelling like… flowers. And he’s babbling, trying to warn me of my upcoming humiliation. Oh, the indignity! It’s horrible! “Save yourself!” he howls.

Like some sick psycho clown, she smiles at me, and says, “Come here, baby. You’ll survive.” And survival is all I can hope for, because I’m about to be put through the most horrific experience that any dog can imagine. This is the stuff of nightmares, truly.

I struggle as she carries me into the bathroom. I’m determined to make this as difficult for her as I possibly can. As Dog is my witness, I won’t go down without a fight! She takes off my collar, as if to disown me.

The first thing she does is clip my nails. Now how am I supposed to get the proper traction when I kick her in the ribs while she tries to sleep? And the whole time she’s chopping off parts of my body and they’re flying everywhere, willy nilly, she’s muttering, “I swear to God, I’m never going to own a dog with black nails again.” As if that’s my fault! I make sure to let out at least one scream during the process, to unsettle her. That way she cuts less of me off. “See? That wasn’t so bad, you doofus.” She says. Notice that I have not called her a single name. Not one! I take the high road.

Next, she squirts ear cleaner in my ears, and everything suddenly sounds as if I’m at the bottom of the ocean. She does it to disorient me, I’m sure. But the joke’s on her. I shake it right back out! Now it’s all over her. Score one for me!

Not to be outdone, though, she turns on the water torture device and gets me soaking wet. Ugh! Not fair! Not fair! I just got myself smelling the way I wanted! It’s a rare treat to be able to roll in dead squirrel, so whenever the opportunity arises, I take advantage of it! Come to think of it, that always seems to happen on Puppy Spa Day. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Then she covers me in flower smelling sudsy stuff. Horrible! But… Well, okay, secretly I’m digging the warm water and the full body massage. But I’ll never tell her that!

And you know what’s really twisted? The whole time she’s inflicting these cruelties, she’s usually singing. And it tends to be something inane like, “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” As if to tell me I can be replaced.

The next thing you know, she’s saying, “Rinse cycle!” and she’s hosing me down again! Oh, the humanity!

And now for the moment of truth. As if gazing at the chimney smoke when they’re electing a pope, we both look at the water runoff with anticipation. If it’s black she washes me again, and the whole time she’s saying, “What is it with you? I never have to wash Blue twice!” She mocks me.

Then she’s giving me another full body massage with a towel, but I can’t relax enough to enjoy it. My eye is on the door. Finally she opens it, and I bolt through it and throw myself, weeping, into my brother’s arms.

We both vow not to speak to her ever again. This is the ultimate betrayal. It is not to be borne!

And then what does she do? She feeds us, and then she brushes our teeth with that yummy poultry flavored paste that she once accidentally used herself. Everyone has their price, and that is ours.

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Help me.

Holy Screamin’ Cats! I’m Trending!!!

I dedicate this blog entry to Natasha and Richard Dunn, for their tolerance of my silliness. Thank you.

The other day I wrote this blog entry called The Shortest Romance in the History of the World, a tongue-in-cheek description of how I saw Richard Dunn, this total stranger, on a viral video and fell madly in love, only to discover he was married. Drat.

I didn’t really think much of it. It was just one of my daily musings, and a great way to poke fun at myself and entertain the 45 viewers I usually get on an average day. The truth is, my focus is usually about 5 days ahead on this blog, so even though you hadn’t gotten a chance to see it yet, I’d long since glued my broken heart back together and moved on.

So imagine my shock when I woke up the next morning, checked my statistics page, and discovered I’d had 390 views, and it wasn’t yet 9 a.m. Uh… what was going on? It said that these viewers were coming straight to me from Facebook, but I had no idea who posted a link to my blog or why. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

As I sat there scratching my head, I saw the statistics jump to 420. Seriously? I mean, it was a funny entry, but not that spectacular, surely. But still, what a rush.

Then I noticed that Mr. Dunn’s wife actually posted a really nice comment. I was very gratified by that, but I also wanted to crawl under the nearest rock. To be clear, I don’t know Richard Dunn. I’ve never met the man, and the love I felt lasted all of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, the length of the video. It sounds as if their marriage is happy and healthy, and I’m quite happy for them.

An hour later, the count was at 480, and California was only just waking up. Suddenly I sort of felt like I was being watched. Oh, God, do people think I’m a crazy stalker? Was my blog entry posted on some “Watch out for Bat Shit Crazies” Facebook page? That certainly wasn’t my intent. It’s always a strange feeling when I’m reminded that I’m not the one in the driver’s seat of this blog-mobile.

Just so you know, I can distinguish reality from fantasy. Really, I can. There are a million things I don’t know about Mr. Dunn, and any number of them could be even bigger deal breakers than that pesky marriage thing. (Joking, Natasha! Joking!) He could be a chain smoker. He could be shorter than I am. (Yeah, I’m that shallow.) He could suffer from chronic halitosis or be a hoarder. He could be a fundamentalist Christian, a climate change denier, a racist, or worse yet, a Republican. Gasp! He might leave socks scattered about and keep losing the top off the toothpaste. He might like to call waitresses honey or be into wearing women’s clothing, for all I know. I’m not saying that any of this is the case. I’m merely trying to illustrate that the Richard Dunn in my head is probably nothing like the real person.

But lest the Dunns fear that I’m some utter nutcase, I refer them to two other blog entries of mine. The first, For the Love of Puberty, is all about the crush I had on Shaun Cassidy when I was 13. The second, Kiss Me, Russell Brand, is about my attraction to that celebrity.

Okay, in retrospect, reading those two blog entries will probably make me seem even crazier. But I respectfully submit Shaun Cassidy and Russell Brand as my character references. If you ask them, both will be able to confirm that I have never, not once, left boiling bunnies on their kitchen stoves a la the movie Fatal Attraction. I actually like bunnies, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the views of my Richard Dunn blog entry peaked at 735 that day, which made it the most viewed day in the history of this blog. I cannot imagine what it would take to top that. Trust me when I say that no one would want to see naked pictures of me.

The furor has since died down. Sigh. Fame is so fleeting. But never fear. That swelling you may have observed in my head is bound to recede any day now.

But Richard, if you have any single brothers, I wouldn’t be opposed to… Oh, shut up, Barb. Quit while you’re ahead.

Babe Scott

[Image credit: babescott.com]

Note to Self

I was thinking today about all the really good advice/ideas/concepts that I, myself, have ignored in my lifetime. I really ought to write them on little post it notes and stick them up all over my house and review them daily. But that’s another idea that I won’t follow through on.

So without further ado, here are some pearls of wisdom that I’ve cast away at least once in my life.

  • If the little voice inside your head is saying, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it…” Seriously? Don’t.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, then don’t bring the entire bag of cookies into the TV room with you.
  • There’s really nothing you should say to a police officer other than, “Yes, officer.”
  • If your dog is doing the pee pee dance on your landlady’s carpet, you really need to drop everything and take him for a walk. None of this, “Just give me a minute” stuff. Dogs have their own timetable.
  • If you break up with a guy once, there’s no point in second chances. You’ll only break up with him again sooner or later.
  • If every single solitary person you know tells you that something is a bad idea, oh yeah, it’s a bad idea.
  • Take a picture of your butt when you’re 19, because someday you will miss it.
  • If everyone you know tells you that they don’t like a friend of yours, sooner or later you’re going to discover that the person in question is not a friend of yours.
  • It will never hurt you to actually obey the speed limit.
  • There are, in fact, quite a few situations where it doesn’t pay to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
  • Just get it over with.
  • Never forget that things could always be a whole lot worse.
  • Your dogs will always be better judges of character than you will.
  • If you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy, I hope you brought a really good book with you.
  • It’s a rare occasion when you leave a bar feeling better about yourself.
  • Actually, it is better to hurt someone else’s feelings if it means you’ll stop torturing yourself.
  • Time outs shouldn’t be just for children.
  • If you spent as much time washing your dishes as you do feeling guilty about not washing your dishes, you’d have no dirty dishes.
  • If you have a boss that likes to throw you under the bus, don’t wait until tomorrow to start job hunting.
  • If you’re tempted to say, “You know what your problem is?” Stop right there. It never ends well.
  • There will never be a better time to make love than right this minute.

And on that note, I’ve got to go. 🙂

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Stuff Like This Only Happens to Me

So, a few years ago I had to go in for a colonoscopy. Mm hmm. Great fun. But while I’m in there, I’m having quality time with the prep nurse and she says to me, “Are you single?”

“Uh… yeah. Sort of. Why do you ask?”

“Well, the doctor is single, and he’s a really nice guy. You should ask him out for coffee after.”

Coffee with a doctor. My mother would be so proud.

Just then, the doctor walks in, and I’m in one of those attractive hospital gowns and my feet are already up in the stirrups. We shake hands. He then starts asking me about the quality of my bowel movements. I’m thinking, yes, he’s nice looking, but this isn’t one of those bonding moments.

Then he starts with the procedure and it’s so excruciatingly painful I nearly bend the steel bars on the side of the bed. He’s looking at the camera screen, clearly fascinated, a man who obviously loves his job, and he says to me, “You really ought to see this.”

Breathe. Just breathe. “Well… no. (Grunt.) No thank you. I’d rather not.”

Finally an eternity passes and the procedure is finished and he lectures me on the importance of eating roughage, and I get dressed and leave. The nurse looks at me with her brow furrowed, wondering why I am not swooping in and grabbing this good catch while I can.

What can I say? Somehow I just wasn’t in the mood for coffee. After you’ve shared certain experiences with someone, try as you might you can never put them in the romance zone.

Ouch

Mommy, Mommy Jokes

When I was young, Mommy Mommy jokes were all the rage. And while they were funny, I also found them rather disturbing because they were my first inkling that perhaps not all parents were thrilled with being parents. (I was lucky in that my mother never gave me that impression firsthand.) These jokes were also my first real insight that the balance of power between parent and child is extremely skewed.

I hadn’t thought about these jokes in decades, so imagine my delight in discovering that there are several websites dedicated to them. I was kind of shocked to find out that a lot of these jokes are more sick and twisted than any of the ones that were shared with me in my youth, but I’m not opposed to the sick and twisted. Ask anybody.

Having said that, here are some of my favorites from my youth from the sites in question.

  • “Mommy, Mommy! Daddy’s on fire!” “Shut up and get the marshmallows!”
  • “Mommy, Mommy! What’s in those CARE packages they send to Africa?” “Shut up and get back in the box!”
  • “Mommy, Mommy! I don’t want to go to Australia.” “Shut up, son, and keep swimming.”
  • “Mommy, Mommy! Why are we pushing the car off the cliff?” “Shut up, son, you’ll wake your father.”
  • “Mommy, Mommy! I don’t want to see Niagara Falls!” “Shut up and get back in the barrel!”

And this one I most definitely did NOT hear when I was young, but it makes me laugh regardless.

  • “Mommy, Mommy! What’s an orgasm?” “I don’t know, dear. Ask your father.”

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