You can’t exactly remember when it first happened. Partly, because it feels like it’s always been this way. Your humor masquerading as anything other than what it really is: a coping mechanism.
You compare it to eating food — one of the very first things you learned to do. Your toddler fingers became more adept at picking up tiny Cheerios. With more dexterity, you practiced holding a fork. Decided you had a taste for artichoke hearts but gagged on cow’s milk. It all became routine, something so basic you couldn’t pinpoint when.
There are some memories that we just can’t access. Everything just begins to blend.
“Have you always been the funny one?”
This question makes you uncomfortable and you don’t know why. Maybe it’s because being funny isn’t universal and you remember that one dreadfully awkward date when you kept explaining each joke you made, watching his completely blank face stay…totally blank.
You think of your Mom jumping in at dinner parties, “She was born the entertainer. She got kicked out of ballet class because she wouldn’t stop clowning off. Instead of doing first position, she’d walk around like a duck until all the other little girls were laughing and ignoring the instructor.”
You laugh along. Because as long as people are laughing, it’s fine. You can deliver vulnerable truths, just coat them with a lightheartedness.
So you make yourself the joke. You join in. Because if you do it first, it’s more palatable. It doesn’t sting as much going down. You want to direct the laughter, not be the thing to point at. You’ll text your friend a gif of Chandler shouting “I’m hopeless and awkward and desperate for love!” followed by a casual: “lol, me.”
Your friend makes a joke about someone who almost destroyed you once. But they don’t know how much this joke hurts. That it’s so riddled with truth, it makes your stomach turn sour. You taste bile trickling back up your throat. So you make a much bigger joke. Turn yourself into a walking, talking character. Sitcom yourself up and wait for the applause. It’s easier that way.
On the days you can’t get out of bed, when being funny isn’t much of an option, you pop in your DVD of Singin’ In The Rain and wish you could feel what Gene Kelly feels. You want a downpour and to swing along light poles, high on your own euphoria. But instead, you stay in bed. You pull the blankets around you so not a corner of you is untouched. You recite the dialogue: Make ’em laugh. Make ’em laugh.
See, your humor was never just fluff and giggling kindergarten kids who watched you impersonate the teacher when she wasn’t looking. It wasn’t a story to tell your family, or just a lovable quirk. The funny one. The one searching for spotlight. The thing about the spotlight? You still see a lot of darkness.
In fact, if you look out into the crowd, that’s all you see.
Your humor was a shield of armor. Nobody could touch you with it. Or so, you thought. But we think a lot of wrong things, us humans. We’re often so, so wrong.
You realize silliness and sadness can coexist. You want to tell people it’s okay.