Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Don?t expect a laugh a minute


Betty Bell

December's only a bad night's sleep away. It's time to get ready, a realization that came to me this morning as I brushed my teeth and caught a glimpse of my puss in the mirror. Whuh ... what a sourpuss. But I could be excused—I was still emerging from a state of unwell, was still coughing a vicious cold into the dispersing mists that would see to its survival. Colds-R-Us, you know.

December and its Big C is fraught with challenges, all encompassing challenges, and it probably comes as no surprise to learn December is dead last for laughs. Even April and its taxes is jollier. So somewhere in our innards the funny bone gone dormant needs to be jolted. Everyone knows that a good laugh does more for your health than mega-vitamins, and with so many challenges ahead there's no time for a state of unwell.

I'd reached maturity, close to 75, before I took a hard look at December. Pre-maturity I was an exemplary pilgrim. I was Chamber of Commerce enthusiastic about The Christmas Joy Club and wholly aware of the dire consequences to the Dow, to our very economy, should the Christmas Joy Club fail. Even so, right after the turkey leftovers were turned into soup, the puss in the mirror always turned dour. It didn't help to urge the puss to get with it and sign on to the jolly season, but I could never completely squish the wee foreboding lying just below the surface, a foreboding it took many Big Cs before I found its name—"impossible expectations," the i.e.'s. Prior to advanced maturity I'd cling to the hopeless hope that this would be the Christmas of perfect gifts, gifts that would be transformed into the pieces of my heart I longed for them to be.

Well, if you're caught up in i.e.'s there's not a Las Vegas chance you can come up with the hearty-har laughs you need. You can't find a trace of the stellar laughs that used to find the perfect setting in the laugh-forbidden place—in church—laughs that started with those mighty belly upheavals and then exploded up through every cranny in your ribs before busting out the front door into your frantically cupped hands.

The thing about a December laugh, should you hear one, is that almost always it's a mouth laugh—an insipid thing that marbles around in there and never goes anywhere but the back of your throat and has no more clout than "have a nice day." Not that all beneficial laughter starts in the belly. There are the delightful short bursts at simple everyday things, and there's the quiet laughter nurtured by lifetimes shared that do more for you than could all the mega-vitamins in the world.

But let's face it—the Big C has that Siamese twin, the i.e.'s. And don't tell me it's not that way with you, that for you it's all hearty-har from now to New Year's Eve. Fat chance.

Sure, I know there's such a thing as exquisite Christmas joy—if kids are in the mix. It's like the sun has just hit your shoulder Christmas morning when you watch your kids' eyes get bigger and bigger.

I don't doubt there are pilgrims for whom the i.e.'s have yet to get a lethal hold. But trust me, sooner or later they will, and then, just when your need for a belly laugh is most dire, it's tough to find one. However, just coming to the realization that Christmas and i.e.'s are joined at the hip is a start toward coping, a clue that it's time to get to work on belting out uncouth laughs and then hoping they'll spread like colds.

If you're lucky, you'll come across a belly-laugh book as I have, "I Feel Bad About My Neck," by Nora Ephron—Nora Ephron sounds a lot like "norepinephrine," medicinal, too, but not for laughs.

The neck book has 13 short chapters that I'm trying to space out so I finish on Christmas Eve. One drawback to the neck book needs to be mentioned. It's only for the gentler gender. The tenured gender has to look elsewhere for hearty-hars. I can't think of a single tenured who could muster even a mouth laugh in the chapter about purses, and that one's a side-splitter for gentlers.

But, hey, we're all in this together. That's what matters. Good coping to us one and all!

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