I’m beginning to think my parents had all us kids so they had a bigger group when they were shaming one of us. I’m not good with confrontation; When I was a kid I froze and it was debilitating. Even though I’ve suffered through this ( I’m sure I’m not the only one, being put on the spot in front of a group? Maybe it’s the degree of paralysis, that I’m effected by.) The point I’m trying to make is, this paralysis is an absolute gold mine. It’s a secret and I’ve come to realize that secrets are like found treasure, like pictures that we never knew we had? They tell so much about us. And they’re a gold mine for humor. They’re my secrets so I get to share them. If someone else isn’t at a place where they’re not comfortable peeking behind their curtain; try using your humor as a flashlight.
My challenge is I love writing and Stand Up and craft and through this process I’ve found, I can lose myself like the forest through the trees. If I was to look at shaming as my kryptonite I’d first look for the stories from my life that had these examples and then I’d search for the secrets, the things I’d be afraid to share. My elephants in the room.
So, I look through my life and scour for these moments. They’re not hard to find.Remember how parents made us sit at the table for supper? Mine did it so they could shout stuff about kids starving in China, how hard dad had to work to buy spam and get our #!!*# elbows off the table. It wasn’t supper; it was a shaming circle. I don’t know why I’m so paralyzed when I’m shamed. Maybe because the guy who did most of the shaming played the polka for a living, and as a kid it’s hard to throw that in his face, you know since he was the guy putting spam on the table.
Once, I was working this day job back in the day; there was about ten of us crowded into this construction shack, having a break. I was sitting next to the window and Ron, the senior guy, asked me to close the window. I slam it closed and unbeknownst to me, someone had put a bunch of creamers in the windowsill, so when I slammed the window closed, I took half a cup of half and half in the face. The shack erupts in stupid, over the top laughter. I thought Ron was going to have a heart attack, he was laughing so hard. But, I think being paralyzed by shame attracts more shame. There’s also this self defense mechanism that kicks in and sees everything like an attack and that’s not good. Not taking everything seriously kills the shame. It’s also liberating.
Ron was a chain smoker and had a bad heart and had a bypass. He was always taking these nitrogen pills. So, one day I get one of these hand buzzers and wind it up and shake Ron’s hand in a crowded street. (why the hell would I do that?) The buzzer goes off in Ron’s hand and his eyes bug out, he grabs his heart and falls to his knees on the sidewalk then lands on his face. I scream, “OH MY GOD!!!” Ron gets up and starts howling. So I’m the brunt of my own joke. But Ron would always say I was the funniest guy he had ever been around. I’m sure we’ve been all told that at one point in our lives. But, as I’ve examined some moments with my buddy Ron, I’m trying to see what it is that makes us funny.
It’s been moments like this, being laughed at and not with, that I’ve been afraid to share. I’ve always felt though, that these were the exact moments we have to share because in all things humor, in the end, we’re not just looking for the punchline; we’re looking for ourselves. Shaming and bullying and how we react to it, tells us how close or far away we are to the reasons we’re so paralyzed when put on the spot. Keep looking for yourself in these moments and you’ll also find the treasure.
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