Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yawn: Me Talking More about Aging

Another posting about aging (it's on my mind as the month in which Steve and I met 40 years ago approaches):

I seem, throughout my life, but more frequently as I get older, to have a strange talent for saying things in all seriousness that others find hilarious.  After my observations elicit a laugh, I do see the humor in them.

But I don't make these statements to be funny.  I make them because I imagine I'm telling the truth!  Or observing how things are.

I remember when I presented a paper to the annual Yoknapatawpha Conference in 1989, I nervously led into the reading of the paper with a comment about how I have no talent for writing fiction, since I can get my characters (very Southern ones modeled on my family) to talk, but can't get them to do anything.  What I meant was that I have trouble with plot, but not dialogue.

The mostly Southern crowd took this as an observation, though, about the laziness of Southerners, and roared with laughter.  And then I saw why my comment was funny, and realized I had quite out of the blue scored a little hit with the audience, warming them up a bit for my tedious paper and calming my nerves a bit, too.

And then there's this: yesterday, Steve and I are doing our Tuesday grocery shopping.  Senior citizens' discount day at some of the local grocery stores, you understand . . . .  

Walking out of a store, I trip and almost fall.  I can trip and fall walking across a flat surface.

A lady (also evidently shopping to get her senior discount) coming out behind me commiserates, and we strike up a conversation.  She tells me about a bad fall she took last year, breaking a leg.  I sympathize.

And then I say, "It doesn't help, either, that I'm getting old.  Why, I can't even fall gracefully any longer."

And she bursts into laughter and says, "That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time."

But I meant what I sad in all seriousness.  And I only saw the humor in the remark after she began to laugh.

I probably once knew the word for this affliction of being inadvertently funny when one is in dead earnest.  If I did ever know such a word, though, it has long since flown out of my old head.

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