Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mean Humour.

Mr. SponsorPants has written a post
today about a lost friend of his, which brought memories of my first husband rushing back. He too, was screamingly funny in that same cutting way, and until I joined Al-Anon, I thought him brilliantly witty. He could keep a roomful of people in hysterics for hours on end with his humour, although as the evening progressed, he became meaner and meaner. (When he went out to bars to drink, he got pounded on a lot. He'd come staggering in, broken glasses in his hand, face battered and bruised and swelling, lip split, shirt torn, and if I was foolish enough to ask what happened, the reply was always the same: "Oh, I made a joke to the wrong person.")

The longer I was in Al-Anon, the more his humour caused me to cringe in empathy with the object of his slashing wit. When I left that marriage, I promised myself that I wasn't going to sit in silence when faced with that kind of humour in future; I was going to speak up, even when doing so makes my face flame in embarassment, even when I have to force the words out. I have reached a place in my life where that sort of humour will cause me to raise one hand, palm out, and say politely, "I don't want to hear it."

Because I truly don't want to hear it. It's not funny to me anymore, it's just mean. Mean humour requires that we be willing to listen to unkindness to, or about, another person, and validate that unkindness with our laughter. I can't do it - 12 Step has thoroughly ruined that form of entertainment for me.

I understand that this sort of humour is often motivated by rage and pain, but past a certain point, that's just an excuse.

As a closing thought, I offer something my grandfather used to say:
"If they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you.


  1. I am working on this one. Even silence, imho, is compliance and I don't want to be that person who silently listens to offensive humor. It is hard for me as I grew up learning to avoid making waves or being noticed. Small steps....


  2. I hate mean humor. I was married to it for over 20 years... I don't miss it one bit.

  3. I'm not into mean humor at all. I don't find sarcasm good either. I like straight forward talk without vagueness and meanness.