One of my characters in my novel does. She is a smart cookie, has a facility with worlds and clever quips, can turn most everything into a comedy sketch. But the truth is that she is sad about some things in her life. She speaks on the phone with a therapist every Monday night while she takes a bubble bath and drinks a tiny bottle of champagne through a straw. During one of these sessions, her therapist suggested that she was using wit to distance herself from her own life and her own pain. Understandably, she did not love hearing this. Still, she imagined he was hitting on something important.
Writing this scene early this morning, I realized that I do this on occasion. When I find myself anxious about something - my writing, my mothering, my ability to juggle - I tend toward self-deprecation. I make jokes. I mock myself. But I wonder if I am in fact doing what my character does, I wonder if I'm forcing a distance between myself and some piece of truth.
My hunch is that many of us do this. That many of us go the funny route when there are less-than-funny things going on in our heads and in our hearts. I think humor can be a wonderful ice-breaker/crutch/distraction when life gets to be a bit too much. I have a profound respect for really funny people. I am not advocating that we do away with humor full-stop, that we try to eradicate it from our days. What would the world be without laughter? Not nearly as wonderful.
But. But I wonder what happens when we rely to heavily on humor to pad us from our own pain? What happens to that pain? Does it go away or does it just stay there and build? What happens when we are overcome by our own sarcasm, when it becomes caustic? Sarcaustic? I don't pretend to have the answers to these questions but they do interest me.
As an aside, I am amazed at how cooking up a fictional world can shed such revealing light on the real one. I am here, at this coffee shop, asking these questions because of a character who doesn't even exist.
Or maybe she does?
Do you ever hide behind humor or other do other things to distance yourself from the harder things in life? Do you ever find yourself thinking more deeply about self and life because of your writing? Who is your favorite funny person? (I vote Tina Fey!)