Monday, August 29, 2011

Because You're Ugly

So when I married into Brent's family I was all kinds of happy, they seemed like nice people and they welcomed me in and jeepers, how bad could they be when they raised this near perfect son I was about to throw away my youth on marry?  But they had this horrifying flaw that threw me for a loop ALL the time: they joked about EVERYTHING.  Nothing was serious, you never knew exactly where you stood or what they were really thinking behind all that poking fun, and every occasion was grounds for roasting everyone else.
Where I grew up, you always explained the punchline and you always doubled back on a joke at someone else's expense.  You wouldn't want someone to think that you were SERIOUS when you said because I hate your guts when they asked why you weren't passing the salt.
Where Brent grew up, explaining punchlines and doubling back were cardinal sins.
You can see how this could create some discomfort.
There were people who, at our wedding, had speeches prepared which were honest and heartfelt and serious, and didn't share those speeches because the tone of the entire reception was so filled with humour that it just didn't feel cool to break the rhythm and get all serious on us....
[And afterwards I was a bit like, it was fun and all and we sure laughed a lot but nobody said anything NICE about us....which is hilarious from this perspective because I understand the Vose humour so much better now: nothing says unconditional love and acceptance like a good, solid joke at your expense when it comes to the Voses]

I mean, this is a family where people have been sending other people postcards from around the world in different languages for thirty years and nobody knows who they are from or how they are managing to make this happen, and in which my mother in law last year recieved an anonymous gift in the mail which contained the most bejewelled but floss thong I have ever seen in my life, and nobody owned up. Because nobody would: THIS IS A CARDINAL SIN.

I also have worked in a very male work environment for almost ten years, and even though there are now 50% women graduating from paramedic school, all us women who feed into the ambulance service are quickly immersed and versed in How To Keep Our Man Pants On: ie, if you're not a man you damn well better act like one but not in any way like a dyke and for GOD'S SAKE DON'T FUCKING CRY. I'm quite comfortable immersed in that environment, sensitive though I may be, because really, what you see is what you get with men and boys and its just so. much. simpler.  Men, however, have similar views of humour as the Vose Family: EVERYTHING IS FODDER FOR JOKES and NEVER DOUBLE BACK.

My mom grew up in an almost all female family, maybe that's where the double back tell the punchline style of humour came from: don't get me wrong, the Smiths and the Resides laugh ALL the time and are hysterical~one of the reasons Brent and I get along so well despite both being oldest children is because we have solid senses of humour that we learned from both sets of parents.  The Smiths are really good at that dry humour that slaps you in the back of the head and mocks people something fierce, and the Resides are schooled in self deprication and ridiculously good memory recall for historical family events or individual weaknesses.  But there are limits, and you always pat each other on the back at the end of the day to make sure everyone knows you still love them and think they're wonderful.

Resides: back pat.
Voses: no back pat.
Smiths: if you're the subject of the joke you're not in the room, so back patting isn't necessary.
Work environment: show emotional weakness at your own risk.

All of this factored into last week when my mom posted something on facebook to the extend of: Why Is No One Commenting On This Photo Of Me [I can't actually remember what it said]?  To which I replied:
Because you're ugly.

When I wrote it I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes, because it was so utterly funny and so obviously the opposite of true or acceptable that it had to be obvious I was joking, right?

But then I got the facebook silent treatment and my Aunt Lynne was all
You're not letting Melissa get away with that, are you?!!!
And my mom was all
And today she was like,
Melissa you can't say that to another woman.

OOPS!  At first I thought, well what, did you think I was SERIOUS?!!  And then I realized I hadn't gone BACK and said WAITAMINNIT, FB SILENT TREATMENT, YOU KNOW I WAS JOKING RIGHT?!  When I didn't get jibed back.  This is totally something I would say to my mom's face and expect to get smacked across the shoulder for, and snicker and be done with, but I forgot to make sure she smacked me across the shoulder on cyberspace.

Fortunately she wasn't actually mad.  But it reminded me of how ten years of immersion in male work culture and nine years immersion in Vose family humour (not to mention eight years of little boy poop smack fart you're ugly humour in MY OWN HOUSEHOLD) have changed how I joke around, and how I should pay a little more attention to remembering to do it Reside style when I'm poking fun at my mom.
I think, in fact, that it is the little boys in my own household who have changed my sense of humour the most.  Living with four males (five if you count the dog, who farts like a man) just makes you grow tougher skin, until finally you're a crocodile with steel leather for skin and a propensity for dishing it out Like A Man.

Sorry, mom.  I'll watch my potty mouth a bit closer from here on in.

See?  My mom's a very pretty woman:

Oops, I meant to post this picture:


Rob-o-SE-yo said...

love the ending.

nancy said...

Melissa, you are SO bad! I will get you back for that 1st pic...when you least expect it. Did not know this about Vose humour!
You are forgiven and I love you to bits:)

melissa said...


Tonya said...

Ahhh, Melissa. So sorry you've had to experience the Vose humor as an adult and learn how to grow into it. I grew up with it and still don't like it. Does that help? Many years ago, my brother had written "uglies birthday" or something like that on MY birthday. I didn't take it well, his wife, also a Vose-in-law, made him call and apologize to me. Which was actually worse than what he wrote! SO stinking uncomfortable!!! I think all the humor is just a way of liking someone without ever having to say it and be emotional. I don't know. We Voses are seriously messed up! :-) Love the pictures of your mom - she obviously has a wonderful sense of humor!

Caryn Ouwehand said...

When I married Dan I knew our families joked differently... but never was this more apparent than when his mother passed away. Those Ouwehands TOTALLY dealt with their greif with occational humour.... something that took some getting used to for me. But after a few days of being immersed in it, I made total sense, laugh until you cry, and then cry until you laugh. It was the best form of greiving I had ever seen. Much better (and healthier) than the "never joke about funerals, death, dying" ideas I had been brought up with.

Tamie said...

Love the ending too.

I get what you're saying, too. Man, this summer on Bear Island is ruining me! I'm going to get back to civilization and alienate everyone I know, because here EVERYTHING is fodder for jokes. I mean, there is absolutely nothing sacred. Which I love. But dang. It's not something everyone on earth is down with.


nancy said...

My picture caption was "why does everyone cry when I kiss them" below a pic of Birch screaming while I kissed her. I realize I was leaving myself wide open with that one...

Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

Hahaha! I love this. My family is all jokesters too, each of us in a kind of different way, but each of us jokesters nonetheless. Whenever joking is involved, yeah, it's important to not be easily offended, because heck, that ruins the joke!

Love the photo of your mom. That is totally rockin'! Hahahaha!