On average, babies start laughing between 2 months and 6 months of age. You've been able to laugh for the overwhelming majority of your life. But can you laugh?
Much of humour is funny at someone's expense. We watch comedies on tv and laugh at all sorts of things ranging from witty insults to women walking into important meetings with their shirts tucked into their bras. We laugh partly because it's funny.
And partly because it's not us.
Two fairly funny (=embarrasing) things happened to me in the last few days.
Firstly, at the PTA drinking party on Sunday:
Japanese is my 5th language. So while I can understand English or French or Spanish even when I'm not paying attention to what's going on, that's a lot harder in Japanese.
Last Sunday night, I was sitting at a table, totally day-dreaming as they went through the programme. We'd already done the kanpai (Cheers!) and so I had a plate full of Sweet and Sour pork, yakisoba, sushi, and karage (fried chicken). I was a happy camper.
And then I heard the word "Sensei" and saw other teachers going up to the front. I walked with them. The Vice Principal shouts, "Claire, iranai!" (Literally, Claire we don't need you) which sounds rude in English, but isn't rude in Japanese.
I was mortified. They were introducing the new teachers, which I might have known had I been listening. I spent the rest of my night being embarrassed. It didn't stop me from chitchatting or enjoying myself- there was fried chicken (I know I'm such a stereotype) and sake, how was I not supposed to have fun?- but it stayed in the back of my mind.
Fast-forward to Tuesday:
I was running a few seconds late for class. The teacher I team-teach with was already in the classroom. I stepped through the back door and the bell started to ring, so I ran to the front of the classroom. Bad idea. Japanese school floors are waxed to within an inch of their lives. And I was wearing my Uglies.
I love Crocs and wannabe Crocs, but I really bought these for the brand name!
Let's just say if the Yankees needed me to slide home, they would have won the pennant. The way I slid-tackled the board/wall, you might have thought I played football! (The real football. Not of that throwing sport in the USA that has about 1% to do with your foot.)
At first I couldn't even stand up. It's not that I was hurt. I was just laughing too hard. The kids were all laughing too. The teacher looked a little worried. I managed to sputter out the word "okay" in between bawling hysterics.
I giggled all the way through the rest of class. (Maybe I shouldn't laugh at myself. Once I get started, I'm a basket-case.) Even as I write this I'm shaking with held-in laughter.
But when I think about it, the fall was probably just as mortifying as the listening error. Probably more. Why could I laugh at one and not the other? Is it because I pride myself on being a linguist? Is it because I don't have much faith in my motor skills on a good day? Because one was in front of parents and the other in front of kids?
I have no idea. But I do know this. There is enough to stress over without us looking for more. So whether you accidentally say "Vancouver, Cannibal" or attempt to step over a fence picket and get it caught up your school uniform, or clothesline yourself between a stop light and shop window with your own hockey stick, LAUGH.
Because all the bad stuff? And embarrasing stuff? And ridiculous things you kind of wish you didn't do? They're easier to deal with when they're funny.
Can you laugh?
(In case you wonder, I have said, "Vancouver, Cannibal" (on a submarine tour to besides!) and got a fence picket stuck up my skirt and clotheslined myself with my hockey stick. I am the intersection of daydreaming at all the wrong times, making bad decisions and enough physical coordination to fit on the left big toe nail of a flea.)