Friday, 24 September 2010

And we laughed and laughed


The other night at school pick-up, a knot of mothers were idly chatting when I threw the conversational grenade of Eat Pray Love in the mix. Strangely enough, (at least to me), I was the only woman in the group who had read this culture-dominating memoir. But as I explained the concept – a kind of self-seeking journey, not to mention sabbatical from one’s established life – all of the women started chatting excitedly. One woman, in particular, recounted a solo trip from the previous year when she was “no one’s mother, wife, daughter or employee.” She then reeled off a list of qualities that seemed to surface when she was liberated from her usual roles and responsibilities. “I was WITTY,” she emphasized – all dramatic big eyes and self-deprecating laugh.

It stuck in my mind, maybe because the one overriding memory from my Blog-camping weekend in Berlin is the laughter, the constant laughter. It was the kind of bodily laughter that inhibits speech and makes your sides ache. I don’t know if a lot of wit was involved, at least on my part, but certainly I was silly, irreverent and raunchy – qualities that don’t get a lot of play in my “normal” life.

Is laughter what happens when you take six intelligent women and liberate them from the responsibility of feeding people three times a day? Was it glorious alchemy, or just the heady oxygen of having more space to breathe freely? I’d like to think it was more than the shot of ouzo that Julochka coerced me into imbibing after I had already, ahem, had enough. “What are you going to remember?” is her motto.

As autumn descends like one great gray wet blanket, I’ve been musing on why there is too little laughter in my daily routine. What is there about normal life that smothers it?




47 comments:

Jelica said...

I've had similar thoughts on my mind in the last few days. I've been away from my 'normal' life and duties for almost two months but it was a time full of laughter, discovery and curiosity. I wonder if I will be able to keep that spirit even as 'normality' resumes...

C.M. Jackson said...

great post and question--perhaps it is the routine that makes us so serious --I am schedule laughter from now on!! have a great weekend!

The Bug said...

Well, to start with I think we need some of those tights! How can you take life too seriously when you're wearing those?

I try to read blogs that are there purely for my entertainment - to make me laugh. And I read a lot of comics each day :) Of course, there are those who might say that I could stand to be a little MORE serious.

ArtSparker said...

There is less expectation and habit in friendship sometimes...then one realizes it is all a gift?

Polly said...

the more I read about this blog camp the more gutted I am that I missed it. it sounds absolutely amazing. I haven't had a good laugh for such a long time... and I think that a good laugh is definitely about alchemy and friendship, but I don't think it's got to be limited to out of ordinary, 'normal' life can be hilarious

have a lovely weekend

Lucille said...

Repetitive routines and fixed roles and expectations smother a lot of laughs. Throw the routine, give yourself a break from hardwired roles and you regain something of your youthful joie de vivre. Somehow the company of women can short cut you to that happy place (sometimes even in spite of grim realities). Props like stripy tights probably help.

Dumdad said...

Laughter is the best medicine, they say.

Of course, the daily grind of work and/or housework/looking after kids etc is tiring and not a lot of laughs. So it's good to be freed of that every now and then.

My wife gets together with some girlfriends now and then and goes to a resto to eat and drink and laugh (and to get away from me!)

kristina - no penny for them said...

every time i think about that weekend, i just have to smile or laugh!

i don't think i can really put my finger on it, but could it have to do with feeling no 'responsibility'? feeling carefree and with friends who you can be silly with always does it for me. i need these kind of breaks every now and again.

talking of which, a friend of mine who's over from london this w/e just texted me, saying we should meet earlier so we can see 'strictly come dancing' on BBC world and have some wine and cheese. i feel a night of laughter coming on...

have a great weekend!

p.s.: love your photos, they look like film stills!

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pamela Terry and Edward said...

It's amazing how much thought goes into "feeding people three times a day", isn't it? I'm fortunate, I suppose, that my husband makes me laugh so much. Giggles and guffaws, we've always had them. But, I am going on a trip in February, alone with just girls...so we'll see what I become!! :)

The Clever Pup said...

Glad you had a good time. Your post is timely because I'm going to Paris on my own in 2 weeks but although unless I'm REALLY witty, I won't be laughing as much as you. Daunting.

Sounds like you had fun.

Elizabeth said...

Our dailygrind doesn't deliver this kind of fun and therefore we feel the need to blogcamp each time we get the opportunity.

Sarah Laurence said...

I actually think I laugh more around my family than with my friends. That’s one of the main reasons I married Henry, and our daughter can do the best Catherine Tate impersonation.

I’m reading E,P,L now for the first time and enjoying it. She is funny, but a bit irritating at times. I strive for humor in my writing, one of them most challenging things to do on paper without tone and facial expressions.

I’m going through a sad period so my daughter and I went to rent a bunch of romantic comedies. Laughter is the best medicine. Your post helped too.

Dragonfly said...

Laughing with my friends has gone a long, long way to helping me stay sane over the years. You really can't beat it!

Peggy said...

Do you know what, Bee? I hadn't really thought of the laughter piece... I'm blessed to have many people in my life who love to laugh, and I get to spend time with them regularly. Thank you so much for reminding me of a blessing I should always count twice! :-)

julochka said...

and how can we hold onto that goodness and that energy that blog camp brings? why is it so fleeting...will you please write about that, with an answer as well. :-)

spudballoo said...

Oh so jealous! I need a laugh. A proper laugh. And a chat. With people who won't judge me. And tights like Julie's. And to walk and read and talk and laugh and drink coffee and drink wine and eat and laugh.

I...need...a...blog...camp. xxxxx

Lisa said...

I love your phrasing. I really do.

I didn't realize it until I read this post, but one of the things I've done is stop focusing on the things that make me grind my teeth (politics) and I seek out things that are going to make me laugh. I've given myself permission to be silly, less serious.

I cannot imagine how I'd cope right now if I hadn't done that.

steven said...

well bee - i am the one who provides three meals a day in this home - gladly i'll add - and i laugh lots with or without the family around. however, i was out with my book club last night - only male in a group of women and i got asked if i was stoned - which i wasn't - but i was laughing enough and so lost in the sheer wonder of it all enough that they had to ask!!! enjoy life no matter what or why or where or how. steven

Beeswax said...

A phone call to a good friend, or a late night at book group keeps the laughter in my everyday. But a trip to Berlin might do the trick, too.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

It sounds like you had a glorious time, Bee. So glad you had a chance to break free and find a good laugh! xx

Dave King said...

You are so right. Everyone should have such times. At least, everyone who has the maturity to handle them! It's great to be someone else for a while.

slommler said...

Give me some cool tights and some Ozo and I will laugh and laugh. We all need those deep down belly laughs to survive!! How can we get beyond our "normal" routines and experience the freedom and spontaneity that you are talking about without sacrificing our "duties"? HA!! Such a tall order...seriously!!!
We have to make room for it...and practice more often.
Hugs
SueAnn

Star said...

Laughter is definitely the best medicine and getting together with friends is a great way to share the buzz. I love those stripey tights!
Blessings, Star

Linda said...

my dear, i don't have the answers but i sure hear your question...it is not the day for me to wonder as i am already wondering enough...and i don't feed anyone three times a day anymore...tho i miss them at times, those days, those kids, i know life moves forward, one grows older and hopefully wiser...but laughter seems gone missing in me and i have now begun the search as to exactly where it might be hiding as to bring it out again...good luck in finding yours...perhaps it is that deep gray sky overhead that threatens to stay? xx

elizabethm said...

I love laughing and do a lot of it here at home. My husband makes me laugh almost as much as I make him laugh. Sometimes this is even intentional on my part. But the laughter that makes me cry with laughing and almost wet myself always happens with women, sometimes my daughters, sometimes my sister or some of my long time friends. Suspect it is the same for men. Maybe laughter is a gender thing.

Nancy said...

Very good question. I could use more laughter in my life. I'm off to visit my girls on Monday - they usually amuse me, especially my youngest, who is totally irreverent. Maybe that's what so funny - being totally naughty.

herhimnbryn said...

Laughter. When you eally get down to it is odd. We all need to do it and various things can trigger it. We there is a lack, we notice it.


I read E.P.L.(and I may be a lone voice here) I disliked it. I then found another book that seemed more authentic. I think you may like it too Bee Lady..

'Tales of a female Nomad' by Rita Golden Gelman. A true wander this woman.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

Fabulous, thought-provoking post. I am very lucky in that there is a lot of laughter in our household - often black humour to get us through the slings and arrows. Also, like another commentor, I tend to avoid the news now, having always been an avid follower and ranter. But there is nothing quite like getting together with a bunch of women away from the normal day-to-day for experiencing belly-laughs and raunchy humour...

Dick said...

I'd venture that with anxiety as a default state whose omnipresence is such that we're barely conscious of its inhibiting activity within day-to-day activity, laughter gets stifled at source. It's only when circumstance alters context that it all comes roaring out. As with tears, there's an awful lot bottled up.

I'd add the associated reflection that I suspect that women together laugh more naturally and thus more readily than men. That booming, shouting sound that men produce around the pub bar is all-too-often an aggressive, competitive or defensive mechanism that has little to do with real mirth. I certainly find that, by and large, I laugh more liberatingly with women collectively than with groups of men.

andrea said...

oh what a pleasure reading and seeing how beautifull your weekend was .. I spent beatutiful days in denmark and really wanted to join this blogcamp meeting . but i couldnt innterupt my holidays .. may be next time in Hamburg .. hope so

Dick said...

ttI'd venture that with anxiety as a default state whose omnipresence is such that we're barely conscious of its inhibiting activity within day-to-day activity, laughter gets stifled at source. It's only when circumstance alters context that it all comes roaring out. As with tears, there's an awful lot bottled up.

I'd add the associated reflection that I suspect that women together laugh more naturally and thus more readily than men. That booming, shouting sound that men produce around the pub bar is all-too-often an aggressive, competitive or defensive mechanism that has little to do with real mirth. I certainly find that, by and large, I laugh more liberatingly with women collectively than with groups of men.

Dick said...

In case anyone's having a laugh at the unlikely verb formation 'ttl'd', try instead 'I'd'!

Bee said...

Thanks for these comments. SO OFTEN I think that the really interesting conversation only begins in the comments.

I've detected a few themes: stripey tights (surely proof of joie de vivre), the company of women, and the get-away from repetition, dullness and anxiety. Funny about the anxiety: after several nail-biting weeks, my husband was made redundant the day before I left Berlin. Although this was never far from my thoughts, I can't deny that it was liberating to get away from that constant state of tension. And perhaps the tension itself contributed to an explosive release of giddiness? Dick, I know that you weren't speaking of any specific anxiety; in general, I think there is enough free-floating anxiety around the place to put a damper on the more light-hearted stuff. Those whose humour tends to skew darkly must find themselves at an advantage in these times.

Bee said...

Dick - ttl'd is the inspired abbreviation for a cross between tittered and titillated!

Why does the company of women tend to be more laughter-inducing for you? This idea begs for one of your insightful blog posts.

Lucy said...

I've never been able to do loud squealy or whoopy girly laughs, wish I could but they just aren't me. I can giggle quite bit, and I chuckle fairly frequently. Also I've never been much of a one for girls-together type stuff, my interests don't always seem to gel, and I've always tended to be a bit too intense and earnest.

That has got better though; I have managed to grow a reasonable sense of humour, and I've got women friends now who I enjoy hanging out with, including on the premise of doing yoga together but sometimes the laughter takes over and we don't get much yoga done.

Actually, though, I've got a few younger male relatives - nephews and nephew-in-laws - who make me laugh so much that it's really a tonic. I'd like to see them more.

Sometimes I find an obligation to be being hilarious, witty or funny or responding to others being so, a bit hard work, and then I want to get away and be quiet and vacant or serious again...

Marcheline said...

Read the book, haven't seen the movie (yet), and since I don't have a "normal life" (never have) - ie: I don't have kids - I have always had the freedom to do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. Laughing is one of the best parts of this, you're right. My husband and I have partaken in silly behavior from the get-go, laughing ourselves silly more often than not.

I think the key to not needing a mid-life crisis is basically refusing to allow your life to become boring in the first place.

Of course the downside is that I will have no kids and grandkids to take care of me (or ignore me and ask for money) when I am old, but hopefully I will be able to hook up with some equally crazy old people and keep laughing until I croak.

bonbon said...

Bee, laughter is the constant in our long distance and long lasting friendship. I know when we are together that there are always great gaffaws and girly giggles. It comes about through familiarity and comfort. Also the knowledge that it will be a brief encounter and there is much to cram in. Maybe the dizziness adds to craziness. The mundanity of daily life adds a dullness. As for Eat, Pray, Love. I found her ego-centric and have no desire to see the film.

Elizabeth said...

What a wonderful time you must have had!
Nothing better than laughing and being amazingly silly and almost misbehaving.
I don't think we realise the weight of our respectibility.
How very tiring everyday life can be.
I escaped today and went to a book talk and out to lunch with 2 women.
A tonic indeed.

Magpie said...

silly, irreverent and raunchy kind of defines my blog/on-line world - and like-minded. my in-the-computer friends are so much more me than most of the people i see day to day.

Maggie May said...

this is a great post with a LOT behind the simple question.

something coming your way, my lady, in mails.

thank you SO MUCH for what you shared on my blog post a while back. it helps.
xo

Relyn said...

Oh, Bee. I keep thinking about this post. I first read it two days ago and have been pondering ever since. It makes me sad that so many people feel there is so little time for laughter. I laugh and laugh and laugh every day. So, I've been wondering why. I think it's because I spend all day every day with kids. There is so much to laugh about. Then, I wonder if I would laugh as much if I were not a teacher... I don't know. But, oh, I loved all the thinking you've prompted. Here's wishing you much more laughter in the coming days - with or without the blog camp friends.

Kristen In London said...

So beautifully expressed, Bee. My daughter has said several times that I have certain friends who make me laugh, noticeably laugh! of course she finds it terribly embarrassing, especially if we are all out in public when it happens! But you've inspired me to email those friends right now and say thank you.

A Modern Mother said...

Good question.

I have to say I love those bags!

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

I loved this post, and these thoughts.

When I read this book, I felt like, well, sure - anyone can find themselves, their spirit, their inner peace when they are travelling around the world.

How do we find that in our everyday life? So yes, let's start with laughter! Let's find more laughter, see where it leads!

Merisi said...

Somehow, I could quite connect to "Eat Pray Love", but the question about the scarcity of laughter is one I started wondering about myself, some years ago. I share the same observation, that woman together seem to know how to share deep and liberating laughter.

Jeni said...

such a lovely post. Laughter is the secret to a happy soul. "Eat Pray Love" is a book that guided me through my newfound desire to meditate. It changed my world by influencing me through connection.