Sunday, February 5, 2012

Entry #58 - My Funny(Looking) Valentine

Dear Diary,
        I really like February, I always have. If I had been given a choice in utero (as an advanced fetus of unparalleled cognitive capabilities), I would have chosen to arrive a week early on Monday, February 28th, 1983. February has an allure that March lacks, a certain mystique of sorts. February is the shortest month (supply and demand?), the month of leap days (birthday jackpot), and most importantly, it is the month that contains Groundhog Day. When they add the Family Day stat holiday in 2013 I shall declare February the King of Months! Hurrah!

and Valentine's Day.
That's in there too. 


It would make sense for a spinster to despise Valentine's Day, or as I like to call it S.A.D. (Spinster Awareness Day). However, at age 28, I have spent far more Valentine's Days alone than I have spent with a partner, and thus the magnified loneliness brought on by an entire day dedicated to romantic love is now less like a sharp sting and more like a dull ache. Everything is easier when you've been practicing for a while, right? And I started practicing early...

Future doormat Man Killer - age 5

I recall being the recipient of many "bring one for everyone in the class" Valentines as a child, and conversely I was the recipient of zero secret-admirer-fundraiser-carnations during my five years of high school (grades 8-12s are grouped together where I grew up; like a savage survivor island style game). Even at age 13, I was cognizant of the fact that carnations are the cheapest and shittiest flowers available, made shittier still when combined with babies breath and bargain basement ribbon...but even that knowledge didn't stop me from wanting one. 
Now that I am grown up (questionable), Valentine's Day itself doesn't get me down the way it used to. In my early twenties I used to feel it quite acutely, mostly due to my childhood belief that I would be married at 25 with a house and two kids by 28. Now that I am, I have let go of some of my romantic notions of love, which makes the whole V-day thing a much easier, albeit still bitter, pill to swallow. I will confess, though, that my weakness exists in the two weeks running up to Valentine's Day, more specifically, the greeting cards....

As mentioned previously, I really like greeting cards...I like them A LOT. I like looking at them, buying them, and mailing them. A really good greeting card (for there are  indeed some horrendous ones) can expresses a sentiment or feeling that you have on the tip of your brain but cannot quite coalesce into words. It is a really satisfying feeling when you find the perfect card for someone, especially when you know that if it came down to a blank card you would be screwed by your own lack of poetic ability. There is a reason Hallmark can claim that 5 billion greeting cards were sold in 2010, and that is because a large majority of North Americans are not effective at expressing feelings on their own, that or they are just too lazy to take the time to do so. Probably a little of column A and a little of column B...I suspect it's heavy on the B though. 

So, as a greeting card lover, I admit that I often sometimes look at V-day cards; I shall openly admit here and now that it is totally brutal. Sad-goosebumps bad. There is nothing quite like reading a huge collection of beautifully expressed and exquisitely presented quotes...quotes that are all about the kind of love that nobody feels for you. It's like listening to an entire evening of "Love Songs with Delilah" on the radio, which I have for sure never done, ever, because that is totally for lonely soccer moms.

Replace "love" with "indifference". Spinster Valentine. 

No matter how much greeting card companies try to peddle Valentine's cards for your Grandma, your Aunt, your dog, and your second cousin twice removed, we all know that February 14th is dedicated to the notion of romantic love. Not platonic love, not unconditional familial love...romantic love, damn it. I admit to having a completely ridiculous amount of non-romantic love in my life, an inexplicable abundance that I hoard like cats. I love my family and friends more than any greeting card has ever expressed, however, romantic love is different. But in truth, it's not the classically romantic, over the top, velveteen and gold embossed cards that make me melancholy. Nope. What really gets me verklempt are the somewhat juvenile, simplistic, animal themed cards that have really lame puns; cards that give you the opportunity to explain a joke that is blatantly obvious. There is a poignant sweetness to this kind of card that makes me feel lonelier than any Shakespearean love sonnet ever has.

Get it!? Owl instead of "I'll" !? 

See what they did there...? "Whale" and "will" sound similar...clever...

Speaking of juvenile humour...

My Funny should probably cut it out. Seriously. 

Before we get into this I'd just like to say that when I say I am funny, I recognize that it is not in a professional comedian kind of way. I'm funny in the same way I'm pretty - sometimes, in a small town kind of way, and mostly to my mom.  

I can remember the first time someone told me I was funny. October 1st, 1993. I was in grade four, the same year the boy I liked told me I had a "Klingon" forehead. We had all filed down to the gym to have our class photos taken; me, my newly cut forehead-covering bangs, and the rest of the kids from my class who were all sporting some variation of neon colours and/or undercuts. Oh, 1993. When the photographer got to me it was time to change the film in the camera (that's this thing they used to use to take pictures, you know, back in the dark ages). He asked me to hold up the chalkboard so he could take a picture of it, and I decided this was a good opportunity to make the most of the high powered professional lighting. I unleashed my inner muppet supermodel. I did a sneaky peek over the top of the chalkboard in one shot, popped out the side in a pose reminiscent of Miss Piggy in the next, and in general made love to the camera. The photographer enjoyed some stifled laughter whilst this was occurring; I guess most kids just sat there slack-jawed when handed the rare and golden opportunity of being the "chalkboard model". Fools. 

Being a film camera, the pictures couldn't just be reviewed and deleted, no no, they were printed along with the rest of the pictures. When the photos came back, I received my regular school pictures and a few extras of my chalkboard hi jinks. Along with these photos was a note stating that the staff had found me pretty amusing and had decided to send along a keepsake of my ridiculousness. 
It started to occur to me that while I possessed the physique of a seven year old boy (a trait carried through til grade 9 - no joke), a large forehead, pale skin and undesirable gingery hair, it turned out that what I did have was an ability to make people laugh; and in a class filled with fully-developed, volley ball playing woman-child hybrids, I had to take whatever the hell I could get. I broke my pinky finger during a volleyball game while trying to keep up with those amazons, funny was all I had damn it!

Spinster with a Chalkboard - 2011 & 1993 
18 years - no maturation

So, at age 10, I embraced my new found sense of humour (with a "u" because I am Canadian), and to be honest, I was pretty proud of it. It seemed to me that making people laugh was a good thing; laughter =  happiness, right? Being witty meant that you were at least moderately intelligent, and at least 83% of the time it seemed that people were laughing with me and not at me. That's a solid "B", which is not that good, but by golly, it's good enough. 

And thus the years have passed, almost 19 of them. And in those nineteen years I have developed a pretty strong conviction that I want a manfriend who can make me laugh. To be honest, a lack of humour in a person makes me feel kind of uncomfortable in general and seems to go hand in hand with languid conversations about uninteresting topics. And so, I presumed that most men would also want a ladyfriend who could make them laugh as well. Makes sense, right?...

And so we begin the long slippery descent into the mud-pit of erroneous presumption. 

I have never before questioned my belief that gentlemen appreciate a witty lady, because it seems so nonsensical for anyone (male or female) to not want to laugh. The other week, however, I was watching a stand-up comedy video in which the comedian referenced a Christopher Hitchens article I had never heard of, an article entitled "Why Women Aren't Funny". After the video clip ended, while still chuckling from the hilarity, I googled the aforementioned article in order to educate myself further on what exactly Hitchens had said. Soon after I was not laughing any more...not. at. all.

I've thought about that article every day since I read it on January 20th. I've thought long and hard about it - stare at the ceiling in the dark while in bed kind of thinking. I'm not saying I agree with everything he said, and I heartily encourage you to read the whole article for yourself, but a few phrases are now vividly emblazoned in my mind. Here is just one:

"Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.



I just....I want to....I can't....I feel so...

I am well aware, sometimes painfully so, of my many and varied shortcomings. I even thought I was aware of the things that men might perceive as flaws that I happen to like about myself, like being a ginger, for instance. But to find out that what I had considered to be my biggest strength, my selling point as it were, might actually be the number one ingredient in my personal man-repellent cocktail has left me rather dumbfounded. 

Being funny makes you a...rival? 
Making a man laugh is a bad thing?
If  "Too funny"  exists, how funny is too funny? Isn't that like too beautiful, too thoughtful, or too much cheese?
Does this mean that many men actually seek out women who are, as Riki Lindhome claims, "beige curtains"? (mayhap the lyrics "I'm sorry for that time I told a joke/I didn't mean to step all over your ego" should have been a clue)

Perhaps the clustercuss of question marks above are giving away the fact that I am having a minor existential crisis over this article. 

In a quest for better understanding I found another article, written by a female writer and published in the LA Times after Hitchens' death in December (4 years after his original article was published in Vanity Fair in 2007). I found her response to be level headed (for undoubtedly in 2007 there were some angry letters written to Hitchens and Vanity Fair). Much like a really good greeting card, the writer (one Meghan Daum) has managed to coalesce what I was thinking, feeling, and wondering into a cohesive statement. To spare you from any more of my scattered and incoherent prose, I shall simply let you read what she wrote, she is after all a professional:

"Women avoid funny because they're afraid of what they'll have to give up in exchange, for instance the coy mysteriousness that men supposedly prize above all else. A funny woman, no matter how conventionally lovely, generally has to accept that she'll also be perceived as a little bit funny looking. When she gets a laugh, she risks subliminally conveying the message that she's making up for some hidden deficiency, that she's sad or irreparably broken. Why else, as Hitchens would ask, would she need the humor?
Well, maybe because humor is power. Maybe it's pretty much the most useful tool we humans have for getting through the day. Maybe because to be deprived of this power, even by dint of one's own vanity, is a form of oppression. And maybe women should have been thanking Hitchens even as we castigated him. As infuriating as he was, he forced us to recognize our own complicity in that oppression. It's common, after all, for women to value personality over looks when it comes to men. But being a funny woman means valuing personality over looks when it comes to oneself. And that takes balls."

Also, to avoid ending on a note that I may be funny looking, sad, and/or irreparably broken, I present to you "Weiner Dogs in Love"

Get it? The weiner dogs are too long to fit on the card because Dachshunds have really long bodies!

Not a lot of men like me, but you can like this Blog on the old FB if you feel like it. No pressure.


  1. I haven't yet read the entire article (since it's breakfast time and Superbowl Sunday and I still need to get ready to go to church and I can SMELL the bacon in the other room...) however that quote is pretty rage-inspiring.

    Only JACK ASS men with tiny egos are threatened by funny women. Period. Seriously, Hannah. And I can see your picture, you ARE pretty. By a fellow lady's standards, even. And you know how we can be cruel and judgmental we can be. I've seen you in a muumuu and I still think you are pretty!

    I am also jealous of your beautiful hair. I am aware that in other parts of the world, being a ginger is considered a bad thing - where I am from it is considered rare, desirable, and exotic in a lucky way.

    Any many who is threatened by your wit and beauty is not worth having, and I hope you know that you are so much better than that. Don't be complicit in your oppression by insecure man-boy jackasses. Why? Because you ROCK.

    Rachael (a fan & long-time reader!)

  2. You're too smart to take any of that article seriously. And as for scaring off men? Don't worry - you're not that funny. JUST KIDDING! (I crack me up.)

    I think you'd completely forget about finding a man if you ever had a JIMMYJANE. Don't know what it is? Google it. (Go for the one with the bunny ears.) Get a JIMMYJANE and you will relish those nights alone! As soon as you WANT to be alone, there will be guys asking you on dates. Mark my words.