Thursday, February 2, 2012

Experiments in Integrated Personality

The longest-running disagreement in our marriage is: Which one of us is funnier? Which just goes to show how skilled B is in arguing the losing side.  I go on instinct, but B has reduced his theory of humor down to three rules.  
  1. Loud is funny.  
  2. If the joke gets a laugh, tell it again and again (and again).
  3. If the joke doesn't get a laugh, explain in detail how it is funny. 
Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds.  If you have to explain that something is funny, it isn’t.*  


My last day was Tuesday, so everyone’s had a chance to weigh in.  The reaction at work was mixed.  There were many sincere well wishes, but most of the ones from women had a brittle edge—some sort of oblique reference to their own life choices, variations on “you’re lucky you can do this.”  Lucky?  Well, yes; but the greater portion of this is the flying leap from the class-hierarchy high dive.  My “bubble score” on the bullshit test that’s been making the rounds is 7. 

In all the chaos and uncertainty of the last few weeks, the thing that’s been bothering me the most has been the reaction of my closest friend from work: silence.  It took a while to realize that was his form of well-wishing—by avoiding me, he refrained from telling me that I am making a huge colossal mistake, that I’m hurting myself and hurting my family, that I don’t know what I don’t know.  It was a huge relief for both of us this week when he finally cracked. 

So how do you explain to someone that you’re not self-destructing?  That’s a statement you disprove by making it, like explaining that a joke is funny.  Chucking a career that so many would envy feels kind of incendiary.  And isn’t self-immolation is the ultimate performance art?

That marshmallow is an attention whore.
This is my attempt at a controlled burn.  I think of this as the life version of the time I whittled down my library.  When we condensed down from big house to small apartment, I could only take two small boxes of books out of all the books I owned (south of 1000, but not by much).  I packed them last, spreading all out on the giant empty floor and walking up and down in rows to evaluate.  The only usable selection criteria was “Can I live without this?”  I didn’t notice until I unpacked that nearly all of the books hewed to the same subject areas—the empires of Rome and Britain, sailing ships, children’s fantasy, and theology—and I thought Hey, I am kind of a pretentious douchebag, but I also thought So this must be what it’s like to have a personality.

I can’t even begin to explain how completely disgusting I find all of this New-Agey, be-true-to-yourself touchy-feely bullshit, so it kills me to admit that I am seeking happiness by being more authentically myself.  Please excuse me while I lose my lunch.

I don’t think I’m suited for lawyering (for now)—it’s too damn appealing to my tendency toward obsession and competition.  There haven’t been many minutes in the last nine years in which I haven’t felt like I shouldn’t be doing more—revising motions, reading cases, billing hours.  I fell out of touch with my friends who weren’t lawyers, stopped doing hobbies that required big chunks of time, let other people raise my child.  And even though my most desperate desire has always been to write and publish a novel, I never breathed a word of it to anyone at work.  I didn’t want people to know that I was spending all that time writing when I should have been not-writing; I was afraid if anyone knew I’d have to give that up too.  In the end, I felt like I was pulling so hard in so many different directions that I was going to pull myself apart, like Molly Weasley’s Howler (0:38).

So even though the last weeks have been scary and painful, good things are happening.  I started writing this blog so that I could actually say things I’d only just thought, and sent the URL to family and friends out of principle of not hiding, and many have written me privately to say nice things.  I started talking to people online that I thought were interesting, and to my continuing pleasure and amazement, sometimes they talk back.  I’ve been talking to friends I’ve been missing, including the gentleman pictured below in my wedding dress who wishes it known that although our friend the yo-yo champion was there for the rooftop antics referenced in a prior post, that particular unicycle was his.    

Wedding Protip: Hide your dress from the best man prior to leaving for your honeymoon.
And on my last day, I told my work friend that I was going to write a book.  His response: "Maybe you'll become the next J.D. Rowling."  I think he's actually more worried now than he was before.  But at least he knows, and maybe this way we can still be friends.  


*I’m being dramatic: only 2/3 of his rules are horrifying.  In 13 years of field-testing them, it turns out he is actually right about loud = funny.


  1. > Which one of us is funnier?

    Clearly you need to put your husband on Twitter so that we can all weigh in on the matter / criticize both of you.

  2. I'm working on it. He started checking my feed from time to time and pretending not to laugh, which is nice, because there's no fun in acting out without an audience. #NotJustTheMarshmallow

  3. Does he like hobo jokes? Tell him that getting an account and then "following" (as the kids call it) you, me, and @mr_archenemy is the winning plan.