It’s like being told a joke where the punchline passes over your head. A lifetime of “it’s funny, you just had to be there”.
The joke doesn’t make sense. You don’t understand it, or why people are laughing.
And everyone is laughing. Some more quietly than others, some in loud whooping chuckles which threaten to deafen you but still laughing. To them the joke is funny. To you, it’s just words.
You take it apart. You look at the mechanics. You try and work out what it is that you need to understand the joke. To make it funny.
It is still just words on a page.
You can tell the joke perfectly. Delivering the punchline with comedic precision and a bright smile. People laugh. People don’t notice that your laughter is a little bit more hollow than theirs, a little more forced.
Other people don’t find it funny. They stand there patiently while a friend, wiping away tears of mirth, explains why they should be laughing. They meet your gaze in shared bewilderment.
It is not as though the joke it important, you reason. You don’t need to understand it to life your life. But it is everywhere. From music to billboards to television, they tell this joke over and over again. And still people laugh.
Sometimes you tell people that you don’t get it. That to you, it’s not funny. They sigh and say “well, maybe you’ve just not heard it right” and maybe, maybe they’re right. Maybe if you wait long enough someone will come along and tell the joke properly, make it funny in a way you can understand.
No one comes.
Occasionally though you find yourself smiling. Not at the joke, but the person telling it. The lips behind the words, the sparkling eyes behind the humour. They know other jokes, other stories and those…the quieter stories, the softer jokes…some of them are funny to you. Some of them make sense.
They don’t niggle at you in a pervading sense of confusion. You listen and you smile.