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…and bad jokes

Once Upon A Time in 2022, after my catastrophic failure adding Leonard Cohen to the hen party playlist, the person who had first brought the issue of the ‘haunted music’ to my attention returned upstairs ahead of me.

Consequently, a minute or so later, I was climbing the stairs to the sound of them mimicking and exaggerating my fudged explanation, and telling of how they responded with an awkward “okaaayyyyyy” and edged their way out of the room. As if they possessed the audacity.

I waited on the landing for them to finish their critique of me, and for others to finish laughing, before loudly making myself known just outside the doorway.

As I waited, I wished I could have been comfortable enough in my own skin to walk in on them, join them in their mockery, double down on their aspersions, and claim the calamity as my own.

I wished I could have been confident enough in the first place to tell a full fucking story about my ghostly choice, instead of one awkward line about the holocaust. But it would have been even more of a triumph if I’d been able to transmute their indiscretion to connection.

Instead, all I could do was take it in. Accept that this was how they represented me. How they talked about me when they thought I couldn’t hear. How they talked about me after saying nothing to me.

I had been begging for a few gibes – it was clearly an error of both musical judgement and social execution – but the way they did it felt unkind.

So, standing on the landing, a resolve rose within me to make sure I was never unkind in that way.

Because I could take it – I’ve heard much worse opinions and lived to tell the tale; it really was quite inconsequential – but I would probably think of that moment every time I interacted with them from then on. And I lacked the skill or inclination to fix it with them, so it would just live there, between us, a barrier.

The idea of putting up a barrier like that, and not even knowing it, frightens me.

There are bad jokes, and there are bad jokes, and I decided a long time ago I’d rather be unfunny than mean-spirited.

I don’t harbour ill will toward anyone making a different choice. That would include past versions of myself, after all. But I do think there is punishment already baked into laughing at another’s expense. I just happened to witness it from an interesting angle that night.

It was a good reminder to only speak about people in a way I would be okay with them overhearing.

I’m not perfect at that, of course. I’ve probably embarrassed my resolve plenty in the couple years since. But the practice for me has been more around having the courage to say what I think directly to a person. Because it’s going to come out of you one way or another, I think.

Well, it’s going to come out of me, at least; I can’t keep a secret. Well, at least not my own.

So I should try and have it come out with integrity.

With honesty, but with kindness.

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