Self effacing has been my preferred form of humor since my early years. I found out how effective it was when it helped me avoid the bullying of my classmates.
I quickly realized the bullies enjoyed it when the victim was visibly upset. In fact, they would increase their tormenting jokes, but they would let up if there was no reaction or if the targeted person enjoyed the pranks as I did. I became good at laughing at myself before they could. I became my own best bully. Eventually they stopped the teasing and accepted me and even made me their friend.
The insecurity of my early years carried into adulthood and so did my self effacing. Making fun of myself gave me the chance to laugh at me before anyone else could. It protected me. More importantly, by laughing at myself, I was able to laugh with others.
Laugh with others, that’s the key word.
I do not laugh at others.
Simply put I know what it feels like to be embarrassed in public.
Here is the difference; I laugh when my friends joke about their weight, but I never make a fat joke. They are the masters of their own humor when it comes to their body. They own the right to make fun of it. I do not.
Social media has provided an arena for those of us who enjoy self effacing, but simultaneously, it has also become a forum for hurtful, humiliating, and embarrassing comments that can be funny on a one on one setting, but not in a public site.
While I am good at my “own people’s” comments, my accent is the target of many unwanted and unsolicited jokes.
Recently while talking to a friend, the lady sitting with him repeated most of my sentences and followed it with a hard laugh. Twice I expanded on what I had said thinking perhaps it needed explaining. Finally, I asked “do you feel the same?” She replied with a laugh, “no, it’s just the way you say it”. If the woman thinks that kind of mockery is funny, she is sadly mistaken.
Humor serves many functions. It can serve as a pleasant exchange. It can ease the tension in a conversation, but there is a fine line that should not be crossed in humor or we’ll end up embarrassing or offending someone.
The world is a better place when we laugh with someone. But if you must laugh at someone, let that person be yourself.