I have been this way all of my life. The best joke-killer is making the joke-teller explain the joke. It’s embarrassing. I am so slow at getting jokes that some people have given up joking with me. I seem like a smart, intelligent person, until someone starts throwing jokes my way. Especially when I’m not expecting a joke, and it’s delivered in dead pan. While others laugh, or groan, I’m doing a lot of scrambling in my head, trying to get the reason for their reactions, searching for a different meaning than my literal interpretation. I can get there, but man, can there be a delay! My husband has learned to give out some facial cues that he’s joking, otherwise we end up in an unexpected, unwelcome conversation when I have taken his joke as a factual, serious statement. I truly appreciate his accommodation.
I have not seen this part of me as a positive feature. Until this happened: I went to the post office to buy stamps. I wanted specialty stamps for fun, so chose to stand in line to buy them instead of buying them from the vending machine. The last book of stamps I bought was of different cups of coffee and I planned to buy those again. When I walked in I was relieved there were only two customers in line. I was guessing the two in front of me were together, as they were standing close together and talking, but I was wrong. They went to separate windows, the man engaging his postal clerk in quite the conversation: the increased price of the postcard he was purchasing, telling about the family who was the intended recipient of the postcard, etc. He was leaning on the counter and leaning into the conversation. His transaction was complete, but he continued to chat. I wasn’t in a hurry, and was in a good mood. I thought about people who live alone and that talking to clerks can be their human interaction for the day. And how that’s fine with me. He turned around, saw me standing in next in line, and said, “I hope this isn’t a hold up!” I smiled widely, to make my eyes smile since I was wearing a face mask. I cheerfully said, “I hope not!”
I bought my stamps. Unfortunately they were out of the coffee stamps, so I chose some cool “Title IX” stamps. As I was walking away from the clerk, I finally got what the man was meaning! He was making a joke about me wearing a face mask to pull off a robbery! I just chuckled to myself. I realized I was the only one in the whole post office wearing one, so I was notable. I then remembered a Facebook friend posting a couple of years ago, of a person standing in line at a check out counter, making that same comment to her. When I read her post, I thought that happened to her because she lives in a rural area. And that would not happen in my town! But when it did happen in my town, to me, I was clueless! What a hoot! It’s the first time I have seen my dullness as an asset.
When I told my sister about this encounter, she said I wasn’t dull, or slow, but guileless. Since I wasn’t looking for an argument, I didn’t see it. I like how she perceives me! Maybe being slow to get the joke helps me stay guileless.
Here’s the deal. I didn’t need to say anything to him. He can express his opinion, it’s fine. (As long as he stays socially distanced!) My goal has been to avoid being defensive about my stance with face masks, or with anyone else’s stance on face masks. It was a goal, because I was defensive when this pandemic first started. I didn’t like it in me, as acceptance of others is my aim. Of everyone, no matter their beliefs.
Face mask mandates are gone, and I don’t foresee my state of Kansas, or the United States, venturing to mandate them again. I was okay with mandates, and am okay with no mandates now. I am also okay being in the minority of wearing them in public.
I didn’t get to test out my “I’m okay, you’re okay” stance about face masks at the post office, as that man was gone by the time I realized what he said! But I do have the experience of being able to chuckle about the encounter. And appreciating my duh-ness with jokes. That’s the best outcome, to accept myself. And him. Just as we are.