There are a lot of awesome things in the universe: cupcakes, small children giving pep talks on YouTube, that feeling you get when you finally change out of your clothes and into your comfy pajamas and most of all, being silly. It’s fun to be funny.
I’ve always been “the funny one” in my group of friends. Adults seemed to find me pretty entertaining too, but I’m unsure if they were laughing at me because I was tiny, precocious and sarcastic – or actually amusing. The point is, I’ve always had a talent for making people laugh. And for most of my life, I ignored that talent. There were even parts of my life where I tried to actively suppress it in order to be more grown-up or taken more seriously. This, along with trying to “paint” the walls of the dining room with craypas, was one of my dumber childhood decisions.
If you’d asked me at the time why I was doing what I was doing, I would have told you two things. The first thing I would have told you was that no one took you seriously if you were funny. (This is untrue – I’ll get to this later.) The second thing I would have told you was that I wasn’t funny. And I never would have said this out loud, but subconsciously, I would have believed I couldn’t be funny because I was a girl. And girls just weren’t funny.
Thankfully, I doubt there are nearly as many girls who are growing up today who internalize that thought the way I did. Girls today get to grow up with tons of funny female role models like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Ellen DeGeneres and Kristen Wiig, to name a few. But as amazing as these women are, I’m sure there are still girls growing up who struggle with reconciling their humor with their gender, or women today who were girls like me, convinced that being funny and being a girl was Just Not Done. And so for those girls, young or old, funny or not, there are five things I wish someone had told me as a kid – things that I think every girl should hear, no matter what age they are.
One: It’s okay to be “the funny one.”
No little girl, when she thinks about what she wants to be when she grows up, wants to be the funny one. Well, probably. I can’t speak for every little girl. After all, every little girl is supposed to want to be a ballerina or fairy princess, and I skipped clean over both that phase and the phase where I wanted a pony.
But why would you ever want to be the funny one? As the rom-com has so taught us, being funny means you’re regulated to the best friend role that, if she’s lucky, will catch the eye of a hapless dude in the last ten seconds of the movie. Funny kids, you learn in grade school, are the class clowns who end up getting everyone in trouble.
But it is okay to be the funny one. Because being funny isn’t a lifestyle choice like veganism or recycling, it’s who you are. And if being funny is who you are, there’s a high chance that who you are is also awesome.
Two: Being funny doesn’t mean you can’t be taken seriously.
Like many little girls who are lucky enough to have totally awesome moms, I worshiped my mom growing up. (This has downgraded slightly to “admiration” now, but she’s still pretty fantastic.) A sad fact of the universe, however, is that there is no such thing as a perfect person, and one of my mother’s flaws is that she is almost completely devoid of a sense of humor.
What my mom is great at, though, is being taken seriously. So naturally, as a kid, I thought that people only took you seriously if you were like my mom. And this was only supported as I got older and became an ardent feminist, like, the type who read Eleanor Roosevelt biographies for fun. Those feminist ladies taught me many valuable and true things, but they also taught me that no one will take you seriously unless you make them by sheer force of will, much like my mother did. And in that sort of philosophy, there is no room for humor.
Now, in my mother’s defense, had I ever told her I thought this, she would have told me that I was full of crap. Because the truth is, you can get people to listen to you and respect you by – wait for it – being funny. Probably the best examples of this are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (I know, they’re dudes. But go with me.) Primarily, they’re comedians. Their shows are on Comedy Central. And yet they’re still hugely trusted names in news (or the most trusted, depending on what poll you ask). Sure, this could be because of the decline of objective and/or print journalism, blah blah blah, but I doubt it’s just that. I’d go as far as to say that so many people follow them and their opinions so closely because they’re clever and thought-out, and they come from people who are likable. And why do we like them? Because they make us laugh.
Q.E.D., as my math nerd friends would say.
Three: You can be funny and you can be a woman, but you don’t have to be a funny woman.
There is a phenomenon in the world of female comics that I am going to call, for lack of a better term, the Lady Comic. The Lady Comic’s entire brand of humor revolves around the fact that she is a lady. If, for some unknown reason, men all simultaneously learned to, say, leave the toilet seat down (which would be magnificent – I’m looking at you, twin brother), the Lady Comic would be in trouble, because that’s about half of her arsenal gone.
Now, gender differences are funny. And they will always be funny. But they are cheap, well-trod paths to take. And you’re allowed, as a girl, to be funny about things besides being a girl. This applies to any arena, really, not just humor – you are allowed to be more than your lack of Y chromosome. It’s okay.
Four: Being catty is not the same thing as being funny.
Let’s take a trip back to high school. Miserable, I know. But if you go back in time to high school and reflect on the people who were the “funny ones,” I’m guessing they divide into two groups: the people who were funny because they made fun of other people and the people who were funny just because they were funny. For the sake of this point, we’re only looking at the first group. Because every funny person has, at some point in their life, gone through a phase of being that jackass. Frankly, if you’re already good at making jokes, it’s a bit too easy to think up creative and witty ways to insult someone.
So I’m just going to say this: don’t. There are the obvious reasons not to, of course, like the fact that it tends to leave you lonely and friendless, or the fact that it’s just not very nice. But if that is not reason enough, here’s a third reason; let’s say your gift for verbally taking people down is like perfume. (Or so I am told – I don’t actually wear perfume.) The less you use it, the more punch it packs when you do.
Five: Guys who don’t like that you’re funny aren’t worth your time.
Funny lesbians and/or asexual ladies, I apologize for the next segment, because it does not apply to you, as far as I know. If you are not into dudes, congrats! You get to skip this. But if you are into dudes, I mean this from the bottom of my heart – never date a guy who is not supportive of you being awesome in any capacity, and this includes being awesome because you’re funny.
If you go through adolescence as “the cool, funny one,” I can guarantee that you have been told that it’s not that you’re not attractive and totally the coolest chick they know, they just wouldn’t want to date you. Their weird reasoning is usually “because you’re too cool” or “because I just don’t think of you like that.” And it is infuriating. I wasn’t even told this by a guy I was interested in – instead it came from my guy friends who I’d ask why it was dudes didn’t seem to like me. And yet I was still wildly insulted. What did they mean, too awesome? Why wouldn’t you want to date someone who was awesome? Is there really such a thing as being too awesome?
If you are an insecure guy, yes. Because as far as an insecure guy is concerned, someone who is “too awesome” is going to realize he’s not very awesome himself, and then she won’t stick around. And if a girl is smart and funny and confident, why would they bother liking her? She doesn’t need them. They’d much rather date someone who does need them so that way they’re the ones in charge of breaking it off. This is a generally ridiculous train of thought, and you don’t want to be with anyone who entertains it.
Here is the good news, though – a good portion of guys grow out of that ridiculous sort of insecurity the same way they grow out of that weird scraggly mustache they tend to get when they’re first starting to grow facial hair and are way too proud of the fact to shave. There’s no hard and fast rule to when, exactly, this happens to a dude. Sometimes it never happens. But it does happen to plenty of guys. So you want to look for those guys that realize what everyone else does – that being a smart, funny girl is a totally awesome thing to be.
Read more from Julia Hass on her blog.
Image via Wikipedia.