Sometimes I forget how stressed out I can be over scissors. My new mall job has me hyper-aware of my fear of heights; I can’t stand being on the second floor and anywhere even remotely close to the railing where I can see the first floor. Even worse, I’m hyper-aware of the fact that someone could accidentally (or perhaps on purpose) push me off the edge if they carelessly walk by. Or I get this thought like: “OMG I hope I don’t just jump down there; that would be really bad.”
But last night had me reacquainted with an old fear: scissors. Well well well, if it isn’t my old friend, Scissors; so we meet again. How are you, Scissors — besides creepy? I have to work slowly when I work with scissors, and it’s certainly good that I’m not careless with them. But I have to filter out lots of thoughts of anytime anyone I know was injured by scissors or something like scissors. I get images from when I was in school and my art teacher hurt her finger with the paper-cutter. I get images about that time in school when I randomly decided to take the scissors and cut off a very small, unnoticeable portion of my hair just because I could. “I hope I don’t cut my finger just because I can.”
Of course, I never (or extremely rarely) end up injured and when I do, it’s not the injuries I think about or am afraid of happening. But that’s OCD for you.
Google “OCD jokes” and “Tourette’s jokes” and you’ll see a big difference. Of course, OCD is no stranger to stereotypes — but they are at least much closer to the truth than the ones about TS. People with OCD do not necessarily, but do frequently have obsessions with germs, neatness, symmetry, and orderliness.
So it’s not that I have a problem with people making fun of Tourette’s. As long as it’s done in a respectful way, it’s OK to make jokes about pretty much everything in my opinion, and can add a touch of optimism to an otherwise depressing situation. The problem is that when people make fun of TS, 9 out of 10 times, they’re not even making fun of TS — they’re making fun of what very few people with TS actually do. Not just that, but they’re making fun of what very few people with TS actually do while wrongly assuming they do it out of anger or inability to control rage, or at the very least poor impulse control in general, which is also not true. (Some studies indicate people with TS might actually have better impulse control than the general population, because they have so much practice resisting impulses!) So they double-misunderstand it. You can’t make fun of something you double-misunderstand. So all I ask is that before you make a joke about TS, learn what it actually is. I’d be happy to laugh with you about how I randomly blink, clear my throat, sniffle, or gasp repeatedly at inappropriate times because I can see the humor in it — I just can’t see the humor in something that’s mean-spirited, or has no bastion of truth.
Humor — it’s a tool which can be used for many purposes. Bullies can make fun of us to torture us and make us feel bad about ourselves. Likewise, we may use self-deprecating humor to deal with our insecurities — we can beat those bullies to the punch. By saying it first ourselves, we confront our fears about our deepest weaknesses and those weaknesses don’t seem so mighty anymore. Or we can use humor just because it’s funny, to make us feel better in general. For me, it’s always been important that I am able to laugh even when really bad things are going on in my life — sometimes even to be able to laugh at those very bad things. Maybe it’s because I’ve had so many bad things happen that it’s simply impossible to put on that “serious” mask that stays on when stuff goes wrong. When bad stuff is happening, that’s just normal life, not a special event — so I have to learn to move normally through it. (I’m not saying I’m great at dealing with bad things necessarily; just that I’ve grown accustomed to certain kinds of bad things as a regular occurrence.)
Shortly after my mom died, I was talking to a coworker who didn’t know my parents were a bit older when I was born, and had probably assumed my mom was very young when she died. I remarked that my mom was 59, to which she responded: “That’s good.” Immediately I smiled, us both knowing she meant “That’s good that your mom wasn’t very young when she died” and not “That’s good that your mom died.” We were able to share a comic moment about the sad event. The best part is I know that’s the kind of thing my mom would have loved. If she were there, she would have laughed at that joke too. She wouldn’t want people walking on egg-shells to be extra faux sensitive, afraid to talk about the subject of death; afraid to talk about the worst things that can happen. She would much rather everyone be like she was; honest, blunt, terse, maybe at times caustic. But not phony.
Of course, situations like this have a fine line of what’s appropriate and what’s not. But if you’re really paying attention, it’s pretty easy not to cross that line — with people you know pretty well, anyway.
If you’re easily offended, please don’t read on. I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s suffering, at all. If anything, I’m making fun of people who say silly, sensationalistic things to capitalize on tragic events because they think that’s how best to reach people.
And I know, I know. I should retitle my blog “This is apparently a blog about Adam Lanza now.” I admit it’s a subject that fascinates me. I wish I could help people like this. I promise this is the last post I will make about him — before the next one, which could be anytime.
Remember on The Simpsons, when the Comic Book Guy said: “Ahh, the full Leonard Nimoy cycle: first I Am Spock, then I Am Not Spock, and finally I Am Also Scotty.” Leonard Nimoy really did publish books with those titles — just not the last one, because well, that’s going over-the-top crazy. (I own a copy of I Am Spock, although somewhere along the line I lost the dust jacket.)