I Use Humor As A Defense Mechanism & I Can’t Stop

I didn’t really notice it until I was at my grandmother’s funeral when I was 13. One of my siblings and cousins were gathered around to say our goodbyes and out of nowhere, I commented on the lipstick on her teeth. Only two of them laughed and the rest stared at me in disbelief. I was later chastised by my mother for being disrespectful, but I told her I couldn’t help it, the words just came out. I’ve been doing similarly awkward things ever since.

  1. Growing up, I always felt different than others. I had no reason to, but I never thought people would like me. I was the weird kid alone on the swings of the playground talking to herself and if someone actually tried to approach me I was too afraid I’d embarrass myself to say anything. I kept trying to engage with my peers but I was incredibly shy. I found the only way I could feel comfortable in a group setting was if I made people laugh. Sometimes it was me making fun of myself, sometimes I would crack a joke at the situation in general, but I made myself the comic relief and that’s when I started feeling as if I belonged.
  2. It helped me overcome a huge fear. Being an introvert contributed to the trouble I had making friends. Social situations are often a bit awkward and no matter what, I end up embarrassing myself in some way. I hate attention, it’s one of my least favorite things on earth. By laughing at whatever mishap I found myself in, I was able to get over the mortifying feeling of all the focus being on me whenever I did something out of the ordinary or foolish. It helped me cope and I know it was the only way I was able to get through adolescence. Without my humor, I wouldn’t have survived.
  3. It lightens the mood when things get too heavy. Now that I’m grown, things have changed a bit and I’m able to handle serious conditions a lot better. I like talking things out, whether it’s with friends or family or even at work, but if the conversation starts to become daunting, the humor comes out. I can’t even control it sometimes, it’s like it’s a natural response in a state like that. Luckily it’s well received most of the time and I’ve even been told it’s a welcome relief. I know that won’t always be the case so I try to be as mindful as possible.
  4. I’m not afraid to face the hard stuff. This is a question I get a lot. My answer to that is absolutely not. Just because I don’t face it in the moment doesn’t mean I shove it down and compartmentalize. I have a specific way of handling stress and rough times that works very well for me. I’m able to talk through it with close friends, family or someone I’m in a relationship with.
  5. I sometimes prefer to even talk to myself and go over scenarios in my head. I understand that people may not agree with or understand my particular methods, just like I don’t understand why they DON’T use humor during tough times. All I can do is explain my ways to the best of my ability, but I try to not worry about what other people think as much. I have to do what’s right for me.
  6. That being said, I don’t want to offend anyone with my choice of timing when being funny. Unfortunately, there are moments where I’ve been out of line and had to apologize. Not everyone has the same sense of humor and it can end up pushing people away if I’m not careful.
  7. Ultimately, it protects me. Even if I’m over my feelings of wanting people to be close to me yet being afraid of letting them in, the last thing I want is to make them want to be more distant. I get my techniques, in this case, are an acquired taste and though I can’t always help myself, I’ve had to be actively aware of who is around so I can try my best to not make things worse for anyone. I can promise though that my intentions are always good.
  8. Laughter really is the best medicine. I think that even though some may not approve of my morbid sense of humor (like some of my family at the aforementioned funeral of my dear grandmother), there are some that get it and need it. If I can bring a smile or a bit of light to someone dealing with something hard then I feel good about it and I want to keep providing that. I’ve found laughter to be my saving grace through a lot of awful times and I want to pay it forward as best I can.
jordan is a writer from salt lake city who enjoys a good steak, her dog, and conversations about how radiohead is awesome. she hopes to be a talking head on some VH1 pop-culture show someday and can curate a playlist for any occasion. when she grows up she wants to be an olsen twin.