Fun really can be a dirty word! Many decades ago I had the misfortune to work in an office where laughter was perceived as a sign of insurrection, a dangerous decadent subversive streak akin to revolution of the terrorist kind. (My computer masqueraded as a mask for my nefarious naughtiness!) Employment was an intensely earnest business without enjoyment, where humour heralded a covert cover-up for all things comic. (Gorgeous giggles were a grenade in the great circuit of competition!) On most occasions, having a comedic code on the regular routines of responsibility was to undermine the challenging cut and paste of computer verbiage; we were expected to observe obsequious reverence to the hard slog of 9-5 without any respite of a ribald rattle. But I never could rule my life without recourse to laughter. Labelled as outrageous, even vulgar when I stepped into the arena of sexual verbalolics for some merriment and mirth in the workplace, this sensitive subject was strictly taboo, too. Fun was banned and laughter was a heretical homage to the devil, with its horns primed for punishment, even exile to the wilderness of unemployment.
Growing up was to jettison the jocular; instead, we should be straight-faced and serious with the convictions of a saint to attest to our sanity and sensibility in the rat race. No more jokes; no more frivolity; and for women who dared to dance in the lustful lounge of laughter, it only highlighted our unsuitability for career advancement. We weren’t clever enough to be real contenders in the climb up the corporate ladder, we were childish and immature, ill-equipped to deal with the heavy intensity of boardrooms and oak panelled offices. Indeed, growing up implied growing old, without levity to illuminate our illustrious careers. The carefree cacophony of our childhood laughter was charioted away with the arrival of fine lines and tired eyes, though I tried to fit in to a new regime of rigid rules without fun. I eschewed the flippancy I fanned with flirting but too often, would return home from my workplace wondering what had happened to the young woman who had always enjoyed good times and good laughs. I didn’t like me anymore; being one of the mob had never really mattered to my mindset, but in the quest for the career stakes I made the mistake of losing one of my most cherished treasures – my sense of humour. Writing serious journalism demanded a serious demeanour; but the price for trying to match it with the men whose sharp witticisms were applauded as an asset (maybe I just wasn’t funny enough?), only sent shivers down my spine as I froze in a winterland without laughter to warm my bones. As the years went on, it became less and less worthwhile and I started to reappraise what I really needed. Fun at work was aloft on my agenda. For most of my life, I had never thought about it; fun was simply part of the tempting tapestry of life, and it wasn’t until it escaped from under me that I realised what I had lost. And needed to regain. I wanted to laugh, flirt and be funny, encircled with a crowd of colourful personalities who would feel likewise. Serious wasn’t smart, but a destiny with disaster; who wanted bad news when we were surrounded by a sick world where wars, suffering and pain knew no bounds? There had to be another way.
The old cliché – laughter is the best medicine – impassioned itself in my psyche; pervading my refusal to seek out work in the domain of destiny I had once embraced. There was a new lust throbbing in my loins (alongside the eternal, more familiar one), laughter paraded as a precious panacea for pain as I endeavoured to eke out a living with enjoyment. It didn’t mean I was irresponsible or derelict in my duties at work, but it did enrich my employment with joking banter and a lot of laughs. Too many people took themselves too seriously, believing a gravity of behaviour was tantamount for credibility and career success. Somehow to me, it paled into insignificance, yes, I could take my work seriously, but simultaneously as having fun. That’s what I wanted. And learning to laugh at yourself and mock your own mistakes provides one of the rich rewards for well-being. Black humour can be one of the really joyful comedic creations; laughing at adversity helps alleviate a sense of sadness we all feel from time to time; either of our own making or that of our wider, mad world. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you; cry, and you cry alone. (I know, ‘caus I’ve cried a lot too!) The comic clichés come thick and fast and they are but true in most cases; humour is the quintessential raison d’etre for being, for living in tough times, a therapeutic testimony of survival. To feel the heat of a hearty belly laugh is beautiful; better shared with others when we’re all in it together. It’s just what this quack is prescribing!