Thursday, 11 February 2010

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore


I go stone in the chair I was safe in a second ago,
cringing inside at the joke you just told,
the one they all roared at. I watch you bask

in your cheaply-won laugh. Every high-five, each back-
slap when I want to punch you, reminds me
that I am alone in this room. Alone, and outnumbered,

so I keep my silence. Care must be taken,
boats left unrocked. I’m new here: no sense
in risking my neck,

so I bite my tongue, and watch
each creasing face, and tell myself
this is not cowardice.

This poem represents almost my total writing output for this week. The remainder of said output is a page and a half of, oddly enough, a short story which I started fooling around with on Sunday night and which, it became clear, will be absolute filth. Seriously, it's going to turn out to be full-on porn. A very odd story to run into but it seems very insistent on being written so I'm going along with it for the time being. My working title for the piece is currently 'What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?' but that's inevitably subject to change.
The poem above refers to two incidents I've seen in different places this week where I was pretty much a newbie, and so felt too socially awkward to cause a scene, but where I witnessed people using the idea of a female character 'really being a man' as a cheap pop to spice up their attempts at humour. The annoying thing is that both were actually funny enough not to have to resort to this shit. My reactions to all this were somewhat complex: anger, disappointment, sadness, fear, and a nice big helping of guilt about the fact I didn't have the guts to openly confront the transphobia inherent in the 'jokes'. The poem doesn't make up for that failure. But I hope that it does something. If nothing else, next time I'm ever at a gig and someone finishes with this kind of cheap gag, I'll know what poem to start my set with.
There isn't really time for a smart, witty sign-off. It's past eleven pm here, and I have to get up at six am for work tomorrow. I'll finish with this point: you remember, at school, how your teachers told you that if the other guy wasn't laughing it wasn't a joke? That still applies. If you've told a joke and most of the people in the room are laughing, but one person in the room isn't and is in fact looking extremely uncomfortable suddenly, you did not tell a very good joke, and you need to own that, and you need to try harder next time. And that isn't censorship, and that isn't 'people not having a sense of humour anymore', and it definitely isn't 'Political Correctness' gone mad. It's called growing up , and being better. Own it, people.

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