In this Sunday series, Marie Antoinette answers questions about love and life. To have your own question answered, send it along to whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot com.
I’m absolutely mortified. While at a party my friends and I saw a woman with the most ridiculous hat. It was one of those moments when you just can’t stop laughing and don’t know why. When she turned around I discovered it was my sister-in-law wearing the hat — she apparently was invited by a mutual friend. Now she thinks I was laughing at her. What do I do?
This is a problem I know well. I often had a case of the giggles at Versailles. And who could blame me? Many things at Versailles were very funny. Madame du Barry, for example, was accompanied everywhere by a diminutive Bengali page who strutted beside her in a pink velvet jacket and white turban with a sword at his side. This looked as strange as it sounds.
Many things are ridiculous. This is not your fault. You did not make these things ridiculous nor do you have any control over their continued ridiculousness. You are just one person.
It is also not your fault that you have an incredible sense of humor. For this you should be grateful. But with great power comes great responsibility. The greatness of your joke, like all great art, might not be realized in its own time. Many people do not realize that the things they do or say, are, in fact, hilarious. These people will likely not agree with your wit or apt assessments and see themselves only as the butt of an incredibly funny joke. (Which of course they are but that’s beside the point.) Take a look at the list below:
Things that aren’t supposed to be funny but they are:
- Windows Vista
- Your parents surfing the Internet.
- Very personal books for sale at other people’s garage sales (Conquering Erectile Dysfunction; The Better Bowels Book)
- Slogans on slasher movie posters (“When you raise hell, make sure you put it back.” “Three strikes, you’re dead!”)
- Modern furniture store names (Do you… Mogo?)
- Men who use dopey lines as if they’re ironic when really they just want to use the dopey line (“If I’m falling for you, it’s because you tripped me.”)
- Very petite girls when they get angry.
- Vegans who drive SUVs.
As you see from this list, not everything here is found universally funny by all people. Furthermore, PC users, vegans, band leaders and neighbors are notoriously humorless. Best to recognize the limits of this world and do your best to control yourself. Think of unfunny things. Cover your face. Hold your breath. Wait until it’s all over and everyone is gone so you can finally let out a good laugh later when you’re alone.
As far as your sister-in-law, you’ll need to campaign to win back her esteem. Take her aside and apologize profusely. Lie a little to spare her feelings and explain you were laughing at something completely unrelated, but realize that your purpose could be misunderstood. And then be especially nice, courteous and friendly to her to prove your good intentions.