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Can anything be funny, or are some things off limits?

I have laughed hysterically at things that were quite inappropriate, but that doesn’t mean I’ve approved of them or that I’d repeat them or put them on Facebook!

I don’t like humor that demeans people, especially when it’s aimed at one person, whether he or she is in the room or not. Some traits or behaviors we think are funny about some one else may have a cause that we don’t understand, or that are hard to change. For instance, my brother-in-law has OCD, and we lovingly tease him about it sometimes, but one has to be very careful. Disorders like this are deep-seated, and while usually a malfunction of the brain, are made worse by some kind of emotional upheaval or trauma. OCD can be ameliorated by medication, but it may only disappear if aggressive counseling is employed. OCD is also a control issue, and oddly enough can be a comfort to the sufferer. It’s the only thing he or she can control in their lives, so they hold on to it.

My daughter worked with a guy once who had Asperger’s. She didn’t really make fun of him, but some of their interactions were quite humorous.

One should never make fun of weight — it’s a sore issue (and too personal) for many people. No one wants to be fat, and many are already struggling and feeling down about themselves over it.

I don’t like jokes that overtly sexual. I just think they’re in poor taste. Bodily function jokes are also off limits to my ears. (Little boys don’t seem to mind.)

Then there’s humor or truly funny events or situations that occur to us or others. When I taught, I often used humor to address issues I was having with a student or s/he with others — never making fun of them, but trying to make light of the situation rather than reprimanding. For instance a kid might try to draw attention to himself by sharpening his pencil for several minutes until it’s a nub. You really just want to take his pencil and break it in half, but asking “Don’t you just hate it when that sharpener gobbles up your whole pencil? Here, I just happen to have another one you can use that’s already nice and sharp.” He goes back to his seat, and confrontation is averted, the class can have a little chuckle and the event’s over. (You hope.)

At some stage in my life, Polish jokes were in — they were amusing but unfair. Irish jokes had a period of popularity. When my son came home from a religious middle school one time and told me Mexican jokes, I went through the roof. By that time, the 1990’s, ethnic jokes like that were taboo, and when he was in public schools previously, I knew that they did not approve — and neither did I. I had a hard time believing that they were condoned by a religious school, and let my feelings be known to my son with reasons — saying I never wanted to hear a joke like that again. I never did, and I hope the trend died out.

Think of the wonderful I Love Lucy series. No one was exempt from being silly, or the cause of laughter. But it was never hurtful — obviously it slapstick really and the writers were very creative. We can take a lesson from that and laugh at ourselves or our situations when things get rough. It’s a better example to set for children than showing anger (and maybe spouting bad or demeaning words). Life isn’t fair; better to roll with the punches and show resilience.

It’s like the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day. Bad incidents, days, moods, just happen. We’re all fallible human beings, we make mistakes, and sometimes laughing is better than crying or complaining.