Dan’s young (25-ish) office mate had a road trip planned for this weekend with 9 friends. Destination: Poland. Dan has lamented, over the past few days, that this sounds like exactly the kind of thing just-out-of-college-youth should be spent on (and I agree — I think back to the many nights we spent eating pizza in front of the tv, times when we were actually BORED and think of what a waste it was). His coworker has suggested, recently, that maybe Dan could come along next time. Dan has said it would be up to me. Then, yesterday, at the last minute, it turned out that someone was sick and Dan’s friend suggested (jokingly) that Dan call me to ask if he could come along, but that he imagined there would be lots of yelling if he did. Dan replied that no, in fact, I’d help him back his bags . . . just for a much longer trip.
Har, har. I get the joke: “My wife isn’t the yelling and screaming type, but she wouldn’t permit that. She’d kick me out just for asking.”
But, hang on a second. Over the past 14 years, I’ve put up with, facilitated and indulged WAY more than an impromptu, last minute, weekend trip to Poland.
I do get the joke. But it isn’t accurate. It’s putting me down, even though I wasn’t there, even though there’s no apparent harm done. I am so much more than that. I am so much kinder than that. I am so much more loving than that.
So, why not give me that credit?
Why couldn’t it go like this, instead: friend jokes that Dan call and ask if he can go. Dan says, “Actually, if I really wanted to go, I think Emily would help me make that happen.” “Really? Let’s do it!” “No, I’d really rather spend the weekend with my wife and kids.”
(Pause for that to sink in.)
Dan doesn’t say that — not because he doesn’t believe it, but because he wants to be funny — he doesn’t want to look like the guy who can’t take a joke.
But, why not have integrity and be honorable to the woman that I am, the wife that I am, the reality of the marriage that we have? That would hit this young guy like a ton of bricks — open his mind to the idea that it’s possible, reasonable even, to have a marriage that is more than expected. More than formulaic and superficial and trite.
These little jokes, these little things that we say, plant seeds in our minds. They become part of how we see each other, even if unfounded. If we could have integrity, always, with the things that we say and the way that we act, it would be self-perpetuating. It could become normal. We could honor, respect and love each other, in these small acts, and reflect the love, honor and respect we try to carry with us through the years. We could see these jokes for what they are: a reflection of a false and sad state that is not reality for us.
I’m not mad at Dan for this — I made exactly this point to him last night when he told me the story, and he got it. (It took a while to get past the, “You don’t understand, it was a JOKE”, reaction, but we got there.) I’m just saying: let us be kind and respectful of each other. The words we choose feed the way we think and inform our thoughts and actions. We do ourselves harm and disservice by choosing, instead, to get the joke.