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LeslieWhat
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 10:02 am:   

Says Jeff V in above thread: <<I've actually got a question--where did you get your sense of humor? It seems pretty unique. Are your parents funny people? Siblings? You had to have had an audience.
--

We can all blame our parents, in that I'm convinced that sense of humor and temperament and other personality traits are genetic and influenced by environment.

My sisters and I all share a disturbing sense of irony. My little sister just read my SCI FICTION story and said I was twisted, but in a good way. My parents were a little odd (no blame here--they were shaped by their experience and genetics like the rest of us) and the best way for we three siblings to get through our atypical youth was to develop an appreciation for the bizarre.

My mother does not have much of a sense of humor but my father was a big-time joker, and I found his jokes a lot funnier when not directed against me.

I was just thinking today about the time when we were kids and had driven into Tijuana. When we crossed the border to come home, the customs agent asked my father, who was driving, "Do you have anything to declare?"

The three girls were in the back seat, shivering beneath a blanket.

My dad thought it would be funny to answer, "Just that marijuana in the back."

The customs agent had a different sense of humor. He had us pull over and they took our car apart. They really did take it apart. We were there for hours. My mom, a naturalized citizen, did not have her papers and the authorities threatened not to let her back in. My dad thought this was all pretty funny and his smirk never broke. My mom and the three girls were not amused.

Looking back, I do think it was a rather funny scene. I also now wonder how my dad knew about marajuana???

I also haven't a clue as to how to use this anecdote in fiction.

Comedy is Tragedy plus Time -- Carol Burnett
--

Okay, if anyone is game: What did your parents do to help influence who you are? I'll say ahead of time that I don't believe who suffered most makes anyone a better fiction writer. It's about how you're able to interpret and convey that information that matters. Also, since this is a public board, if the question brings up something so powerful that the story would best be served by writing it up in narrative form, please follow that inclination! (But if you want to tell me the gist in email, I'm at what@radarangels.com.)

Leslie
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JeffV
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 10:10 am:   

I heard Woody Allen use that comedy is tragedy plus time line. I wonder who originally came up with it--if he stole it from Burnett or what.

Thanks, Leslie--great Mexican border story!

My dad has a sense of humor, my mom less so. My dad is a scientist, my mom an artist, so I was lucky in a sense because I got encouragement for the creative side but some structure on the other. The major thing they did for me, in a sense, was join the Peace Corps, which meant I experienced other cultures at a very early age.

Re any sense of humor I have--it kind of comes out of a sense of disaster being, as you say, funny when you look back it.

That anecdote of yours is a short story all by itself. You could easily write a story about it.
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JeffV
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 10:14 am:   

and I've resolved to stop using the word "sense"...
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Maureen McHugh
Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 06:06 am:   

I just heard an interesting thing on NPR. A woman has written a book about how women are changed by having children, and the biggest change she observed was that women become a lot more fearful. Not for themselves, but for their children. And their life choices are a reflection of that overwhelming, irrational urge to protect. It makes them conservative (because to disturb things is to draw notice on them and on their children.)

I wonder if many mothers appear humorless because of this?
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 05:44 pm:   

It certainly does become more difficult to carry on with risky behavior when you have a child. Try to tap dance on a cliff edge while your babe is suckling at the breast and you're quite likely to lose a nipple.

I noticed that after I had children I started to get freaked out by blood and cuts and painful things that didn't used to phase me. I can remember being young and single and having a neighbor kid come up to me all freaking out because he'd stepped on a nail. Without hesitation, I pulled the board from his foot and let him bleed on my carpet while I called his mom. When my own kid brought her thumb with the sewing machine needle sticking through it, I had to call my husband to deal with it--I was unable to act in the decisive manner I once knew.
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Deborah Layne
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 07:57 pm:   

Wow, I noticed that, too. My own fears centered around children falling -- not just my own, all children -- when I would see children standing in grocery carts, stepping onto down escaltors, standing near stairs, anything they might fall from, I would have one of those fear jolts with the quickening pulse and sweaty hands. It was all I could do to keep myself from running through stores and malls (clutching my own child) preventing fatal falls.

:-)

I'm better now. Honest.

Deborah

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Steph
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 04:10 pm:   

I always used to hate weddings,

All the old dears poking me in the ribs and saying "you'll be next."

They stopped when I started doing it to them at funerals...

Steph

-X-
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Mike
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 06:15 am:   

Deborah, you were playing the Holden Caulfield role, that of the catcher in the rye.

A funny line, Steph, at funerals. And a good way to put an end to your inevitable ribbing at weddings.

My father shaped my sense of humor, such at is, but I've written about that elsewhere, fairly recently, in a 6,500-word memoir called "Scolding the Ayatollah." I hope some publication eventually takes it.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 08:35 am:   

The You'll be Next comment reminds me of being pregnant and how many women (strangers) told me their pregnancy and childbirth horror stories.

Not that weddings are terrible, etc. etc., but people certainly do look for opportunities to spread the pain.

Mike, I've sent out a shorter bit of the memoir but am still working on the second installment. Maybe I'll try to get it finished by the end of the month.
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Mike
Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 09:13 am:   

Leslie, good luck with finishing the second installment of your memoir. I sent my piece to a noncommercial monthly out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, called The Sun. Do you know it? It's a wonderful magazine.

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