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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.




- A Wounded Heart, Who Can Bear?
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- A New Leg to Stand On
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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 

Reversals

back-ward
Function: adverb
1 a : toward the back b : with the back foremost
2 a : in a reverse or contrary direction or way b : toward the past c : toward a worse state
3 : a way in which some things don't work


Some things in life only work in one direction, and it puzzles me.

First, let me give a very jarring example of this. Here is a joke (admittedly a bad one) that I copied from the Dave Barry blog:

A very attractive lady goes up to a bar in a quiet rural pub. She gestures alluringly to the bartender who comes over immediately. When he arrives, she seductively signals that he should bring his face closer to hers. When he does, she begins to gently caress his full beard.

"Are you the manager?" she asks, softly stroking his face with both hands. "Actually, no," the man replies.

"Can you get him for me? I need to speak to him," she says, running her hands beyond his beard and into his hair.

"Can't," breathes the bartender. "He's not here. Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes, there is. I need you to give him a message," she continues, running her forefinger across the bartender's lips and slyly popping a couple of her fingers into his mouth and allowing him to suck them gently.

"What should I tell him?" the bartender manages to say.

"Tell him," she whispers, "there is no toilet paper, hand soap, or paper towels in the ladies room."


Yeah, I know, a really bad joke. But hold on, this is where it gets interesting. I'm going to grab my virtual scissors and swap some things.....snip here...snip there....a bit of glue...now check this out:

A very handsome man goes up to a bar in a quiet rural pub. He gestures alluringly to the bartender who comes over immediately. When she arrives, he seductively signals that she should bring his face closer to his. When she does, he begins to gently caress her shirt sleeve.

"Are you the manager?" he asks, softly stroking her sleeve with both hands. "Actually, no," the woman replies.

"Can you get her for me? I need to speak to her," he says, running his hands beyond her sleeve and into her hair.

"Can't," breathes the bartender. "She's not here. Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes, there is. I need you to give him a message," he continues, running his forefinger across the bartender's lips and slyly popping a couple of his fingers into her mouth and allowing her to suck them gently.

"What should I tell her?" the bartender manages to say.

"Tell her," he whispers, "there is no toilet paper, hand soap, or paper towels in the men's room."


Now, did this version make you feel kind of repulsed, uncomfortable, dirty or shocked? It did that to me too. What it definitely isn't is funny, not in the slightest.

And like I said, that puzzles me.

In the first version, a man is the victim, taken advantage of by a girl. In the second, the roles are reversed. Is the humor in the first version "allowed" because women are more "taken advantage of" than men? And by the same logic, the second version fails because men in our culture are not taken advantage of by women?

But that's not true. Ever since history began to be passed down, women have been the manipulators of men. Lets face it guys, we might have been created from dust but we never really made it beyond putty, at least when we are in the hands of any normal woman.

I think that men and women can represent "strong" and "weak" accordingly (Note: culturally only, not talking about reality here!) Thus, it is funny when the weak takes advantage of the strong, but only cruel and unpleasant when the strong take advantage of the weak.

In other words, the phrase "You go girl!" does not have a matching "You go man!"

Humanity as a whole seems to enjoy seeing the weak get the advantage of the strong. We think that a man spitting on a baby is almost obscene, but when a baby spits on a man its funny. We don't find any humor in a cat catching a small bird, but laugh our heads off when a sparrow rams a cat from behind and takes it by surprise.

And let's not even mention the roadrunner and coyote.

Within us all is this innate sense of "justice" that is fed when we see something that moves what we feel is somehow less towards what we feel as somehow more.

We really, really want everything in the middle, and movement in that direction pleases us inside. That's why the first version of the joke is funny, and the second one is just boorish. In the second one, the direction is backwards.

So now we are boiling it down to the essence.

The underdog always captures our heart. That is why most Disney movie main characters lose a parent at the beginning of the movie. That's why stories like the "Ugly Duckling" captivate us as children. That's why the favorite character in "Scooby Doo" is the bumbling, muttering dog.

Why is the underdog (pardon the pun) so dear to us?

I think, and this is only my personal opinion here, that most of us view ourselves as underdogs, as taken advantage of, as somehow less than others in some way. We only see the outside veneer of those around us, but we see the brutal "reality" inside of us, and try to compare them, and we fail the test.

So, we root for the roadrunner, the gymnast with a twisted ankle, the team that never should have made it to the Superbowl, and by doing that we vicariously get back at those stronger than us.

Hey, if they can do it, so can I, right?

Sometimes, as in the above joke, the underdog is infused with a sense of wit and cleverness. This idea is spread worldwide in folk tales, from the Norwegian Loki to the American Indian Coyote to Anansi the Spider to B'rer Rabbit to a hundred others.

Strength and size are something you have to be born with.

Cleverness and wit, well, those could just happen.

Make sure you check the toilet paper, OK?


Ahhh. A man with a sharp wit. Someone ought to take it away from him before he cuts himself.
Peter da Silva


Permalink: 4/27/2004 12:17:00 PM |
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