It Takes Two To Giggle

I have previously written about the competitive roaring and squealing that is so often confused with a sense of humour. Here the object of the exercise is not to achieve any wry distancing from the principal business of life on earth, namely ruthless self-aggrandisement, but rather to practice that very self-aggrandisement – in the form of taking up as much auditory space as possible.

Sitting at my Starbucks bench, I note how, when Young Female 2 arrives where Young Female 1 is already seated, they both giggle, apparently uncontrollably. It occurs to me to wonder whether anything is at all funny and if not, why giggling should constitute the primary greeting response. Is it some transposition from mere pleasure, a random signal of gratification? No doubt the arguable male equivalent, back-slapping and arm-punching, which looks like aggression but is not really, seems just as bizarre to the ladies. Perhaps I can see the inherent weirdness of both ritualised behaviours only because I am not a member of any social tribe and never have been.

A variant I found rather sinister was when a mixed group was laughing uproariously over what sounded like nothing at all. A woman who had herself remained totally silent left, whereupon the men started discussing serious subjects. In fact they did what in the popular narrative men never do, namely talked about feelings. I could make no sense of this except in terms of incentivisation; in a manner unknown to me on my bench, the silent female had somehow prevented proper conversation.

Another approach is to reflect that laughter can be a sign of nervousness or embarrassment, and how among the Japanese this may hold true of both sexes. What, in my example, did Young Females 1 and 2 have to be nervous about? I naturally have no idea. Perhaps there was some real issue, about which they were obviously not going to tell a stranger at the next table. At the time, however, I was put in mind of the way people, particularly subalterns, nervously curry favour and pre-empt attack. This is why women smile at men whom they fear or dislike, which confuses the hell out of us and so may actually make their situation worse.

I was left, quite unprovably, with a sense of having witnessed two people who at some level found it necessary to apologise for existing. According to Calderón, so should we all, but once again, this is not humour.

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 16:11 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Against Nature, Miscellaneous

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