Laughter is a weapon. I learned how to use it at a young age. My parents never advocated violence--even in self-defense--as a solution to anything. We'd come up with these crazy scenarios to try to get them to advise us to use fists to solve our problems ("What if the other kid sics his pet kangaroo and his thirty brothers and sisters on us? Then can we fight back?"), but they were firm in their directives: "Talk it out"; "Tell a grownup"; "Walk away"; and my favorite--although sometimes the most frustrating: "Laugh at them."
Laugh at them? They're calling me a nerd or threatening to kick my butt, and you think I can laugh about that at all, much less in the person's face?
Yep. That was their idea of a great talisman: laughter.
Lord knows they'd used it on me enough times. I can't tell you how many of my temper tantrums as a child were met with laughter. And man... that was so infuriating. But it also snapped me out of it. I realized how ridiculous I was being and that throwing a fit wasn't getting me anywhere except a one-way ticket to Humiliation Town.
(Now before you get all sniffy and 2015 Helicopter Parent on my parents' butts, this was the 80s. Also, they never laughed at any of my legitimate gripes. Because I didn't have any. I lived in a real-life Cleaver-Brady-Huxtable house. Sure, we had problems, but nothing that couldn't be solved in twenty-two minutes after a bit of a one-on-one with Mom or Dad, a kissed boo-boo, and a glass of milk.)
So, laughter. That was the strategy of choice from an early age. Someone picking on you? Laugh at them (then run like hell, because they're probably going to really want to kick your butt because you embarrassed them in front of others, but... you got the last laugh). Life not going the way you want it to go? Find the humor in it and laugh about it. Kid poops his pants in the car line at school? Put a laugh track behind it, and it's a totally different situation. Take same kid to the doctor to find out why this is happening and see an x-ray so full of poop, you wouldn't believe it was humanly possible if you hadn't seen it with your own eyes? Shrug and say, "We always knew he was full of it, but... dang!" and listen carefully as the doctor outlines the best weekend ever for you, involving laxative and lots of toilet time. Sideswipe your teenager's car on your way into the garage, because... you're an idiot? Buff out the scuffs and file it away for your next fictional character--who's apparently an abysmal driver.
Humor. It's kind of like finding the silver lining, without denying that the situation is shit. In fact, you're reveling in the fact that the situation is awful. That's what makes it funny. In every modern comedy since Seinfeld, the hilarity isn't in how perfect everything is; it's in how messed-up it is.
That's why I write chick lit. (Or rom coms. Or whatever you want me to call them this week so that you're not offended by my label. I'm looking at you, Marian Keyes... And now I'm running, so you don't kick my butt.) Writing fiction is not only an escape from real life; it's a way to laugh in the face of real life. I'm telling Life, "Screw you! You want to make me walk through a shit storm without an umbrella? I'll turn it into a novel, only the protagonist won't eat her feelings or have stress zits. But she'll definitely talk to God, using inappropriate language, while drying her hair, so nobody else in her house can hear her. Because that's funny!"
I don't always turn my problems into fictional people's problems, but I do like to think, "What if...?" and put them in some pretty awful pickles for laughs. I guess that's not very nice, either, but... they're not real people (just a reminder). And it's good practice for real life. Once you learn to find the humor in adversity, even if you don't see it right away, you're halfway to victory. Sharpen that weapon.
My parents' advice still holds true, no matter how many crazy things life throws at me: Talk it out [with the hair dryer on, so your kids can't hear you]; tell a grown-up [story]; walk away [with your sanity intact]; laugh at [life].
Here's a shameless plug for you to read my latest humorous romp (what a dumb word), Out of My League, available for pre-order now on multiple platforms and releasing on October 13, 2015. Or, heck, read any of the others. Just read them. Please. I want to make you laugh. I also want to pay the rent tomorrow. No pressure.
Also, this post is part of the Fiction Writers' Blog Hop on Julie Valerie's Book Blog. To read others' great posts, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-sep-2015