Crabby Old Lady has been collecting a few elderjokes from around the web:
- You don’t know real embarrassment until your hip sets off a metal detector.
- The most frustrating thing about getting older is that every time you see an expensive antique, you remember one just like it you once threw away.
- Let's face it, traveling just isn't as much fun when all the historical sites are younger than you are.
- Heck, I don't feel a day older than I did a hundred years ago.
- I'm suffering from Mallzheimer's disease. I go to the mall and forget where I parked my car.
- Age always corresponds inversely to the size of your multi-vitamin.
- You know you're past your prime when you start getting air-guitar elbow.
As old folks jokes go, these are not so bad. Crabby can recognize a bit of herself in each one except the first and the difficulty of air travel these days substitutes fairly well for a metal hip joint.
The fact is that some people within any affinity group – age, nationality, interest, religious – have enough common characteristics that they can easily become objects of humor. They are funny for just that reason: they occur frequently enough within the group to become emblematic.
Golfers often wear funny clothes and it’s funnier that they wear the same kind of funny clothes.
Is not Paris Hilton the epitome of the pretty, dim-bulb blonde? Or is she dumb like a fox? Either way, it works as a joke because we all recognize the type.
Every elder has lost a car in the mall parking lot. That it happens to younger people too doesn’t make it a less successful age joke.
But Crabby particularly likes the last one-liner in the list because of the unexpected modernization.
It is in the nature of humans to categorize things, even themselves, and mankind has always laughed hardest at its own foibles. Crabby thinks political correctness has removed a lot of great humor from our lives. Why shouldn’t we laugh at jokes about old people – or any other group?
The answer is usually that the jokes are mean particularly when they perpetuate stereotypes of groups that are commonly discriminated against.
For example, workplace humor about older folks being slow to take up new technology could be funny (some elders are technology-phobic) if elders were generally respected in the workplace. But because they so often are not, the jokes sting.
It comes down to respect – from others, surely, but it is also about respecting ourselves enough to acknowledge our time in life and its physical effects. Writing in Salon [subscription or day pass required] recently, Gary Kamiya explained this well:
“…resisting old age makes you old. It makes your losses serious. When you accept those losses, on the other hand, they become comic. You defeat old age by making friends with it. By letting it win. And you might as well, because it's going to anyway.
“By comedy, I don't mean simply cracking jokes about our impending decrepitude and doom - although that's an excellent idea. Nor do I mean an approach to life that refuses to acknowledge tragedy. I mean a spirit of regeneration, one that paradoxically springs from an abandonment of illusions.
“The comedic attitude offers a kind of resignation, a calm surrender to the inevitable. And it's regenerative because it doesn't see change as the enemy. It's an invincible, self-fulfilling belief, one that bubbles up from somewhere unseen.
“The comic state of mind is irrepressibly buoyant. Take away my knees, it says, and I've still got my feet. Take away my feet and I'll laugh at you all from my wheelchair. Take away my wheelchair and I'm still on the sunny side of the grave.”
Crabby Old Lady doesn’t mean to accept or ignore prejudicial age humor without protest. But by acknowledging our aging selves with honesty and finding the humor in it, we can help foster a culture where everyone can laugh about frailties, failings and shortcomings (of any group) without falling victim of the PC police. Laughter is a good thing...
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chuck Nyren takes us on a strange and wonderful fantasy about the extremes of the contemporary art world in A Minimalist Afflatus.]