April Fool’s, Men’s Feelings, and Warped Humor

my dadEvery year on April Fool’s Day, my dad tells a lie. Of course on that particular day of the year, we don’t call them lies. We call them “jokes” or “pranks.” This technicality in nomenclature is supposed to annul the victim’s anger, deflate it like a red balloon.

“Can’t you take a joke?” the perpetrator asks.

You can’t say no because that would be the same as saying you take yourself too seriously. In our blasé culture of go with the flow being uptight is a worse accusation than being insensitive. Being uptight is the epitome of UNCOOL. We’re allowed any feeling except righteous indignation.

Unless we’re indignant about ecological catastrophes, natural disasters, or hungry, thirsty children, we’re not allowed to hold anything sacred or to have boundaries or modesty that label other people’s behavior as inappropriate or offensive.

Rather than apologize, the person responsible offers a flimsy justification: “It was only a joke!” You may as well tell bees that you mean them no harm; you just want their honey. Humor at another person’s expense is sweet until you get stung.

Experience tells me that men disregard one another’s feelings more often than women, and thus find themselves in position of needing to make amends. Most men struggle to make amends for hurting a friend’s feelings or even just pissing him off with a stupid prank. Hurt feelings bewilder and embarrass them, and in the midst of that confusion they default to self-defense, making with passive aggressive excuses for their actions.

“Dude, have a sense of humor. It was only a joke.”

“So you’re suggesting that because I got upset when you put a dead fish in my car while I was on vacation that I don’t have a sense of humor and can’t take my own medicine? That I am somehow immature?”

My Family’s Warped Sense of Humor

Thankfully, I grew up with two sisters and no brothers. I had to learn that if I punched Laura and she said, “Ow, that hurt!” I couldn’t say, “No, it didn’t,” even if I hadn’t hit her that hard.

April Fool’s jokes taught us all to have a sense of humor, albeit a warped one. One year, my parents told Laura, who was eight days away from her sixteenth birthday, to go out and look in the driveway. She expected to find her new car but she found nothing.

My dad would agree that that one was a mistake. “April Fool’s!” didn’t remove the sting of disappointment.

Last year, my older sister sent out an email saying that she was pregnant. I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. I think she felt bad after I left a message saying I’d be praying for her and Jim and God wouldn’t bring another child into the world without helping them to provide for it.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now, but when I received this email from my dad last Friday, I immediately started dreaming how to make it work: $50 per person per day for a Mediterranean cruise? We’d be stupid not to go! After all, my parents really are going on the cruise, and Libya really is experiencing deep civil unrest. Every good lie—oxymoron?—contains truth.

Auto-Owners Insurance, the insurance company sponsoring our cruise, sent out an email today.  They said because of the unrest in the Mediterranean area and Libya in particular, they have had a large number of cancellations for our specific cruise.  Because they’ll lose a large part of their deposit, they’re going to offer to agency owners who qualified, the opportunity to take family members on the same cruise for $ 1000 per couple.  Not bad for a 10 day cruise!  However, Pop and Kiki will not be funding this!  So, if you have an interest and can go from May 5 to May 15, better let me know and get me your $ 1000.  I will not be advancing the $ 1000!  Dad

What’s the best April Fool’s joke you have pulled off or heard about? Or were you, like me, the fool?

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10 Comments

  1. Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got some strong feelings about this subject, having a family member who does the “It was only a joke!” thing right after launching a cruel comment.

    Said relative called me into the family room; he wanted me to see a commercial he’d Tivo’d. Expecting something funny, I was treated to a spiel from The Scooter Store. “You’re going to need one of these now!” he chortled. “What’s wrong? It was only a joke!”

    It’s the verbal equivalent of putting a smiley face after an insult.

  2. Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Charleen. I know what you mean. It’s supposed to be this Get Out of Jail Free card. You can be a real jerk, but if you say, “It was only a joke!” then suddenly you’re funny, and the other person is the one with the problem. In a similar vein is when people will gossip for half an hour about someone, and then say, “So keep her in your prayers.” Yikes. What if we just apologized? What if we never tried to invalidate other people’s feelings? That’s a beautiful thought.

  3. nick
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    This year my wife didnt have work on April Fools Day so before I left for work I changed all of the clocks in the house ahead 2 hours (including her cell phone and laptop). I ended up having to tell her at 9:15 pm that it was really 7:15pm. My favorite comment from her all day was “Man, my emails are behind like 2 hours today.” to which I responded, “ya ive noticed that maybe GMAIL servers are backlogged.”

    I dont know that I can ever top this April Fools Prank.

  4. Posted April 8, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Nick, that’s beautiful! I love that it lasted all day, and it wasn’t severe enough to make her mad, though I still step over that line sometimes. Have you ever seen Amelie? I love the various things she does to the fruit stand owner.

  5. Lauren
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Bruce…so vicious! At least you can semi-get him back by posting a picture of his armpit and popped collar on your blog.

  6. Posted April 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    What is writing if not revenge?

  7. Brandon Lokey
    Posted April 10, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    When I was in middle school, my dad convinced my brothers, who were then only in elementary school, and me that Lipscomb had decided to switch to “year ’round school” and that we had no option but to go to school all summer. He kept giving us more and more details about it, and my brothers and I were literally in tears before he decided to give and tell us it was only an April Fool’s joke. Shouting “April Fools!” afterward was not quite enough to calm us down. I guess that means we couldn’t take a joke. Good one, Dad.

  8. Posted April 11, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Brandon, I guess most people relent once they’ve brought that unsuspecting person to tears. You can see panic in their eyes that says, “Uh oh. Now I’ve done it.” It’s funny to watch other people scramble to fix things, but it’s terrible to have to do it yourself. I’ve been the person scrambling more often than the person watching.

  9. Posted April 29, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Bob Lefsetz, a music industry pundit, blogged a few years back that Apple (the computer company) purchased EMI (the major record label). He went on with elaborate stories of how Madonna and other artists were auditioning in Steve Jobs’ office, and Steve’s big innovative plans for the music industry.

    I don’t know why I believed this, but I totally bought it-then preceded to blog about it!

    The next day when it finally occurred to me that if this was true it would be one of the biggest news stories in the history of the music business. Yet no one else was saying anything about it. A Google search turned up an article on the Wired blog in which the author of the post said something to the effect of, “haha, nice prank, bob.”

    Man, I felt like the biggest idiot of all time.

  10. Posted May 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Stinson, that may be the one time you’d be thankful for a small following on your blog.