'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
MEN MUST KEEP EMOTIONS IN CHECK
American men, by virtue of the official “John Wayne-Vince Lombardi Code of Conduct” (passed by Congress and signed into law in 1964), are allowed to display only two emotions: anger and sports-related joy.
Whenever a major crisis occurs—such as when the ketchup runs out—a man is expected to yell, swear, pound his fist on the table, and turn red in the face. This shows everyone that the man is keenly aware of the problem, cares deeply about the problem, and, in typical American take-charge fashion, will do whatever it takes to solve the problem. (With this particular emergency, the usual solution is to grumble, “Mabel, next time you’re out shopping, buy two bottles of ketchup.”)
The only other time a man is allowed to display an emotion is when his favorite sports teams win. Tears of joy, shouts of “Hallelujah!” and special little victory dances in the living room are all permissible if a favorite sports team is triumphant. This is true even if the contest in question is a pre-season exhibition game. If the winning ballgame is in the regular season or, more importantly, in the playoffs, men are allowed to ignite celebratory bonfires on the front lawn.
However, if a man’s favorite sports teams lose, the other permissible emotion, anger, is appropriate. (In my Boston Red Sox and New York football Giants household, let’s just say: thank goodness for UConn basketball.)
All other emotions besides anger and sports-related joy are strictly prohibited. Men risk hefty fines and possible jail time if they display any of the following emotions: fear, sadness, nostalgia, grief, compassion, empathy, affection, tenderness, optimism, and non-sports-related joy. (And guys, don’t forget: the birth of a child is not sports-related.)
If the display of an illegal emotion occurs in public, the fines are tripled and jail time is mandatory. And of course, if the illegal emotion is accompanied by the hugging and/or kissing of another man, execution by firing squad without a trial must take place before sundown.
It’s not that American men are prohibited from having certain emotions; they simply are not allowed to display them. On those rare occasions when a man feels a bit of fear, sadness, tenderness, or optimism welling up in his chest, he must clench his jaw, stuff the emotion back down, and keep it bottled up.
The fact that most America men keep their emotions bottled up is, I suppose, a good thing—good, that is, for companies manufacturing antacids, high blood pressure pills, and ulcer medication. But for the women of America, it’s probably not such a good thing.
Women have become the de facto Emotional Ambassadors of the American family. Whenever a situation arises that calls for one of the prohibited male emotions—tenderness, compassion, affection, etc.—it is the women in the family who must step forward and meet the need.
Since most women are pretty good at these things anyway, it’s often not a problem—except when it comes to their husbands’ relatives. The duty to purchase Christmas and birthday gifts, send out anniversary and Get Well Soon cards, and lend a “sympathetic ear” when someone needs to talk, all fall upon the wife’s shoulders. This is true even if the wife has never even met certain of her husband’s relatives.
Speaking as a man, I can say with all sincerity it’s not that we don’t want to write effusive thank-you notes and get into deep discussions about how touching it is to see little five-year-olds dressed up for the first day of Kindergarten. It’s just that we are prohibited by law from doing so.
Trust me, ladies, even though our faces show no emotion, deep down inside we are simply all aflutter at how cute Brittany looks in her sun dress and pigtails. Really. And if little Brittany ever hits a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win a playoff game, we will be able to show it.
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