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The Punchline

I love to laugh. I believe that laughter is like medicine for the soul, and that if we can find something to laugh about in times of darkness, then it can release us from the weight that is holding us down. I love jokes that are so terrible that they’re funny, and I will find humour in the most mundane things. When I don’t know how to fill the silence in a room, and if I feel compelled to say something, it will most likely be a joke – hit or miss, it doesn’t matter, it will rarely be anything other than something intended to lighten the mood or break the ice.

Having said that, it doesn’t always mean that other people are laughing at the words that leave my mouth. It feels to me that rather than laughing with me, people laugh at me.

I work in hospitality and there’s a lot of human interaction, so to break the tension and to try and make people feel good, I tell a lot of jokes. Is it always the right time to do that? No. Do some people look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language? Yes. It’s like a vice of mine, to bring as much of that energy as I can to a room. To be completely honest, while I intend to make people laugh and make sure they’re having a good time, it helps me feel less like a robot and more like a person, because I often worry that I don’t appear as human as everybody else.

That personal concern connects to the feeling that people are laughing at me, like I’m the punchline to my own jokes, or even to my own word vomit. I’ve walked away from a lot of situations where I felt like nothing that I said was actually funny, and people were just laughing at me and my feeble attempts to appear a certain way to them.

I’ll give you an example of what often goes through my head after telling a joke or trying to use my personality to make people laugh:

That wasn’t funny. They’re laughing at me, not with me. That was pity laughter, that wasn’t even funny. That was so stupid. They’re talking now, they’re talking about me and how stupid I am. They think I’m not normal. They think I’m incompetent at my job. I don’t think they like me; they were just fake laughing. They think I’m weird.

Now, maybe it’s because I don’t have the best social skills and most of how I present myself is just me masking because I know that I’m representing somebody else’s empire and not my own. Then again, my personality isn’t different when I’m not masking, but I’m just not trying to be likeable and to make people feel a certain way when I’m not in social situations.

Throughout my journey of self-discovery, throughout the revelations and the unravelling of my not-so-typical mind, I have obviously become so much more aware of how I present myself to other and what represents my truth compared to what doesn’t. This plays on my mind when it comes to something as simple as laughter in the kind of environment I’m speaking of.

To analyse myself, I have to admit that laughter is a vice, it’s a silence filler, it’s a mask, it’s an attempt at appearing as and feeling like a normal person, but that it’s also something that is so beautiful and unifying. There is laughter and there are jokes and moments of humour that are forced – so forced – but then there are so many times, when I’m with people who I typically do joke around with, that are genuine. It’s just that diving this deep into the ocean of my mind is confusing one for the other, and it makes me feel like I’m not someone that others laugh with; I’m someone that they laugh at.

What I’m taking away from this philosophy of how I present to other people, is acceptance. Self-acceptance, to be precise. This is an opportunity to accept that I won’t always pick on these things and that people are going to laugh at me, and that I’m not going to appear as neurotypical as I want to, and it’s also a chance for me to remind myself that I’m never going to be neurotypical at all – it’s not a moment of defeat to realise that; it’s a moment of clarity for a neurodivergent person.

I must accept that I won’t always know if people have picked up on the joke, or if the joke – from their point of view – is actually me.

This is something that a lot of people experience, and that a lot of people are unsure of. You can be told that you’re not being laughed at, but that others are laughing with you, and there won’t always be certainty in the answers that are sought after. Sometimes it will be easy to shrug it off, and sometimes it won’t be so easy.

I could mentally resign myself to not attempt to make other people laugh, and to not use humour as any kind of coping mechanism, but it’s such an infectious thing and I’m sure that I’ll find myself laughing, once again, at a very inappropriate moment.

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