It's a great feeling when someone laughs with you—it's as if they're saying that they get you.
"You're cute, but you have a stupid personality," I said to my future boyfriend.
He laughed. I remember this clearly because it was the first and last time that I ever made him laugh out loud. I certainly never inspired him to laugh his ass off or roll on the floor laughing. Perhaps this should have been a warning to me, that as far as my humor went, he only liked it when it had an insulting yet complimentary edge to it.
He was unlike anyone I'd ever known before—quirky with platinum punk hair, vintage glasses and a genius level I.Q. Sometimes he spoke with a fake accent for no real reason at all, just like Madonna. I think he enjoyed standing out and tried to do things that would make him seem more interesting. Although I wouldn't admit it, I was intrigued by him, and as it turned out, he was interested in me as well.
After a few complicated starts and stops, we began seeing each other. I moved to Los Angeles with my new boyfriend following me there a few months later. We lived together in a small apartment in Hollywood and had two orange kittens who made sleeping on a futon challenging as they enjoyed running over our heads at 4 o'clock in the morning. He'd cook strange dishes such as curried nachos, and I'd take classes in improv comedy. I'd say we were happy.
Now I'm not Tina Fey, but I have do a good sense of humor. If you were to ask me what my favorite personality trait about myself is, I'd say it's my humor. Being funny is one of the ways in which I define myself. My humor isn't dry or dark but it isn't totally idiotic either—it's unique to me.
I've performed in sketch comedy, won stand-up comedy competitions and am currently a humorous storyteller. I'm not always "on" in an annoying way, and I don't make everything all about me, all of the time. I like getting a positive reaction when I say something funny. I think we all do. It's a great feeling when someone laughs with you—it's as if they're saying that they get you.
When I was a stand-up comedian, I was highly aware of the audience's reaction. Sometimes I'd get heckled, which wasn't fun. It can be distracting when someone is interrupting your hilarious bit about nude-walking with rude comments. Luckily for me, I wasn't ever heckled to distraction.
Sometimes I'd encounter the type of person who would-not-under-any-circumstances laugh. I'd be totally killing it but if one person wasn't laughing at my bit, I'd focus in on them. I'd wonder why they weren't laughing and what could I do about it. Do they just not like me? Should I leave the stage, never to darken comedy's door again? I could change my act but I couldn't change who I was.
I learned that there is something even worse than not having an audience member love you, it's having the man you're involved with absolutely refuse to laugh.
I would say something hilarious, funny or silly and my boyfriend would just stare at me, not smiling, not laughing, not indicating in any way that he was amused by me.
Finally after months and months of non-laughter, I got up the courage up to ask "Why won't you laugh at my jokes?"
"I'm trying to make you stronger," he replied.
I didn't know what that even meant. Did he want me to get used to people not laughing because he had so little confidence in my sense of humor and ability to sell a joke that he needed to prepare me for a life wanting-but-never-getting laughs?
I also couldn't understand why he wouldn't want to laugh for his own self? Laughter is good for us. It helps relieve stress, makes you feel better about what's happening in your life and also can help you health-wise. Laughter has many benefits and everyone needs to do it— a lot.
When my boyfriend refused to laugh at anything I said, it hurt me. Humor plays an important role in any relationship. Sharing humor with your partner strengthens it and create a positive bond. But my boyfriend and I weren't in on the same joke, and his non-laughing was slowly tearing us apart.
I tried to make him laugh. I would tell jokes, make funny faces, and do horrible impressions but nothing worked. He not only didn't laugh, he wouldn't even crack a smile. We'd be out having dinner with friends, and he'd laugh at something they said but never at one of my jokes. He swore he enjoyed my humor but his actions said otherwise.
"It hurts me when you don't laugh," I said and still no laughter came out of his mouth.
My love life was bombing as horribly as any bad comedy act.
Finally I could no longer handle his refusal to share in the humor, so I stopped trying. I kept my witty banter to myself. I no longer pointed out things I thought were funny or said anything humorous. I felt as if I was denying a big part of what made me who I was. Life got a little darker and that's when I realized that I had to give him the light—his time was up.
Now I have a boyfriend who not only laughs when I say something funny, he's funny too. We have inside jokes (that only we think are funny,) he supports me when I perform and sharing a sense of humor has helped us to overcome conflict and diffuse any tension before it’s had time to damage our relationship.
My ex-boyfriend really did make me stronger by not laughing. He made me see that having a partner who refused to enjoy my humor was a deal breaker and I will never make that mistake again.