Lucy's Newspaper Columns

Common Ground is a monthly newspaper column appearing in the New Hampshire Seacoast Newspapers.  Professional photographer Lucy also does the accompanying photographs.

Add Humor to Valentine's Day

This column appeared on February 13, 2001

It's February 13th,  for some an "Oops!" day.  That's "oops" as in, "Uh-oh;  tomorrow is Valentine's Day. I haven't yet bought that gift or that card."

Not everyone exchanges gifts or cards on Valentine's Day, of course, but any day preceding a loved one's birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion can present this kind of minor social emergency.

Have you considered injecting humor into Valentine's Day ?  I mentioned this idea to a friend, who cautioned against it.  He said, "Valentine's day can be a minefield.  An attempt to be funny on that day can blow up in your face.  As a long-married person I know that."

In spite of potential pitfalls, I suggest injecting a little humor into this day when we celebrate romantic love.  Isn't humor part of love?  Doesn't laughter bring people closer, relieve tension and, when thoughtfully evoked, heal psychological wounds?  Further, humor is memorable.  It's an accepted fact among teachers and trainers that when a speaker or instructor reinforces points with humor, those are the points that listeners most easily remember.

How do we inject humor into Valentine's Day without creating a "minefield"?  If we give a funny gift , we can accompany it with a romantic gesture, such as a flower or romantic greeting card.  Let's consider what humor does for us.

Humor heals.  It can be a form of therapy with children and adults who are ill.

Humor has been described as "social glue."  It relieves tension and brings people together.

Humor enhances learning, as mentioned:  people remember points illustrated with humor.

Humor enlivens.  It not only relieves stress but also energizes us.

Humor accompanies love.  Shared laughter is a gift in itself.

 Here are a few suggestions for funny gifts:
  A t-shirt printed with the loved one's favorite funny saying.
  A gimmick designed as a funny gift;  for example, the reportedly widely advertised Big-mouthed Billy Bass.  This appears to be a trophy fish mounted on a wall plaque.  A friend whose brother gave him one as a birthday gift explains,  "It can  be activated manually or by a motion sensor.  If you walk by the thing it breaks into song and starts to wiggle on its mount.  A must  for every sophisticated living room." 
  Humorous wrapping of a small and "serious" gift;  for example, a piece of jewelry in a small box wrapped in boxes of increasing size;  this is an old gag but still entertaining if cleverly done.
  A book of jokes, cartoons, or essays by one's favorite humorist.
  A video of performances by a  humorist or comedian whom the recipient enjoys.
  Tickets to an evening of standup comedy; there are comedy clubs of various types accessible in our area.

Since humor comes from our own lives,  you can think of your own ideas, probably better than these.

As we notice in the writing and performing of great comedians, much humor comes from material that is not, or originally was not, intrinsically funny.  Some awkward and even painful experiences of the past can, when described in a certain way, elicit laughter.  At those times, aren't we laughing because we have had comparable experiences that we can now see in a humorous light?

In this photo illustration I've combined a Harlequin figure with the well-loved Valentine gift of roses.  Harlequin--in old Italian, "arlecchino"--has come down the centuries to us as one of the stock characters of  Commedia dell'Arte.  The characters of that theatrical tradition endure because they have meaning for us.  An impulsive character, Harlequin is among other things a jokester and satirist.

Let's enliven Valentine's Day and other gift-giving occasions with humor.  Humor accompanies love.  When accompanied by a romantic, a funny gift needn't be a minefield.  Humor is both personal and universal.  Happy Valentine's Day!

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