Opening Salvo

Last night’s party was mildly fun in that way that familiar people in a known setting¬† can be fun, which is to say that those with whom one is least familiar are the wild cards. Wild cards are always good for social situations because they have the potential to spark people into reacting differently from usual, highlighting small shades of their personality in ways that pique our interest.

Even those closest to us have places and ways that we haven’t seen. Knowing someone completely isn’t possible –¬† thank goodness – which makes the discovery of even the tiniest nuance in them a matter of delight. We search for newness in people and relationships, and creating novelty is an under-rated skill for keeping us fresh, especially in marriage. Think of it as brewing fresh coffee every morning; the coffee is the same, but every cup is just a little piece of wonder.

I sometimes think this is the treadmill curse of being human, the interminable search for that slightly newer thing. Everyone who manufactures stuff knows that keeping customers’ interest is best achieved with a new or updated product, or at least the hint that newness lies within.

On the other side is the way this desire drives innovation and improvement. How easy would it have been for, say, Boeing to sit back and say that the 747 was the best plane ever built and that to spend billions improving it would be an intolerable waste of money?

Meeting new people is something that I neither relish nor dislike. Meeting for business reasons obviously has a different, more scripted feeling than any social deal. That’s why our first social interactions can be fraught, because there is no script – it’s much more like improv theater than anything else, because there’s no telling what the other person will say or do. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get off the beaten path pretty quickly, because I employ the only routine I know that works for improv, which is:

Yes, and…(with encouraging body language or extra questions)…

…which allows the other person to follow their thought.

It’s not a bad way to approach a date, either, as long as you can find the funny side of wherever you end up.

Leave ’em Laughing

Women, we’re led to understand, are attracted to a sense of humor.

Statements like that are practically useless, not least because my sense of humor might be mere drollery to you, and your sense of humor might be confusing to me. It’s a universe big enough to drive a large hadron collider through. See what I mean?

Another thing: having a sense of humor and being funny are separate qualities. As obvious a statement as that is, the difference bears some thought. Because I am not funny, seeing – and reacting to – the funny is the next best thing. Yet again, we run into the roadblock of deciding whether your funny bone is made of the same material as mine. If we laugh at different ideas and actions, we both have a sense of humor without sharing it.

Let’s add these two traits to our list of compatibilities for which to look. Does she have a sense of humor, and how closely does it match or complement mine? And does she have the ability to make me laugh? Or does she have both?

What a Laugh

Couples who laugh together have “…higher quality relationships” according to Time.

What I like about the study referenced in this article is that “higher quality” is defined by words and phrases like; more vital, longer-lasting, feeling closer, more supported.

Sure, they’re only subjective ways of feeling better about your coupling choice, but the fuzzy stuff is an ingredient in relationship glue.

Go On, Make Me Laugh

What exactly does it mean, to “…have a sense of humor”?

I see this requirement pop up a lot in online profiles, so women generally think a talent for making them laugh important. (Men might equally seek funny ladies, but I wouldn’t know because reading male profiles is overwhelmingly embarrassing. No.)

We can all stipulate that a way with words (or actions, now I think about it) that rouses a laugh in others is a valuable skill. I would say that it is a very valuable skill, which brings me back to the original question: Just what is humor, and why does it help any kind of relationship?

For the most part, I see male humor divided along two lines. There are guys who follow dog-humor, which focuses on the scatalogical side; toilet stuff, sex shockers, the bawdy, working blue. Quick gags. You get the picture, the outrageous “joke” for the quick laugh.

At the other end of the spectrum we see the cat-humorists. These guys are more verbal, arch and subtle; they’ll use word-play, and work for the line that makes the audience feel like they’re smart, having connected the dots.

Drawing a sight on where you sit in these stakes should be fairly easy…as easy as choosing between cats and dogs. I’d bet that on any first date, you can tell which kind of laughs that date will provide. Hiding your humor is impossible, and in any case no-one wants to.

The value of finding laughs is pretty clear, right? First there is the outright good of laughter, an unalloyed life pleasure. The second is the way that humor has of aligning our perspective, to take away the directionality that bogs us down. It widens our vision, and gives us the freedom to look away from problems for a while.

Humor is where you find it, but if you don’t find it in the individual with whom you might couple, think about living with Carrot Top for the rest of your life.


Along with a sense of humor, a feeling of playfulness might be the best attitude anyone can bring to sex.

I was reminded of this last night when a friend talked about (not sex, but in general) how the relationship with her man works:

We play, she said, which means all of the differences between us mean nothing.

This is a wonderful notion. Do you remember playing as a child? Play is focus without effort, indulgence without excess, and imagination without fear.

Perhaps sex wouldn’t be the only part of life to benefit from a little more playful mindset?