Self Portrait Tuesday: Time # 4--A sense of humor is about timing and possibly furniture / by Christina Rosalie

Ikea furniture is always packaged flat—for easier transport, and because it requires less packaging this way. It is up to you to haul your boxes of furniture home, usually tied to the roof of your too-small car or shoved precariously in the back, with the trunk open, and when you arrive, you stumble inside with the long cardboard rectangles containing what will be your bed or nightstand, and begin the hours-long process of assembling things. It takes a lot of patience, and with any luck, your techniques improve as you go along.

You take a heap of flat boards, pegs, an allen wrench, and follow the schematics that, if they have words at all, are printed in fifteen different languages. You are aware that what you’re doing is a little bit like magic. You are turning the nearly two-dimensional stack of wood and particle board, glass and wicker, into something three dimensional and useful.

You build a wicker backed chair, after putting the legs in place wrong twice. Your cat will later love to sharpen her claws on its rattan and soon it will no longer be presentable, but when you first put it together, all you see are its clean lines and lovely promise. You imagine dinner parties, and sunny mornings over coffee.

Or you put together a glass-topped table that will for years, show every condensation ring but you still can’t be bothered to buy coasters. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make sense of the arrows and dotted lines: connect region B with point C using tool A. It might not be fine furniture, but it’s a start, and though you dream of owning REAL furniture, the kind you see in the windows of the home wares store you walk by every day, you’re happy with these flat-package creations for the time being.

This is pretty much exactly what the process of acquiring a sense of humor is like.

If you’re me, that is, and you were raised in a home with two of the most earnest, somber parents on the face of the earth. My home was also devoid of TV which contributed to a) the blossoming of my wild and vivid imagination an b) the utter absence of pop-culture sensibilities and all the accoutrements of humor that come with this terrain.

For me, sarcasm, silliness, wit, and comic timing did not come preassembled: an already functional part of my personality from day one. In fact, for years I was almost entirely lacking of anything that could possibly pass as an acceptable sense of humor.

Unfortunately sarcasm is still mostly lost on me. And, though you can slay me with a good play-on-words (my father, in all his etymological neerdieness would, on a cheery day, toss out one after another at the dinner table, and you’d have to be well versed in homophones and double-entendres to find them laugh-worthy, which I was), no amount of hanging out with boys has helped me to understand why it’s SO FUNNY to repeat one liners over and over again.

But I am gradually starting to get the hang of funny. It’s taken years for me to assemble, but I'm finally starting to get that it’s okay to JUST TAKE THINGS LIGHTLY sometimes. To NOT be serious every single minute. Years for me to finally understand that having a sense of humor, first and foremost, means having fun. It means giving yourself permission to make a fool out of yourself—to jump into things, arms and legs akimbo, laughing all the while.

And Bean is like the schematics that come with the furniture. He makes being silly easy. At 13 months, he watches everything I do, and then replicates it, often with unbelievably comic effects. He’ll take a sip of water and then let out this delightful, over-exaggerated sigh, and everybody just dies laughing. Or he’ll hear music and start wiggling his booty around with complete uninhibitedness. Finally, I'm starting to see that this is what humor is all about: over-exaggerated uninhibition. Gusto. Glee.

So we make time for this every day: we sit on the floor, roll around some, and act silly. I’m hoping that by the time he’s big, both of us will have a rip-roaring sense of humor.