We’ve known since February that Donald Trump would not be attending the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, yet for some reason I still expected him to change his mind. Now that he’s made other plans, I’ve accepted his “not attending” status. His determination to skip could be due to his hatred of hard working journalists and their well researched, factual “fake news.” More than likely, it’s because the man cannot take a joke.
And I know exactly how he feels.
I don’t know if it’s harder for me to admit that or to accept that. I am not, nor will I ever be, a Donald Trump supporter. Yet, I empathize and completely relate to him on this one level. I avoided most coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. I refused to acknowledge the fact that someone so gross and so grossly unqualified could become the President of the United States. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t laugh about it. I basically plugged my ears and sang “la la la, I can’t hear you,” while garnering as much support for the other candidate as possible.
I used to watch Saturday Night Live every weekend as a teenager. Maybe it was due to the fact that I could finally stay up that late on a Saturday. Maybe it was because I finally got all of the jokes, even though I was a little less knowledgeable of the politics. I have laughed at Phil Hartmon’s Bill Clinton, Will Farrell’s “Dubya,” and Jay Pharoah’s Obama. I couldn’t tune into Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump. I wanted to grab everyone by the shoulders and scream, “How can anybody laugh at a time like this?” It’s been said that liberals made the mistake of not taking Trump seriously.
That, my friends, is how a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobe became President of the United States.
As the current administration’s conflicts of interest, incompetence, dangerousness, and treason continued to unravel in the months following the election, I became a walking Edvard Munch painting. Maybe I was suffering from “post-election stress disorder.” I pretty much assumed that I would never laugh again. Nothing could ever be funny anymore. Especially not anything out of this dystopian reality.
I am what some people may call highly sensitive, but that is probably an understatement. I have always struggled to find humor where others enjoy a good laugh. Things that I have never been able to laugh at: fart jokes, dead baby jokes, other people’s pain. More seriously, I have never learned to laugh at myself.
"I’m almost embarrassed about the epiphany (Shut up, perfectionism! It’s okay to be late to realize things.) that laughter is powerful."
I married into a family that can laugh off mistakes and mishaps. Someone messes up a recipe or spills something all over the floor, everyone ends up in stitches. My typical response is to run to a different room to cry.
I’ve always been a perfectionist. Critique devastates me. I never want to do anything wrong. When I believe I have done something wrong, I tend to avoid the situation or people involved indefinitely. Run somewhere where I can try again. Start from scratch.
Life doesn’t quite work that way. I’m making countless mistakes in my marriage and as a parent. I don’t often successfully “adult.” For the first time in my life, I’m learning and growing from these mistakes. Who knew that’s how this was all supposed to work?
As I have put on my big girl panties and begun to accept that I will never be perfect (gasp!), it’s time to grow in other ways as well.
Last week, Saffiyah Khan broke the internet when the image of her appearing to laugh in the face of hatred went viral. It was an incredible display of peace and power. It was like a cartoon light bulb went off above my mom bun. I’m almost embarrassed about the epiphany (Shut up, perfectionism! It’s okay to be late to realize things.) that laughter is powerful.
There’s a reason Donald Trump cannot take a joke. It’s the same reason it breaks me. There is power in laughter, in laughing. Sure, it sucks to be laughed at. There’s that moment where you can physically feel how someone is displaying their power over you. That’s the beauty of joining in on the joke. You turn the tables of power. Well, not completely, but you pull yourself out of powerlessness.
For the first time since Alec Baldwin puckered his lips under his bronzer and bad wig, I’m tuning into SNL this Saturday. I am definitely looking forward to the live stream of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner (and not the simultaneous Trump rally).
I’m prepared to stare this mess in the face. Maybe, I’ll let my guard down enough to laugh without having to try.
You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying, right? Who am I kidding? I’ll definitely still be crying. But at least I’ll be laughing, too.