Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

No Joke

April 30, 2014

How does a joke shift from being seriously funny to being seriously troubling? When is the exact moment we pause and realize there is too much truth in this statement for me to continue to howl so? Maybe it’s always okay to laugh at our shared suffering, if it’s seriously troubling or not? Is the joke any less funny if it also successfully reveals an uglier truth? Laughter can show us the way through our deepest sadnesses. That’s been my experience. Over the last 4 years, I committed to the exploration of a harmless joke and accidentally transformed my life.

I had no idea what journey I was in for when I set out to write “See Jane Give Up Dick”. It was meant to be a silly commentary on how hard it was for me to go without sex. Ha ha ha. A truth I
only half believed. For the quantity of sexual experiences I had, a staggering few where of any actual quality. Going without random terrible hook ups didn’t seem like any great sacrifice. I  couldn’t have been more wrong.

When you’ve mistakenly used your sexuality to define who you are for the better part of your 20’s, giving that up suddenly is, in fact, no joke. Some might even say, the joke was on me. In the year I swore off sex completely, I spent every moment trying to occupy myself enough to defeat my cravings. The strongest cravings proved to be my need for constant male approval,  the first thing to go if you refuse to have sex with them, I found. I realized this incessant need for validation wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought it was. It was dark and scary. My lacking self worth  was pretty painful to face. This dangerous behavior was actually rooted in an embarrassing amount of low self esteem and insecurities. The hours I spent alone in my apartment that year, were not filled with fits of joyous laughter. The fits I acutely experienced were managed with boxes of tissues and entire pizzas.

Worse, I had promised myself and the internet that we were all in for a hilarious good time. I took a little play on words about celibacy further than I ever would have imagined. Terrified that this glimpse at spinsterhood was more horrifying than hilarious, I began to panic. Then I decided if my blog can’t always be funny, it can at least be true. So I held on and wrote it all down. The humor erupted naturally out of this internal struggle.

Luckily, the lack of obvious punch lines didn’t detour me from continuing to explore this new and illuminating part of my own story. I started to see the ways I hid my pain under my clever quips. Committing to write the truth of my messy loveless life, slowly led me to a reserve of inner strength and understanding, I never would have found otherwise. Removed from the worry of wether I’d hear from some man again, I found the self who was more important than that. This well of riches was surprisingly unscathed by years cheap and trampy tendencies. My lovely inner essence forgave me and showered me with tremendous love and acceptance.

Thank God I thought it was funny, at first. Somehow this tiny joke about feeling slutty led to the most transformative journey of my life. When exactly did this funny notion save me? Hard to say. Do all hilarious notions have such rewarding conclusions?

I don’t know. Perhaps being able to laugh at something, naturally lightens the weight of it, breathes air and light into our harder truths. A joke made in poor taste can at the very least begin a much needed dialogue. At its most basic, jokes are an invitation to think about something differently. We give normal situations permission to be different than we had all imagined. Laugh at the silliness present in most certainties and see that humor challenges us to think and be better humans. Admitting the challenges my sexuality caused me, could only be approached with levity. Armed with humor, I was able to do battle with my meanest insecurities and arrive at loving acceptance. No joke, I couldn’t have done it without all those dick jokes.

Categories: See Jane Give Up Dick

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