Laughing Gas Not Required

I know I’m immature. It’s what is getting me through my 50th birthday, which is coming up in roughly, oh, I don’t know, 1,128 hours. Give or take a couple of milliseconds. Being immature gets easier as you get older. You go from being seen as irresponsible and juvenile to being quirky, eccentric and mental. But in a good way.

My immaturity rears its freckle faced, cowlicked little head every time something funny happens and I start laughing at inappropriate times or for too long or too loudly. Or when I am sitting quietly and I think of something funny and start to laugh at inappropriate times or for too long or too loudly. Or when for no reason I start to laugh . . . you get the picture.

I was at the dentist yesterday and he said something humorous and I let out a little laugh. It struck me as funny that I was lying on a reclining chair, feet sticking up in the air, with my mouth wide open and a small sucky tube hanging off the side of my mouth.

I wonder what would happen if I just continued to laugh and couldn’t stop? I wondered. Bad, bad idea to let the mind wander this way. Bad, bad, bad idea. You can’t imagine what I had to think of to yank my mind away from picturing me doubled over with laughter in that chair, the dentist backing up toward the door, the sucky thing falling out and whipping around like a loose hose.

When I was little and it was OK to be immature - heck, that was my job - this used to happen when I was in church. My brother advised me to think of bloody car crashes to keep my mind on the sermon and away from the Kleenex sticking out of the back of Lydia Gangloff’s blouse. When I was about 10, my mom and I were late for another wedding and we ran in and sat down, got settled in a pew and my mom turned to me and whispered, “I think we’re at the wrong church.” She spent the entire ceremony craning her neck to see if she recognized the groom’s parents. I spent the entire ceremony thinking about how hilarious it was that we were witnessing a stranger’s wedding. That and car crashes.

Janet Balestrino and I used to make a game of making each other laugh with milk in our mouths. It was messy, and frankly, at 14, we were getting too old for that kind of thing.

Then I got pregnant for the first time and realized that while other women become hormonal crying factories when they’re pregnant, I spent nine months laughing my butt off. In Lamaze class, where my husband and I were the oldest couple in the class, I got yelled at by the teacher on the first day for “not taking this seriously enough.” I was, though! I just got a kick out of the juxtaposition of a rubber broccoli spear and a fake boob on her desk. During the relaxation techniques, when I was supposed to be picturing myself in a garden surrounded by my favorite flowers, I was holding my breath and sweating blood to keep from howling. Back at home, my husband would send me into the bedroom to muffle my laughter at the first funny line on Family Ties.

“I can’t even hear the show!” he would complain. This, the price of fatherhood.

Throughout the years, church has become somewhat of a problem for me. We almost had to leave one parish because I was getting to be known as the new woman who snorted during Father Juan Carlos singing prayers every Sunday. The kids all had advice for me: Jack told me to release the built-up laughter in the form of a cough. But be sure your mouth isn’t in a smile shape while you’re doing it, he warned, or you’ll just end up laughing really forcefully. Mike told me to bite the inside of my mouth really hard so I’d focus on pain and the taste of blood instead of the singing prayer. Cary said, “Think about someone else going through something horrible somewhere at the exact moment that you’re laughing at this. Like your best friend is in a terrible accident right now.” Hmmmm . . . the car crash solution with a twist. I like it!

So it all worked out. From that point on, I wasn’t known as the crazy new lady who laughs like a hyena every Sunday. I was known as the crazy new lady with emphysema and bleeding gums who cries.

At the dentist, I did a combo - best-friend-in-a-car-crash, root-canal-memories, pinky-finger-bent-back-real-hard - and was able to leave the office with my reputation intact. I’m good for six months.

Labels: , , , ,