My Momma sends the best emails ever. “Don’t carry cell phones close to your groin or breast. Best in a bag. Xooxoxo.” To be fair, that email made a tiny bit of sense in context. But not much.
My Momma is not actually crazy, although I might use that word for lack of a better one. But “crazy” is such a nuanced, multifaceted word that, at worst, has a whole host of negative connotations. I really I mean it in the most loving and complimentary of senses. Crazy would seem a harsh word for my Momma’s unique ability to package mortal peril and love in electronic form. Crazy would definitely sell short how my Momma makes me feel warm, fuzzy, and terrified all at once. Her crazy is linked to her funny: the weird juxtapositions that never fail to make me laugh. I laugh partially because psychological studies have shown that weird juxtapositions tend to make people laugh, and partially because the idea of cell phone radiation wreaking havoc on my tender bosom makes me nervous, and I tend to laugh when I’m nervous.
So let’s use funny — with all its connotations — instead of crazy. I mean “funny” as in wacky, as in “My mom’s collection of funkadelic-rhinestone-studded clothing makes her a lot cooler than her 20-year-old daughter: a funny scenario.” “Funny” as in humorous — as in “I totally laughed out loud when I read my Momma’s funny email.”
But above all I mean funny in the more confusing way, the kind of funny at which you laugh and ask “Come on, am I actually putting myself in mortal peril if I store my iPhone in my ample bosom for a few hours while I partay at Toad’s?”
With that type of funny, you laugh, then pause, then think that, well, maybe she has a point. After all, scientists have not fully determined the long-term effects of cell phone radiation on human tissue. And really, what’s the harm in carrying a purse on the dance floor? It seems like it would only help me catch the fellas — especially fellas who recognize the harm of holding my cell phone too close to my breast or groin.
Mel Brooks hit upon the crazy/funny/danger divide perfectly. Brooks once said that comedy is just another defense against the universe — in more ways than one, my Momma has shown me the truth in his words. First of all, the fact that her craziness makes me laugh prevents me from immediately dismissing her advice as irrelevant and ridiculous. As I laugh, my cynicism and self-righteousness softens, and I have time to reflect. In that time I come to the conclusion that it really wouldn’t be too much trouble to avoid putting my cell phone anywhere near my lady parts.
And beyond my mommy, all kinds of funny are useful as a form of self-defense. While the antics of the asinine Nick Bottom (get it? I’m so punny!) might make me laugh, more importantly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream teaches me never, ever to let my guard down in a magical forest overrun by mischievous fairies. And if I laugh at some poor, about-to-be-whoopee-cushioned slob, you can bet your bottom dollar that from that moment on, I will be watching that prankster’s every move.
But above all, comedy is a defense against the universe because the universe is filled with all sorts of mortal perils, both big and small, and sometimes all you can do is laugh at them. I don’t know about you, but after a few minutes of giggling I always feel a whole lot better about sudden or impending death. Well, not quite. But it sure makes me feel better about losing my phone at Toad’s.
Nina Beizer is a junior in Berkeley College.