Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Some Situations Are Too Sacred For Jokes

Dear Readers: Today’s letter contains sensitive material that may be difficult for some readers to handle. I am answering the letter because the writer is obviously in need of support and advice.

Dear Tazi:

I am an adult woman with an issue that has me at the end of my rope. My brother “George” makes a joke out of everything. With George, nothing is sacred. One Christmas, when Mom overcooked the roast he joked about it through the whole meal, much to Mom’s mortification. Another time, when a cousin was going through a painful divorce, he joked about how upset her ex-husband must be that he would have to go out and buy a punching bag for his aggression (our cousin left the man because he was physically abusive). Tasteless, tacky, and bordering on mental abuse is how I would describe George’s humor, but so long as one person laughs George will continue with his sick brand of humor because he honestly believes people find him funny, and that those who don’t can’t take a joke.

I grew up the butt of George’s humor and for the most part have learned to ignore him. My husband refuses to laugh at George’s jokes – at first it was at my request, but over the years he has seen how George is encouraged by laughter, to the point where his humor gets abusive, so now my husband finds no humor in George’s witticisms. The final straw has now been reached, and my husband and I wish to cut off all contact with George, but doing so would break my mother’s heart.

Earlier this year, I lost a full-term pregnancy. My husband I and I were – and still are – devastated over our loss, but we are leaning on each other for support, seeking counseling, and working through our pain together. We believe the loss has made us even stronger as a couple and plan on trying again as soon as we are ready. All through my pregnancy, George would make jokes about my size – first I was too thin; then I was too fat; I will not even get into the jokes about our personal life that George saw fit to make.

After I lost my baby, George came to the hospital carrying a large decorative soup pot full of helpful items – body lotions, personal care items, a wonderful fluffy bathrobe, and a book of grieving. I was quite touched, until George commented that we could use the pot to make soup with my baby’s remains. Just remembering that moment makes me want to vomit, which I did at the time, much to George’s glee because he added that we could “add that to the pot, too!” My husband had to be physically restrained (thank God the bed was between him and George) as George was escorted from the room. We have not spoken to him since, despite his many phone messages offering apologies for “overstepping the line” in his attempts to cheer me up.

My mother has a milestone birthday approaching, and her siblings are planning a large banquet for her. She has expressed her desire for George and me to “let bygones be bygones” because I know how George has a habit of “putting his foot in his mouth”. She has told me that forgiveness is the greatest gift of all, and that is what she would like me to give George for her birthday. My husband has told me I am crazy if I can find it in my heart to forgive my brother’s clod-like behavior; but it is my mother’s heartfelt wish that our family be whole and healed. Her youngest brother died in Viet Nam, and there were unresolved issues between them, so I can understand her side of things – but I am still reluctant to accept George’s apology.


Dear Trying:

Your letter shattered my kitty-cat heart into a million little pieces. You have my most heartfelt sympathies on the loss of your precious baby and my wishes for a brighter future. As for your brother…

I will refrain from giving George my famous “Tazi Paw Slap of Disgust”, even though he richly deserves one, because some people are just natural born buffoons. It sounds to me that your brother is unable to handle emotional stress of any kind, and uses humor to try and work through it. Unfortunately, at times such as the ones you have described, humor is the last thing that is wanted, needed, or appropriate for the situation.

Your mother is correct in saying that forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give, but it is not a gift that comes freely for either side. For your part, it will require a great deal of emotional fortitude and soul-searching to accept what sounds like his sincere apologies, but George has his part to play, as well. Words of apology are only one half of a sincere apology; a desire to do penance towards the injured party is the side most people like to ignore.

If George is truly sorry for his behavior – and he did not simply overstep the line, he completely erased it! – he will be open to a penitent offering towards you. My suggestion is that George seek counseling to get to the root of his problem (making inappropriate jokes at the expense of others), and work towards developing some self-restraint when the urge to tell a joke hits. Unless George changes his behavior, all the apologies in the world will not heal the rift he has caused.

Snuggles, Snuggles, and more Snuggles,

P.S. I, too, felt a wave of nausea when I read the tasteless comments George made to you. George is lucky his shoes were nowhere in my sight!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


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