Saturday, November 26, 2005

Uncomfortable Silence

A few days ago, someone told me a joke that involved two golfers, a professional hit-man, a cheating spouse and a best buddy. The punch line had a reference to oral sex that completely eluded me. There was that pregnant pause after which the listener is supposed to burst out laughing.

I was as embarrassed by the silence as was the person telling the joke. We chatted about other things while I tried to decipher the joke in my mind. Back home a couple of hours later, I finally got it and laughed sheepishly.

The incident reminded me of a time when I wasn't given any credit for my understanding of adult humor. In a sense I have come full circle.


One of the amusing side-effects of being divorced that I have noticed is being presumed juvenile. For instance married people think I will be shocked and embarrassed by risque humor. Worse, if the reference is oblique I would not even understand.

One gracious hostess desirous of sparing me needless agony volunteered to "translate" for my benefit or asked if I would rather hang out with the visiting-from-India-Mummies-and-Papas clustered in the formal living room. Thank goodness for the visiting parents or she would have to scrounge for a pair of sturdy ear-plugs.

The end of a relationship can cause various things to be lost - friendship, love and companionship come to mind first. That I would cease to be treated as an adult is not something I would have even anticipated. When my ability to understand an adult joke was questioned for the first time I had remarked with some indignation "I am adult and a mother. I think that makes me reasonably well acquainted with the human reproductive function and all references to it"

The would-be "joke-translator" was at loss for words. Someone in the room laughed just in time to diffuse the tension. The degree of "adultness" in subsequent jokes went up several notches accompanied by graphic asides on personal preferences and gratuitous displays of affection. Certainly an awkward situation to be in but I stayed on to build my resistance for future onslaughts.

I don't try to prove my point anymore. I excuse myself well before bacchanal bantering gathers momentum. The rate of depletion of alcohol in the bar is a fairly good gauge. I hang out with the kids or watch TV until I have done my time and can leave without offending the hosts.

The visiting Mummies-et-Papas can be terribly curious about my status and are prone to offering advice like "You should try to marry again while you are still young. Your child needs a father." Then there is the mother of all questions "So what went wrong ?" While I am very happy to provide them something to talk about other than comparing ad-infinitum their children's accomplishments (house, car/s, vacation destinations and job typically), I hate to have to participate in it as well.

Presumed juvenility is not restricted to comprehension of adult humor alone. Along with my social graces, my house-keeping and culinary skills are assumed non-existent. My "career" is of course a figment of my imagination. One woman never got over the shock of my saving her biriyani from the brink of disaster on the evening on her son’s first birthday party. Needless to say the incident marked the end of our friendship.

Visiting mother-in-laws have walked uninvited all over my apartment including my bed-room while on their reconnaissance missions. I have apparently lost my right to privacy now that I do not possess a husband. Juveniles obviously have no need for it.

The end of a marriage seems to be viewed as a proof of an individual's overall incompetence as an adult. That I could be a better mother than a married woman with a husband seems a far-fetched notion. J (my daughter) surprises therefore by being a normal, friendly, sweet-tempered child without an aching void for a father. One juvenile raising another is a joke and they expect to be able to laugh at it. My circumstances may have fed a lot of different appetites but my child has never been fodder. I consider that a measure of my success.

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