I have to confess I am a chronically funny girl. I like to laugh and make jokes — occasionally. Actually, I'd say I joke rather often. I just can’t help it. But at times I feel I am going too far — the jokes are getting too sarcastic or I simply can't stop. And then I usually make myself tone down a bit.
“Dose out your humor in public, it's not a feminine thing to be too hilarious. You'll scare off men,” my mother, who with her direct and often bitter wittiness could in another life be a Russian version of Whoopi Goldberg, used to tell me when I was younger.
Should I really? Is humor a predominantly male business?
Those adult species, either male or female, who happen to lack any sense of humor — they don’t just annoy me. I am unable to communicate with a humorless person at all. The unfunny types seem like aliens to me operating on completely different frequencies.
As a rule, I find these humor-empty creatures among the female camp. They just sit there, dead serious about life, waiting to be entertained, and look startled or oblivious when they hear a good joke. But I have never met a guy not sporting at least some ability to banter. (Although compared to the wittiness levels of the man I am with almost all other human kinds seem the marmots in lethargic sleep.) Still, most males are capable of cracking a joke or another on a daily - no, hourly basis. I think it's the guys' most winning means of self-expression. It's a way of attention-seeking, of impressing girls, of knocking off competitors and also of simply relieving the burden of the responsibility life imposes on them. Some witty cultural anthropologists have observed that humor for men is a cunningly safe way of challenging authority — guess whose? Of course, the women's! The species capable of reproduction and not as caught up in the identity-seeking struggle as some guys are during their entire lives terrify them shitless (deep inside, certainly). Hence, men jest and jest and jest, often childishly, just to stay on top. Interestingly, ancient Greeks considered irony “the glory of the slaves,” and humor is said to have initially originated from the mockery of authority. But don't get me wrong with this one though.
But seriously, what if girls just joked along with guys? And what if beautiful women did so in the first place? Would they immediately become less attractive — to men?
“She's gorgeous until she opens her mouth,” I heard Italians speak of Monica Belucci, a woman of such exquisite and timeless beauty that many, myself included, regard her as a living goddess. Intelligent or not (many observers insist on the latter), witty or completely bland, she will remain a goddess anyway. She doesn’t really need to be smart or funny. Whereas most of those few existing female comedians aren't usually very attractive women except for perhaps the 30 Rock show star Tina Fey. (Ironically, on the cover of her recent bestselling book, Bossypants, she sports beefy and hairy male arms). Some of them, including Tina Fey who is expecting her second child this year, manage to find a mate, but I don't think most men would dare or even desire approaching these women even if they were really good-looking.
In fact, numerous studies reveal that while both genders enjoy having a good laugh, boys don't find overly witty girls sexy and suitable for long-term relationships. They might be lured by the sharpness of some females' tongues but wouldn't necessarily see this as a turn-on. Some might indeed even feel threatened. What guys do consider hot is when girls laugh (sincerely, showing as many teeth as possible, with tears coming out, holding their tummies so that they don't burst, etc.) at the gags the former generate. For instance, one recent European study found that how much a woman laughed while talking to a new guy predicted the level of the man's desire to see her again and also indicated the degree of a woman's interest in dating him. Women do look for intelligent men — we believe they'll be better providers for future offspring. And humor is really an unfailing mark of what scientists call “cognitive fitness” - a sharp, quick and resourceful mind.
“For a woman to say a man is funny is the equivalent of a man saying that a woman is pretty. Also, humor is largely aggressive and preemptive, and what's more male than that?” says Fran Lebowitz, a brilliant writer whose untamed wits and edginess for the last three decades knocked down the most daring male minds. (She's gay by the way.)
I probed some of the wittiest guys at my work if they felt threatened by funny women. “Only if their joking gets too sarcastic, taunting or dirty,” was the most common answer I got. Otherwise the girls’ aptitude in the humor department is a major “yes!” especially in the long-term, they said. It is essential to guys that we get their jokes, react and occasionally strike back — but not tease and challenge them too much as if it were a jesting competition.
So we shouldn’t hold ourselves back when we want to jest and especially to laugh. It simply keeps us more alive. Besides it turns out the more appreciative audience we are for our men when they happen to crack jokes, the braver and more inspired they become.
The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.