Monday, May 19, 2008

Laughing At Oneself

The ability to laugh at himself is the best short-cut method to knowing if a guy is balanced, confident, mature. I think this applies to women as well, but it is less a part of women's culture, so its absence may be less of a bad sign.

To laugh at yourself you need (some) insight, perspective, grounding in reality, self-honesty, confidence. It's not an infallible sign either way, as people can be able to laugh at themselves in some areas but not in others; there must also be well-balanced people who don't laugh at themselves, though none are coming to mind at the moment. I can imagine a type of person who is well but does not laugh at him or herself, but I can't think of specifics. Laughing at yourself is a sign of health. People who cannot are often brittle, easily offended by even the mildest criticism, self-important.

John McCain has some ability to laugh at himself; George Bush has a great deal. Hillary Clinton sometimes sounds forced when doing it, but I think at least some is genuine. Does anyone know of Barack Obama laughing comfortably at himself? I'm not picturing it, but I haven't seen a lot of him informally. It may be a very telling sign of his character.


Anonymous said...

Slight disagreement here. Women are always laughing at themselves among themselves, and not in front of men.

Off topic: how do I email you?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That's good to know.

I emailed you.

Zhenya said...

Forgive my skepticism, but how can someone who posted such a thoroughly sanctimonious comment on Language Log (speaking of's like entering the lion's den over there!) praise the ability to laugh at one's self?

Assistant Village Idiot said,

May 17, 2008 @ 9:19 am

Sorry to be late back.
I never accused anyone of being mean to dyslexics. My complaint was the tone from some of the commenters - quite unmistakable - that this was not a mere teasing over a spelling error, but an opportunity to speculate on what a bad and stupid person he is. It was not universal among the posters, but there was plenty. The relation of his viewpoint to some certainty of prejudice on his part showed up in more than one comment. As to the shirt, I am claiming, though without ability to prove it, that a Hawaiian shirt or some other loud article would be less likely to excite comment. It was not merely bad taste being derided, but a particular type. People are proud of their particular brand of bad taste, because it says something about how they wish to appear, as DT reveals. Few comment on others bad taste per se - there is frequently an unsubtle other criticism attached.

That is not usually worthy of comment; the sudden self-congratulation of how nice everyone was being pushed me over the top on that. Not all the comments were offensive, but enough were that it is clear that there is a group tolerance for sneering. I am pointing out something more subtle, which perhaps doesn't want to be heard. It is possible to have mere fun with the irony of the misspelling on the protester's sign. Some did that. Others revealed something a bit nastier about themselves, and the group did nothing to rein that in.

Thank God I don't take myself that seriously! And, FYI, I'm a woman who laughs at herself frequently and - gasp! - in the company of men too. I feel like, if I dish it out, I ought to be able to take it.

For the record, McCain & Bush have no problem laughing at themselves for the simple reason that they're responsible for so many asinine comments & actions that serve as fodder for ridicule - their own and from others.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I was pretty aware of what I had written elsewhere already, zhenya. Heh. I wasn't aware that lions are sanctimonious at home, though, so thanks for the tip.

My tone was chilly and overformal for effect, not sanctimonious, at Language Log. It's more my style when attacked by folks who don't read closely. Sanctimony is more likely when people attempt to read my motives.

You rather give yourself away at the end there.

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