JournalismPakistan.com Aug 5, 2013
Have you ever made some innocent remark and found someone so slighted and offended by it that before you know it you are sloshing in controversy unto your neck and wondering how you got there?
The other person becomes belligerent and quarrelsome without adequate provocation and suddenly it’s you who is on the defensive. Like this guy who was at a party and he says let me ask you when is it that incompatibility leads to divorce. Since no one can answer he says, very simple, when he runs out of income or she stops being patable, get it, incompatibility.
As laughter cascades around him one lone voice says, so you find divorce funny, do you? No, says our life of the party, it's not that, it is just a joke.
You think divorce is a joke, you think people get married so you can tell funny stories about them? I divorced my wife last year, you think it was because she stopped being patable or I ran out of income, where do you get off passing judgement?
At which point the applause sort of stops like one of those electric waterfalls being switched off. Silence slugs its way across the room. Look says the story teller, don't get so shirty, I don't even know you, why would I joke about you or your wife?
She is not my wife, we are divorced, I just don't like the way you think it is a laughing matter, do you know what it feels like to go through the experience?
No, no I don't. So what gives you the right to humiliate me in public?
Humiliate you? I don't even know you, look, please, I was only telling a lousy joke, it had nothing to do with you.
Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with me, you don't tell me what has to do with me and what hasn't, who do you think you are coming in here and making rude remarks about my marriage?
Your marriage!! I only told a lousy joke, I am sorry, okay, I am sorry I told it, I withdraw it.
What is the point of being sorry after the damage has been done, you want to make me look silly, be man enough to say it on my face.
Good grief, aren't you overreacting, it was just a silly little joke, not even very funny.
So if it wasn't funny why were you telling it, don't you have any respect for someone else's feelings, how would you feel if I joked about your stutter or your loss of job, huh, you wouldn't be laughing then?
He said I am sorry, what do you want me to do, kill myself? I say, says an onlooker, you could have been a little more sensitive to his feelings, he has a point, see it from his point of view, it was a bit crass.
A bit whaatt!! Yes, says another guest, that was in rather bad taste, divorce is no laughing matter. Now they are rallying around the aggrieved party and you are the villain of the piece. They are looking at you as if you have done something indecent. You are isolated and all you can keep saying is "didn't mean it, am really sorry, I was not trying to be offensive, it was just a harmless joke".
And then along comes the host and he suggests that peace be made and you say but I wasn't fighting and he says now, you don't want to spoil the party and the other guy is sitting there surrounded by 'friends' and he is looking all martyred and huffy and you are looking plain silly and you say, but I really must insist I wasn't being rude, I was just telling a little joke and the host says, now let’s not argue, let's just forget the whole incident.
Then someone turns to the injured party and says, forgive and forget and Mr Martyr mulls over the possibility, then bravely agrees to forgive you and by now you are a pretty teed off with this whole charade and you don't want to be forgiven for this 'crime' but if you don't put your hand out and 'shake' you are going to be the unreasonable one in the script so you do what you are told to and you hate yourself and you have a miserable time and on the way back your wife says, how many times have I told you, if the party is dull you leave it that way, why do you have to offend people?
I did not offend anyone, all I did was tell a lousy joke.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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