In 1986, I came hurdling into this cruel, cold world with a dark sense of humor.
Have you ever seen the 1998 Todd Solondz film "Happiness"? If you haven't seen it and you're an easily offended creature who wouldn't dare laugh at highly traumatic, sensitive subjects that are too screwy for me to even type, DO NOT WATCH IT.
I repeat, DO NOT WATCH IT.
If it's on Netflix late one night and you're in the throes of insomnia and you're scrolling through the endless sea of movies and you stumble across it and think, "Ohh, maybe I should put THIS on; I love Laura Dern!" just say NO. Because you will be left traumatized, horrified and deeply disgusted.
Don't be fooled by the all-star cast and sweet title. There is nothing sweet about this film.
On the contrary, if you fiercely love sick jokes and you laugh so hard that wine spritzer flies out of your nostrils when watching dark comedic scenes about uncomfortable topics, watch it and message me because we should be best friends. "Happiness" is one of my favorite movies ever.
I'm a sick fuck (the good kind!).
I also have a thing for smart, observational comedy. I'm a native New Yorker who loves "Seinfeld" and thinks it's one of the most valuable comedic gems our culture has ever been blessed with. I've had many dramatic bar fights that result in me defending the validity of "Seinfeld" with slurred speech.
In fact, when I was a teen, I vowed I would never date someone who didn't "get" "Seinfeld."
"Because if you don't get 'Seinfeld,' YOU DON'T GET ME," I would confidently exclaim to my friends. This is back when I was a hot-headed 18-year-old shopgirl with a massive ego, especially for a pimply teen who made $8.00 an hour selling $300 silk robes to wonder-brats at a shop in West Hollywood.
I might have been wrong about almost everything at that time, but I was goddamn right about this. How the hell could I ever date someone who didn't get my incessant "Seinfeld" references?
I also love Margaret Cho and her detailed rants about gay sex. Her impersonation of a gay guy giving a woman oral sex will never get old to me. I love when she talks shit about conservative Republicans and Evangelical Christians. I love Sarah Silverman with her sweeping generalizations. I love when David Cross disses "rednecks."
My friends and I have always laughed at the same horrible things. I have always surrounded myself with crass gays who have been through too much shit to be offended easily. I have always surrounded myself with open-minded liberals who understood the cultural value in artfully executed "offensive" joke.
In short, if it's wildly offensive, intelligent, controversial or pokes fun at what's deemed taboo, I'm into it. Sign me the fuck up, girl.
I once dated someone who didn't find any of these things funny. She liked gross-out humor (gag) and screwball sketch humor (gag). Her favorite comedian was Dane Cook. She liked puns. I fucking hate puns and think they're the lowest form of comedy. She fucking hated "Seinfeld" and found it so irritating that I was forbidden to play my beloved show in her presence.
We were a match made in the fiery pits of hell.
But we had great sex. And one night, after really, really great sex, we went for a post-sex walk in the neighborhood and got really deep about life and the past and our slew of childhood struggles and all of our self-diagnosed disorders and blah, blah, blah. You know, the typical vulnerable "pillow talk" drill.
Oh, pillow talk. Where 90 percent of relationships that weren't meant to be are formed.
Maybe this could work, I thought to myself, drunk and delusional from all the after-sex oxytocin (the feel-good hormone released in our brain after sex) swishing through my bones. And our thoughts must have been in sync because the next thing I knew, we were in this "relationship" thing.
We were compatible in a few ways: I liked the left side of the bed; she preferred the right. I like to eat just the burger; she liked to eat the bun. I took an hour and a half to primp before going out (I was a vain bitch back then and I still am, but I got faster at primping); she took 10 minutes tops.
But our key difference hung heavy in the air, stinking up her studio apartment like an old lady sucking back a mentholated cigarette. She was still offended and annoyed by my humor. And vice versa.
If I made a joke about a traumatic experience from the past, she would get all riled up.
"It's NOT funny, Zara," she would shout, gripping the steering wheel so hard that I'm surprised it didn't break in half.
One time, I made a joke about an eating disorder. As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder most of my life, I found it funny and pretty cathartic to joke about it on my own terms. She didn't talk to me for two hours.
I was constantly being told my humor was too much and too crass, and since my humor is a massive part of my personality, I think she really meant I was too much and too crass.
I told her I thought her humor was annoying and basic and low brow. Maybe she thought my humor was annoying and basic and low brow. And maybe it was.
But the more she criticized my humor, the more I wanted to convince her it was great. Because if I could convince her it was great, then that meant she thought I was great. And if she thought I was great, maybe I could start believing I was great.
See, whenever you blame someone else for your problems, you're usually the problem, right? But in the process of trying to impress her (or rather, impress myself), I toned down the crude jokes.
And my anxiety escalated.
Humor is a way of bringing to the surface all the shame we harbor inside. It connects us to the part of life we don't want to confront, but need to. That's why comedians are the great healers of the world. Without that outlet, I was teeming with nerves.
Eventually, me and this girl broke up. I started to express my crass humor again. And I instantly felt so much better.
When I was surrounded by people who weren't constantly offended by what I had to say and people whom I didn't need to always explain myself to, I felt free again. Because these kind of people who fully accepted me for who I am were my people. I had those kind of standards for my friends and was ready to finally hold my girlfriends to the same standard.
And I learned a pivotal life lesson: Never, ever date someone who doesn't get your humor. Because like my 17-year-old self preached in a uncharacteristically wise moment, "If they don't get your humor, they don't get you."
And also, because laughing together is the best foreplay. What's sexier than being with someone who makes you laugh so hard you think your heart will explode? How do you think all these ugly comedians get laid all the time?
Because nothing turns a person on like laughter, babes. Shared laughter is the ultimate connection. Just like sex. Mix the two, and you'll have explosive orgasms forever.
Let's get real: Life is HARD. If you can't laugh with your partner about all the crazy shit life throws at you, it's going to be a long, mundane, dulled out life.