You want to know who I think are some of the worst people in the world?
People who criticize how another person laughs.
If you criticize how another person laughs, you are a killjoy. Textbook definition, baby.
I got wound up the other night about these haters, and here’s why. I’ve noticed a discouraging trend in the comments section of the Barstool Sports Instagram page’s comments section. If someone laughs in a video on this page, you can bet there’s going to be some Chad or Blake yakking about how “the laugh kills it” or “that’s a gross laugh” in the comments section. Chad/Blake, can you just be positive for one second and enjoy the video of the guy getting nailed in the crotch with an exploding beer bottle?
I want my stance on ugly laughter to be crystal clear: I would rather you laugh like a Canadian Goose in heat while peeing your pants on my finest oriental rug than you hate on another person’s joy.
Last week, as I wrote my previous blog post, some major killjoy voices came out to ruin my fun. These were my inner Chad, my inner Blake. But instead than hating on the sound of my laugh, these voices were telling me how useless my writing was.
“Personal non-fiction? You’re so self-centered.”
“Right, because everyone wants to hear your takes on life.”
“Who do you think you are?”
I could go on, but it’s ugliness. It’s ickyness. It’s stuff I would never, ever say to another writer. I understand why Anne Lamott talked about shooting these voices in the head. They’re no fun. They’re judgmental. And you know what the worst part is? Even though I’d read about these voices in “Bird by Bird” and “The Artist’s Way” and I was warned they would do their best to stop me, I still haven’t always recognized them for what they are. But the other day, as I hesitated over “post,” two things clicked: my recognition of the mean voices, and my finger on the button.
If you’re a writer who has ever felt the same way, let me tell you what helped me, so hopefully it can help you a little too.
If I believed these voices, and telling personal stories was actually a waste of space, then we’d need to eliminate some of the books that have impacted me the most: “Educated” by Tara Westover, the entire canon of David Sedaris books, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Frankly, a world where I don’t get to hear about Elizabeth Gilbert riding away on a jetski with her lover in Bali is not a world I’m interested in living in.
But on the real, stories build compassion and empathy, widen our perspective, and connect us with other human beings—three things absolutely critical to being a feeling, thinking, real, loving person. Whether that story is told poetry or prose, film or stand-up comedy, fiction or personal non-fiction, it is a brave attempt at connecting with other people. At least, that’s what I’m saying to myself now when my inner Chad and Blake emerge with their wet blanket the size of Siberia.
Yes, this writing is about myself, but my deepest hope is that it doesn’t stay about myself. The ultimate goal in my writing is to help others feel seen, less alone, and to hopefully make them laugh in the process—three things I know I need in all moments, but especially trying ones like these. My lesser goal is to attract the attention of Justin Timberlake, who will hopefully marry me (or at least let me live in his guesthouse).
The killjoys are out there, people. They’re in Barstool’s comments section, but even more importantly, they’re in our minds. I’ve found that if I listen to them, I won’t laugh, I won’t write, I won’t try to connect with people anymore because I’ll be too paralyzed by their critical comments.
I know Tamara Levitt of the Calm mindfulness meditation app would not approve of this, but if Chad and Blake come around my mind from here on out, I’m driving them out like the drunken pool stick-wielding banshee I was at Grandpa Al’s dive bar the night after my ever first parent-teacher conferences. If I’m going to thrive, if we’re all going to thrive, these guys need to get kicked out of the club. And that’s that.