The Worst Joke Ever And The Culture Of ShamePosted: August 10, 2011
For years, I have lived with a quiet shame within. I have suffered, certain I was alone in the world and that no one understood. Yes, for decades, the only joke I have ever remembered is The Worst Joke In The World.
I do not remember jokes. One of the nice things about being friends with me is that you can tell me the same joke over and over. I won’t remember the punch line. I’ll think you’re hysterical, unless you happen to tell me the one joke I do remember. That joke is my curse.
The joke is old, perhaps ancient. It is clean, but not politically correct. And it is sad. It ends with someone jumping to conclusions and reacting harshly. Its punch line is a play on words, perhaps the dumbest play on words conceived since words began playing. But the most insidious thing about the joke is that once you know that punch line it compels you to repeat that word play for the rest of your life.
The Culture Club
As I said, I learned the Worst Joke In The World forever ago. It has lived within me, like a parasite that consumes my soul and excretes humiliation. It never occurred to me that others were enduring the same fate. Then, yesterday came. Yesterday, I learned The Joke has a culture of shame. All those who know the joke suffer silently with its cursed ending.
I was teaching a class. During a break, I was in a room with several other instructors. A friend stopped by and one of the instructors if she would like to join us for lunch. This newly invited guest replied enthusiastically “would I?” Without thinking, I muttered “peg leg, peg leg”. Two of my peers roared with laughter. The three of us looked at one another and said “you know the joke?” All agreed it was the stupidest joke, that we never ever told it and each of us were certain we were the only ones who remembered it.
We’d each carried the secret of this terrible joke for years. Now we were not alone. We discussed that there must be others like us who’d never admitted the truth. Meanwhile, the woman who was going to join us for lunch began to regret admitting that she was hungry.
It was at that moment that I decided to go public. I know the joke. Some of you know the joke and needlessly live with its shame. You too mutter “peg leg, peg leg”. You can’t help yourselves. I am here to tell you that you are not alone.
The Worst Joke, Ever
Some of you do not know the joke. I am going to change that. I have carried your share of the jokes shame for far too long. No, don’t you dare click to another page. Stay here and bear your share of the burden.
Because of some sad circumstance, a boy needed a glass eye. His family was poor, they could not afford a real one made of glass. His father did the best he could for his son and carved him an eye out of wood.
The boy suffered socially as a result of his wooden eye. Children teased and taunted him. He had difficulty dating because of that wood eye. He persevered despite the cruelty of his peers.
Then one day he met a wonderful girl. She was all he’d dreamed of, but she had a wooden leg. She too had endured the meanness that teenagers can inflict on one another. Smitten, our young man asked her for a date and she accepted.
The boy and girl had a great time on their date. Things had gone well, it was so nice for each to be with someone who understood what the other had been through. Both made it a point to not even discuss their struggles so they’d both feel comfortable.
At the evening’s end, they returned to the girl’s house. The boy, feeling the date had gone well, boldly asked the girl if she’d like to go out again soon. She smiled and said “would I?” Feeling she was humiliating him as so many others had, the boy yelled back at her “peg leg, peg leg”.
Yeah, I know. The worst joke in the world. There you have it.
You’ll move on. You’ll forget about it. You won’t give the joke a second thought until the next time you hear someone say “would I?” and your first thought is “peg leg, peg leg.”
You doubt me; I know it will happen.
Welcome to the culture of shame.