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July 16, 2001 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2001-07-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday, Juiy 16, 2001- The Michigan Daily - 5

Comedy is easy
s far as social gatherings go,
funerals leave something to be
Ever been to a funeral? I wouldn't
recommend it. The hosts are always in
lousy moods and - at the risk of
sounding crass - the guest of honor
never has much to say. The food is lame
and the music is worse. Awkward
silences abound.
The other guests don't make things
any easier. Some shuffle around in their
dress shoes and freshly pressed Funeral
Clothes, trying to keep the kids quiet.
Others cry. Others wail. Others carry
flower arrangements as if they were
hydrogen bombs. Most slouch in Rev-
erent Silence.
But there are always a few dissi-
dents. You know, the ones that rarely
venture from their protective huddle in
the back corner. If any of them made
eye contact with you, which they
wouldn't, you'd notice a twinkling of
mischief. If you looked fast, you might
catch one of them stifling a chuckle.
I know that huddle well. It's the
only place at a funeral where someone
can say, "He looks really good ... for a
dead guy" and not get the evil eyeball.
It's where you go when you realize that
one of the pallbearers unknowingly sat
on a wad of pink bubble gum sometime
between the opening prayer and the
eulogy and that it still graces the seat of
his black dress pants. Here, smiling is
allowed. Laughing (quietly) is encour-
One reason I'd rather hide in the
corner than work the room at a funeral

is that I never know what to say to cry-
ing people. At finding gracious words
of consolation, I am terribly inept. It's
not because I don't try; it's just that
everything comes out wrong. For
example, say I finally get up the guts to
approach one of
the Wailers across
the room. When
she notices me, she
Ssniffs and compos-
es herself. "I hate
funerals," she
chokes, blotting at
her eye makeup
with a tissue. "Me
AUBREY too," I say, my
HENRETTY brow somberly fur-
N:, ) A rowed. Awkward
silence. "Normally,
I wouldn't be caught dead at a -"
Whoops. "I mean ..." Her lower lip
quivers. I panic. "Um ..." A fresh sob
pierces the air. Mayday! Mayday! Abort
mission! Retreat!
Embarrassed and horrified by my
own stupidity, I return posthaste to the
corner. I recount the painful attempt at
showing compassion. Itsis met with
wide-eyed amusement and discrete
snickers. "Are you serious?" someone
asks. At last, I can smile again. "Dead
serious," I say.
Many people think this kind of low-
brow humor has no place at funerals. A
funeral, they say, is an if-you-know-
kind of event. It's solemn (but never
"grave"). Show a little respect and all

that. (Hint: Do not refer to the dead per-
son as "the corpse," "the cadaver" or
"the dead person" within earshot of
these people. Unless you want them to
look at you as if you said you'd just fin-
ished beating a kitten to death with a
ball peen hammer.)
Another thing you shouldn't do is
sneak a portable cassette player into the
coffin beforehand and rig it to play
banging noises every few minutes.
Especially if the banging noises are
accompanied by periodic tortured
moaning. The average funeral guest
does not think this is a very clever
prank. And if anyone finds out you did
it, the next funeral you attend may be
your own.
Cracking tasteless jokes is not a
socially acceptable way to cope with
loss. I'll bet even as you read this,
you're wondering what kind of sick,
unfeeling person I must be to make
light of others' suffering. You wonder if
my flagrant goofiness is just a fagade, a
defense mechanism I use to hide my
desire to join the Wailers for a good yell.
But I truly feel there's humor to be
found in every situation. And what bet-
ter time for a joke than when you're
forced to spend an hour and a half
wearing uncomfortable shoes in a
stuffy room with a dead person? I say
laugh. After all, you only live once.
In memory of Jessica S.
-AubreyHenretty' column runs evey
other Monday. She can be reached via
e-mail at ahenrett6umich.edu.

A species of which I know nothing
Having your opinion in print imagine what kinds of questions
can be a dangerous thing. will come about as I visit relatives
You can't really take things and friends who will all be wonder-
back and can't claim to have been ing the same thing. Don't get me
misquoted. It's a risky business, pre- wrong; I don't shy away from the
cisely why I am going to be prospect. I am not against marriage
extremely careful in this very col- by any stretch of
umn. I have written about Palestine, the imagination.
Israeli policies, literary censorship, But I'm uncom-
the depiction of Muslims, secretary fortable with the
of state war criminals, race, political constant stress
activism, ethnic and social identi- that is put upon it.
ty... all topics I feel secure speaking Unfortunately,
about. But this week, due to some >° it translates into
recent and upcoming events in my making platonic
life, I have decided to write about a relationships very
topic of which I have come to real- difficult. This
ize I know very little about: Arab AMER G. recently hit home
women. ZAHR for me, as my
Now I am not going to talk about i E attempts to sim-
the status of Arab women, sexism, 'RGR'S' ply get to know
their roles, their achievements or someone whom I
their often-oppressed status. No, I liked (not like
am simply going to talk about my liked, just liked) were misinterpreted
utter and immense and confusion as as an attempt to pursue her. It's not
it relates to them. Sure, I could talk really the fault of anyone as it is a
about those other things in an aca- clear function of an Arab-American
demic and intellectual way (I hope), culture that tells young people that
but I have been told I write too when twenty-somethings start talk-
many political columns, so I'm tak- ing, only one of two results are pos-
ing a one-column respite from all sible: Marriage or no further
that, but keep your eyes open, I'll be contact. There's no gray area.
returning to my old ways. This gets to the point that when
Last night, I attended the wed- you unsuccessfully try to get in
ding of someone whom I attended touch with someone enough times in
college with. I have another college order to innocently grab dinner or
friend getting married soon, and coffee, you open yourself up to a
most of my childhood friends have response like, "I don't think this is
gotten married as well. So, marriage working out." I don't think this is
has lately been a theme in my life. working out? There was no "this."
Not my own marriage, that of oth- There's no "this" to not work out.
ers. But now as I ready myself for a But unbeknownst to me, there was a
trip to the Middle East, I shudder to "this," a kind of lingering "this.' We

never made it. It was there before I
ever picked up a phone. The "this"
was assumed. "This," of course, was
to be my attempt to woo and pursue.
Now once I get onto a plane, land in
Palestine, start visiting all kinds of
people, "this" will be even more
apparent than ever, following me
It's unfortunate, because "this" is
messing up attempts to get to know
cool people. "This" is ruining my
life. Anyway, I can't understand it.
Sometimes, cool Arab guys just
want to hang out with cool Arab
girls, have dinner, talk about stuff
and joke about nuances in our cul-
ture like the inability of our parents
to pronounce v's and p's, the way
our parents can sometimes just freak
out, whose mom's hummus is better,
how my dad used to say "good eye"
when I struck out at little league
baseball games, how our moms
always ask if our laundry is done
(even if we live 500 miles away, like
me), how our dads walked uphill to
school and uphill back home (it con-
fuses me too), how we are all pre-
med until we enter college and
finally, if all goes well, we can sit
around, sip our coffee, laugh and
discuss how "this" is destroying all
our fun.
Well, I welcome input. I am con-
fused. Please tell me "this" does not
need to dominate my social life. I
don't know, maybe it's me. Maybe
it's just me ...
-Amer Zahr's column runs every
other Monday. He can be reached via
e-mail at zahrag@umich.edu.

ahenrett@umich.edu FOR DETAILS


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