The Most Honest Medicine

Mrs. Bennet, the fluttery, ineffectual, anxious mother from Pride and Prejudice generally comes across as a comic figure, one whose foolishness stands in high relief to Lizzie’s common sense and insight. And yet, it’s Mrs. Bennet–the fool–who puts her finger on the central injustice in the book: Longbourn is entailed to the heirs male, as most large estates were, and the five women who call that place home will be left with nothing when Mr. Bennet dies. That is, plainly, absolutely not fair, and when Mrs. Bennet says as much, she’s ridiculed.

That injustice was central to Jane Austen’s life. She, her mother, and sister were cast upon the charity of her brothers when Mr. Austen died. One of those brothers was quite wealthy, and yet, the household established for the three women was humble. Why didn’t Jane or her sister simply marry? Three of their sisters-in-law died in childbirth, one after her tenth lying in. Wasn’t Regency society just a wonderful place for women?

Mrs. Bennet said what Jane could not: To be a woman forced to depend on male honor is terrifying.

Fools can get away with speaking the truth, and those who ought to take note can dismiss the fool as a fool, and ignore the truth. I’ve been struck in recent years by how much good news reporting John Oliver and his ilk can do–shining the unflattering light of truth in many directions–while calling what they offer humorous commentary. Other late night fools have done likewise, and we listen to them. They educate, annoy, provoke, and amuse us, but we listen to them.

When I first worked in a newsroom, I was taken aback by how dark the humor was, but then I got used to it, and eventually came to appreciate it. The foul language, cynicism, and inside jokes became a sort of fortification against all the misery peddled as news.

The same thing happened in the foster care court room. Over the years, the bailiffs, clerks, and attorneys all developed a kind of humor that you couldn’t grasp if you hadn’t put in those years with us. The quips were occasionally nasty or vulgar (also sometimes brilliant) and a shorthand way of saying, “This is a sad, tough place to work, but at least we work here together.”

We haven’t had much to laugh about this year, but still, there is humor to be found. Where have you been finding a good laugh (or a bad one), a chuckle, something to smile at, despite that truth it might convey?

To three commenters, I will send signed UK versions of The Truth About Dukes. These are big, pretty paperbacks (kitten not included) and I will send them anywhere in the world. (C’mon, Nov. 10!!!)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

32 comments on “The Most Honest Medicine

  1. I don’t find political humor as funny as I use to. I think that is because the real situation is so ridiculous and awful.

    However, laughing is very important to me. It is one of the ways I combat the blues. Humor is subjective – we don’t all find the same things funny. I know what triggers my funny bone and I seek those things out. Two HR authors that I find funny are Barbara Metzger and Joan Smith. Their books have long been out of print, but thank goodness, they are available in ebook form.

    TV programs too. There are episodes of Seinfeld that I have seen hundreds of times, but still laugh at as hard as the first time I saw them.

    My point is – look for what makes you laugh. It works for me anyway.

  2. Finding the ridiculous in the serious–YEP!

    My spouse is a physician and we were married before he began med school and residency. There were plenty (even now, after he’s been in practice for over 30 years)of *in jokes* and initials to describe horrible situations. I was horrified to hear some of these at first but then I too began to understand the reason for the dark humor in them.

    He did his surgery residency and specialty residency at a somewhat famous university hospital in Chicago. In the midst of a hot and terrible summer they referred to the hospital as the *Hyde Park Knife and Gun Club* because of the number of violent injuries they took care of. They would call folks GOMERs (Get Out of My Emergency Room)when they were faking. For those who were hopeless, PBABS (Pine Box At Bed Side)was used. There were many others not coming to me this morning, but you get the idea.

    I should mention all of these clever acronyms were used by the interns and residences, never the Attending Physicians. I think young, new and idealistic resident physicians, dealing horrible and disturbing situations found this way to cope. It was also a *short hand* way to describe what was going on to the next shift of residents coming in. It goes to say, these terms were never used in front of patients or their families. With COVID-19, who knows what our young doctors are saying to help cope through our present awful situation. 🙁

  3. I’ve been giggling at crazy memes. Nothing cracks me up like simply opening Google, going to images, & typing “memes” prefaced by whatever I’m in the mood for. Kittens, coffee, business…there’s always a new giggle. And it means I don’t have to open the Time Sucks of Doom aka social media.

  4. oh yeah, medicine has plenty of dark humor, too. I think any business where the stakes can be unbearably high does. I’m fortunate that my hubby has a black sense of humor to mirror mine. Some of my family is horrified by what I find funny, so it’s nice to have a kindred soul to share things with!

  5. Listening to my husband and daughters conversations make me smile. They are very similar in nature and are both sarcastic. They discuss and disagree on just about everything. I enjoy that my daughter supports her opinions and can hold her own. I enjoy it when I hear them laughing … during movies or tv.

    My neighbors grandson brings me joy, too. He runs to see me and his face has happiness written all over it. So sweet.

  6. I like skimming through imgur and reddit funny-
    Or I read Richard Armour “Twisted Tales From Shakespeare” or “The Classics Reclassified, In Which Certain Famous Books Are Not So Much Digested As Ingested, Together with Mercifully Brief Biographies of Their … Which It Might Be Helpful Not To Answer” (my 2 personal favorites -any of his books.
    This kiwi falling over from the excitement of finding a surprise food box is all of us.
    Humor anywhere you can find it…

  7. sometimes, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. I find that particularly true in the last year with Covid & in the last four years with the political situation. I’m very much looking forward to sometime in 2021 really having laughs with family I haven’t seen (other than over Zoom or Facetime) since last Christmas. I often find humor with cartoons shared on Facebook or comments by comediens. But sometimes I have to turn away from the world and just read fiction and forget what is happening in the real world.

  8. I have long had an appreciation for dark humor, and it has gotten me through many events, situations, and jobs over the years. M*A*S*H was one of my favorite series growing up. Of course the humor doesn’t have to be dark to be effective. We’ve been watching a lot of movies, bingeing series, and watching reruns – including M*A*S*H. I’ve reread my Calvin and Hobbes coomplete collection, and am a regular visitor to Gary Larson’s Far Side website. I do believe the best use of the internet is memes and animal videos – especially when the critters do something goofy. I will admit that I’ve been avoiding political humor for the most part the last few weeks.

  9. These days, you are right that there doesn’t seem to be much to laugh about. But in reality, humor crops up in the most unexpected places.

    I live in Bangkok, Thailand in Bangna, a district/ suburb on the eastern side of this huge, sprawling metropolis. We live in a home built 35 years ago by my late husband when the area was still relatively undeveloped and we have a lot of trees and foliage in our yard. Nasty critters somehow getting in the house are just a normal part of living in the tropics, especially if you leave doors open for airflow. It is SO expensive to aircondition the whole house the way many people do in the USA, especially since most houses are not insulated like they are there.

    Anyway, quite often rats get up between the roof and the ceilings and proceed to make themselves very comfy. Somehow, 2 VERY large ones got into one of the lesser used rooms where there is a large display case (floor to ceiling) where my late husband’s golf trophies are displayed, along with my daughters’ diplomas, special pictures and some other special knick-knacks. They made nuisances of themselves at night, knocking stuff off the shelves and rattling stuff around. Anyway, my youngest daughter, who has a dry and sometimes whacky sense of humor, came into my room (which is next to that room but closed off completely by a heavy sliding glass door) and pantomimed the rat looking through the glass at my stash of snacks near that door like a child would put his hands against a candy store window and press his nose against the glass and said “ohhh just look at all that loovely food.” It was SO funny. Telling the story just doesn’t do justice to the actual pantomime. But everytime I think about it, it makes me smile. (And makes me make SURE my doors are securely closed.)

    Regarding the rats, that daughter put out a very large cage trap and caught both of them on 2 suceeding nights, ugly creatures they were, to be sure, and our house cleaner, a nice Burmese lady who comes a half day every Saturday and Sunday, released them in a field way away from our house. Hopefully, being trapped scared them enough that they won’t find their way back. I surely do wish I had made a video of my daughter’s pantomime. It tickles my funny bone every time I pass my snack stash next to that glass sliding door!

    • Rebecca,
      I totally can visualize the rat pantomime! I grew up military brat & my dad flew the hump in India during WWII. He described the cloth ceilings they had in their bungalows & how his ghurka friend stashed a cobra in theirs to deal with the rats.

      He took me to the Ross Allen Sepentarium on a regular basis when I was a kid so I could watch them milk the venomous snakes. This was the 1960s before liability insurance & lawyers were a thing. So we’d be instructed to jump into the iguana pit behind us if the king cobra got loose!

      It was a beautiful albino at least 20 feet long & ate live rats as a reward for performing. I still remember Dad arranging for me to touch that thick muscular body & watching in fascination as the venom was milked into big glass cone-shaped cups with rubber tops. Way less focus on sanitary conditions in those days! Watching the familiarity my father had with snakes as they draped him in the coils of smaller reptiles & the way the cobras unhinged their jaws to swallow those big wharf rats was never to be forgotten.

      Of course, Mom was no slouch either. We’d go visit her kin in the country & she taught me how to handle the indigo racers kept in the corn crib for similar pest control purposes.

      We didn’t have air conditioning in the houses I grew up in, either, until I was well into my school years. Florida & the Bahamas were still mostly for winter tourists & I still remember the green mold that would coat my leather school shoes if I put them away damp. I went barefoot or in rubber flip flops most of the year & burned citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes swarms at bay.

  10. Personally, I think sending someone the kitten along with the book would evoke TONS of smiles! But aside from that, yes, John Oliver has done his best, as have Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and others. But of late, Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People has made me laugh out loud numerous times. It’s tremendously sad, but simultaneously gloriously funny.

  11. Cats. Just about anything to do with cats, as long as it’s not negative, makes me smile. And I was recently reminded to look into re-watching The Black Adder series, which is available (at least some of it) on Amazon Prime, so I’ll be doing that soon. And I’m rereading some Georgette Heyer regencies (and as someone else has mentioned, Barbara Metzger is good for a laugh too).

  12. I have been working on an article for Antique Doll Collector on Dolls and Christmas. I listen to the news about the election and the pandemic which sends me into anxiety attacks, but then I stop and work on my projects which make me very happy. Working on this subject brings back golden memories of my parents and childhood. It gives me joy to see the small vignettes come to life as I work on Christmas dresses, small Christmas trees and even miniature cookies and cakes. I hope when this article comes out next month, it will give others some Christmas cheer in what is going to be a difficult Christmas season.

  13. When I was at school many years ago I would often get into trouble because I was a child that laughed at other children behaviour.The teachers punished me the same as the offenders.I often had to stand in the corner or write many lines.I once got the cane on my hands for laughing in class.I grew up and did not stop laughing,people can be many things and life can be wonderful and hateful all at the same time.Laughter for me helps me cope ,sharing laughter with someone tops the scales.I never laugh at anyone only with someone.It’s a mutual thing ,it’s a tonic.In these difficult times it’s my saving grace.Next week I will be enjoying Graces latest book and finding the humour within delightful.Your books brighten my days and make me smile.Let’s crack a smile and promise to find something funny to laugh about each day.(I only have to look in the mirror and I laugh at myself).Who is that aging old gal ???.Be strong be brave support each other and smile.

  14. What a beautiful cover!

    Nearly every night before sleep, while settling in, my husband and I end up in giggles. Sometimes he gets the hiccoughs which makes me laugh more and puts a pretend scowl on his face. I feel like as long as we have these ridiculous jokes and absurdities that crack us up, we will weather the storms.

  15. I chuckle at my kitty boys all the time. Besides loving me unconditionally they provide me with some fine entertainment. Love them to pieces!

  16. Long time friends posted a picture of their first grandchild with his parents.I smiled twice over this one. First at the good news and then that the parents looked well rested as they were taking a hike with their son at 5 days old.When my child was 5 days old I was exhausted as I was up all night trying to feed him and get him to stop crying. Looking at videos of pets doing funny things also makes me smile.

  17. While zipping through an aisle at Wal-Mart recently, I spotted a sale item that made me grin. Who knew that you could buy a window “cling” picture of a waving Queen Elizabeth to cheer up everybody in your hometown? I was so very tempted to get a friend to don a chauffer’s costume and enjoy the double-takes.

  18. So I am working on appreciation jars and bags with encouraging messages to send to different people in my life. As I write these messages, I have to smile at the many living blessings in my life. This is the kind of project I enjoyed with my mother who died earlier this year. Have a blessed week!

  19. I am now retired and now have time to read and am just getting started with Grace’s books. Forever And A Duke is my first read and made me want to read more from this author.

  20. I follow several animal rescue/shelter sites across the U.S. and OMG if you want to truly smile and feel so good you can’t stop smiling, just watch as a rescue starts to experience love and security for the first time! Their antics can be hysterical playing with toys and people, experiencing ponds and lakes and garden hoses, all with such exuberance you can’t help but laugh. Plus there’s that heartwarming feeling we really need right now.

  21. For laughs I have a feral kitten I rescued at the end of September. Thought I had a she who turned out to be a he. Sigh. I used to swear I never wanted a kitten, give me a grown cat to rescue, please. But Luc (who was at one time Lucy) is very affectionate even with my older feral, Ginger.
    For book laughs, the most recent release by Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand, has a lot of situational humor that cracks me up. I was a Longmire fan long before the TV show began.

  22. I am a university student and will become a teacher. I am required to do an internship at a primary school and am grateful that it is still possible under recent conditions (although the cases are rising in Germany as well so schools will probably close soon). During my first day of internship, I watched first graders act out a song. As a drama teacher, I found it sobering how health-guidelines impacted such a free-spirited lesson (spaced far apart, designated students who open the windows regularly and some wearing masks – they are mandatory only in the hallways) But the students did not seem to be bothered by it. When it came to a young boy presenting an apple tree, he stood proudly and spread his arms wide apart. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw his dangling mask, which he had placed on his arm for convenient-reasons. He beamed and exclaimed, “And I have an apple!”

    It was such a small moment but it gave me a chuckle.