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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: I love to laugh It’s getting *better* ev’ry year


a blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

MuttleyI am now a step-mother to 5-year-old twins. As there are two of them, and one is a total clown, they are almost always “at play.” Meaning they are easily overcome by uncontrollable giggles that often lead to exhaustion and tears.

I’m jealous.

I remember the feeling of not being able to stop giggling with my childhood friend Becky. Sneaking around the house to annoy our parents and at success, running off screaming in laughter. I remember sweating from laughing so hard, not being able to calm down, and how unfair it seemed when our parents pulled rank.

Once, in third grade, Mrs. MacVane had left our classroom with a shouted ultimatum of “One more sound, and there will be trouble.” But that wouldn’t be possible, because I had a pencil with a bright orange hair-ball and googlie eyes on the end of it. I just had to show my friend Jenny how, if I spun it, the hair would all stick out to the side.

Because we were supposed to be quiet, our giggles came out hoarse and uncontrollable.

Mrs. MacVane appeared mid-laugh and we were sent, no, dragged to my first grade teacher Mrs. Sullivan’s room, where we had to sit with the six-year-olds until we learned how to act our age. Though it was mortifying, we continued to snicker all the way through the punishment.

I didn’t have any siblings to laugh with, but some of my best memories of my parents are moments where everybody got the giggles. Once at dinner, Dad said something astute (this was in the 80s) and the three of us simultaneously flopped out a hand and said “Totally.”  Then we laughed for about 5 minutes. It was the precision that made it so good, and if they hadn’t been my parents I would have yelled “jinx!”

Recently, M caught a flu, and he was left with a yucky cough and a laugh like the villain dog Muttley in the Hanna Barbara Wacky Races cartoons. It was great. For a week, the slightest chuckle would set off fits of giggles, almost all of which were at M’s expense. But he didn’t mind. And it felt fantastic.

Much research exists on the health benefits of laughter. It reduces stress hormones, releases endorphins, shakes out your shoulders, and works your abs. If you laugh in the face of a stressful situation, it can change your outlook on it and make it seem survivable. According to my yoga teacher, the mere act of turning up the corners of your mouth, i.e., faking a smile, can be good for you.

In the past, when buried under a big project, like my masters’ thesis which took years to finish, I ignored viral videos. I thought they were stupid, and the potential for laughter couldn’t possibly outweigh the waste of one to three minutes watching them. I guess I thought feeling stress would make me more productive. Now that I have a family to distract, stress, and amuse me, I have less control of my time. You would think I’d be even stricter when finally alone, but now I’ll watch all the funny clips I can find before I set down to work, and then watch more when procrastinating. Maybe it’s from living in France, maybe it’s the kids’ influence. Who knows? But it makes me smile.