Friday, April 1, 2016

Are there now Rules for April Fools?

I started seeing these sorts of posts on social media yesterday about what not to joke about for April Fool's day today:

 It might be tempting to pull this kind of prank, but it's definitely not okay. You never know who could be going through a rough time struggling with ____________ . It's not a joke and it can really trigger the emotions of someone you might not know who is going through this certain type of situation.

I purposely blanked out the specific situation mentioned in this news story because when I first read it, it occurred to me that this very same thing could be said about so many different situations that someone might be struggling with. Unemployment, weight loss, financial issues, divorce, whatever.  Then I thought about all the kind of goofy things people might post (things I've actually seen over the years) on April Fool's day to play a prank on their friends and all of those things come up in various different ways such as "I told him it's over. I was tired of his ways, and it just isn't working anymore... " then at the very end it's revealed she's talking about the old mop after she got a new one.  Then this one "It took me a while but I finally lost that 160 pounds!" and then it's revealed she's talking about that terrible relationship and the boyfriend is no longer in the picture. And the ever popular "I can't believe it but we won the lottery last night!" and it turns out to be simply an April Fool's or the winnings were a $2.00 scratch-off ticket.

In every one of those situations, there might be someone reading that you might not know is struggling with a painful divorce, weight loss issues or incredible financial difficulty. To them, "joking" about these things just isn't funny and could indeed "trigger emotions".

In this particular case, the taboo April Fool's joke I'm seeing warnings about is pranking your friends to believe you're expecting a baby.  The reason we're warned that it's "not okay" is that because someone might be struggling with being able to conceive OR has recently lost a baby in pregnancy.  I think most would agree such a struggle or a loss is certainly not something to joke about.

BUT... and I'm sure you knew there was a but coming, I have to sit back and wonder where this sort of thing is going.  While I certainly understand the reasoning and the courtesy behind being responsible for your words and not wanting to hurt someone's feelings or cause them undue emotional pain, I do have to question the logic of someone else's unknown struggles (unknown to you or me) with this or that particular issue is somehow now my or your psychic responsibility. (I've re-worded this paragraph several times because I don't want it to sound harsh or uncaring because that's not the way I feel.)

I'm not even a big April Fool's day fan anyway, but it seems to me if we all applied this "don't joke about this, it might hurt someone's feelings" there really isn't any subject off limits because somewhere, someone is going through something directly related to that and to them, it's just not funny.  I really do question if this doesn't come straight out of the "everyone is hyper-offended these days".  When I first became a widow (literally, within the first weeks and months) when someone in my presence would say something like "I died laughing" or "that just killed me" or any other figure of speech that includes the words death, or dying or references to it, I'd wince a little bit and it really did bother me.  References to death and dying were my "trigger words" even though no one I knew called them that back then. But as time passed I came to realize that a.) no one was saying such things to purposely cause emotional pain for me and b.) expecting everyone around me to change the way they say things was simply unrealistic.

So, all that to say I'm really on the fence with this one (and have actually been on both sides of the fence, as I'm sure we all have in some way).  Obviously decent people don't want to be an irresponsible, insensitive jerk about such things but at the same time if we're consistent with this thinking what is there left to say that isn't going to upset someone, somewhere?

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you'd care to share in the comments.