Shortly after our first child was born, my ex-wife and I travelled north to show off the new baby to my parents. One night, we all sat around the TV to watch a comedy that often ended on a somewhat risqué note. I hoped that it would not be too blue and mentally prepared to create a brief diversion if the humour was lurching too near the edge.
Sure enough, at the end of the show, the following joke is told: Two nuns are having a bath together. One nun says to the other one, “Where’s the soap?” to which the second nun replies, “Yes, it does, doesn’t it.”
As usual the dim-witted character fails to get the joke and the main character raises her eyes as the credits roll.
Dead silence meets this scene in the Oscarandre household. I notice my wife is blushing. Then my mother who, with her religious proclivities, has been quite keen to have a laugh at the expense of the Catholics, says, “I don’t get that; do you, Bob?”
My father looks equally mystified but has reached that age where he has come to expect it. “It’s no good looking at me,” he says.
So everyone looks at me instead.
“Well,” I begin, “there is nothing to get. That’s the point – the joke has no point. It’s an absurdist piece that simply shows how dim-witted the character is. She doesn’t even get a non-joke.”
“Oh,” says my mother, her voice edged with disappointment. “Well, it’s all a bit too clever for me. Who wants a cup of tea?”
As we make our way home that evening, my wife says to me, “You handled that joke business really well tonight. You even had me convinced.” Then she laughs, “Shit, I didn’t know where to look. Certainly not at your poor mum”
Then she stops as if something has just hit her. She is aware of my mind racing desperately, aware that I have become too silent. “You did just make all that stuff up, didn’t you? You did get the joke?”
But my confusion is too obvious, even in the darkness. “You didn’t get it, did you? You really thought that stuff you said was true.” Now she is laughing and the tears are running down her face.
By the next morning I have learned something about nuns and soap that I didn’t know before. But that’s what happens when you are raised an Anglican, no one tells you anything.