Sunday, August 7, 2011

AIDS Ain't Funny, or Is It?

         It simply makes sense to try to mobilize whatever immune-enhancing effects might flow from marshaling the mind.  After all, even if your T-cells don't increase, how can having a cheerful, frisky, life-affirming attitude possibly hurt?....  I highly recommend daily doses of laughter.
—Michael Callen,
author of Surviving AIDS

         While many AIDS patients, and those who are HIV-positive, suffer the anguish of dealing with life-challenging issues, others find this to be grist for the humor mill.  Things that cause problems in the first place suddenly become laughing matter.  What follows are examples of how some people used humor to triumph over tragedy.
         From Howard Shapiro's “Kvetch Kronicles” (in The Body Positive newsletter):
"Meals on wheels delivered four frozen chicken dinners to my apartment and had the nerve to try and take them back a half an hour later after they realized they had the wrong sick person.  The embarrassing thing is that I had already sold the meals to some old ladies in the laundry room at $10.00 a pop.

"Broadway star and professional coffee drinker Carol Lawrence personally called me and applauded my comic talents and dubbed me—“an AIDS humorist.”  I told her living with AIDS couldn’t be as bad as living with Robert Goulet!"

         From Paul Serchia's “Thinking Positive” column (in Positive Living newsletter) comes a list of humorous things people who don’t have AIDS might say to those who do:
                  “Let’s take your car.  You have the handicapped permit.”
                  “You look different somehow.  Is that lesion new?”
                  “I brought Schindler’s List, Philadelphia  and Longtime Companion. I thought watching movies would cheer you up.”

         A common technique comedians use to get a laugh is exaggeration.  Take any situation, exaggerate it until it becomes absurd, and you too will probably see some humor in it.  The example below, found on an HIV/AIDS chat-line, shows how one person effectively used this technique:
                  When other people go shopping, they gossip about PTA information and compare the latest baseball scores.  When us hometown’ gays” go to the supermarket and meet in the aisles or the parking lot, we gossip about symptoms/meds information and compare the latest CD4 scores.
                           Antigens and antipasto.  Chicken and liver function. Melons and melanomas.  Bactrim and NutriSlim.  Videx and Windex.  TB and TV Guide.  Tetracycline and Mr. Clean.   Shingles and Pringles. 
          Someone suggested switching to another supermarket, where you can pick up your meds and groceries in one stop.  I can just see someone at the checkout counter:   “Meow Mix$1.45, AZT—$145, cranberry juice—$1.37, Videx—$137.  Total due—$461.78.  Have a nice day!”

         And finally, one person told me about an incident that happened to a good friend of hers.  After his lover died of AIDS, he got a renewal notice in the mail for a magazine to which his partner had subscribed.  On the outside in big red letters it read, “You're About to Expire.”  He sent it back with his own message on the front: “You're Too Late!”


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