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Pain in the rump can be funny

Here’s part of a conversation my husband and I had recently:

Sharon: “My column is due to my editor in about 20 minutes (a slight exaggeration), and I have no idea what to write about.”

Howard: “Why don’t you write about pain?”

Sharon: “I’m looking for a topic that’s uplifting and on the humorous side — and pain is not funny.”

Howard: “You could write about people who are a pain in the derriere” (only he did not say “derriere”).

For those of you who do not use that word, derriere is “a euphemistic term for a person’s buttocks.” Synonyms include rump, behind, backside, bottom, rear and hindquarter. There’s one synonym that’s particularly compelling, and I may start using it regularly — “sitzfleisch,” as in, “The bedspring tattooed waffles all over my sitzfleisch.”

You may be asking yourself, “Where the heck is she going with this?” Only maybe you’re not using the word “heck.” Here’s the story, and I will try to make it uplifting.

Pain is often an unwelcome companion for many older Americans. There is physical pain, of course. For instance, “My knees are speaking to me today, and it’s not pretty.” Or it might be psychic pain, “All this divisive political rhetoric gives me a blankety-blank headache.” Cue feelings of unbridled angst and expect a little profanity with both examples.

As we age, the “wear and tear theory” of aging posits that we are more likely to grimace and twitch as we get out of bed in the morning or try to gracefully lower our derriere to a comfortable sitting position in a too-hard chair.

On the psychic pain front, as we age, we can become less tolerant of individuals and situations in which people “should know better,” as my father used to say. Pain in either form can make you angry, depressed, cranky and self-absorbed. And it can have that same effect on the people around you. Not good.

Let’s make a pledge to each other. Let’s use more humor to neutralize the pain we might feel over the next few weeks. Let’s promise each other that humor will become a bigger part of our life-plan. It means we will seek more lighthearted banter and recognition of the power of the comic strip. Let’s promise to chortle, chuckle, giggle, twitter and even howl with laughter daily — or at least try.

Are you game? One way to begin is to use a search engine such as Bing. Ask it to “define laughter,” and each word above will (if you have the sound on your computer turned on) illustrate itself. “Twitter” (beep, peep, chirp) is my favorite, but cachinnate (laugh loudly) is a close second. It’s a form of medicine — maybe the best form.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor emeritus, Oregon State University. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.