WARNING: Brash generalization coming…amputees are hilarious people.
If you don't believe me, check out these t-shirts.
Or better yet, check out this web site of amputee humor, complete with some great Halloween costume ideas.
There are plenty of comedians and comediennes who use their disabilities as their main source of material. And amputees are no exception.
But the normal Joe amputee is just as funny. My theory is that many of us use humor as a coping mechanism. If we make the joke, we can ensure that people don't laugh at us, but rather with us.
It’s either that or it’s just that our lives are so stinkin’ weird; they are funny! We all have random arms and legs strewn across our homes, for goodness sakes! Weird. Funny!
I picked up on this "amputee humor" pretty quickly after becoming an amputee. In fact, one of the first pieces of advice I got from another bilateral upper body amputee (missing both hands) was to "drink white wine instead of red." (It's easier to clean up when it spills) I knew there was a good reason to drink white...
I quickly came to agree with amputees that you gotta laugh - if we can't laugh at ourselves, we're not going to make it very far.
One of my recent Friday afternoon's FaceBook posts is a great illustration:
"Funny story. I literally had just made it to the (Harris) Teeter checkout line, and my hand (literally) died as it was wrapped around the handle of the grocery cart. The cashier AND two baggers had to hold the cart still so that I could yank my hand off of the cart! The best part of the story is that I just continued to check out because I really needed the bottle of wine that was in the cart."
It was no exaggeration when, on my forty-first birthday, I mentioned that, in the previous year, I had gotten stuck to three grocery carts and five minivan doors when my "hands" malfunctioned.
Sometimes my humor is a little dark. If you don't know me, it might catch you off guard. You might not know how to react.
Example: If you accidentally use some figurative or colloquial language like, “Oh, can I carry something for you, Kristan? Do you need a hand?” I might respond with, “Actually, I need two. Do you have any extras laying around?”
That’s a little mean of me, I know. It’s dark. And some people’s eyes grow big; and try to swallow their tongue. Let me have my fun. Laugh.
You just HAVE to laugh when you are at the neighborhood pool, and suddenly you realize that you have no way to pick your wedgie out, because you don't have hands!
You have to laugh when you find yourself late for a dentist appointment because you can't find your hand! It's a bit hard to drive one-handed - it's not like with a bike, when you wave your arm, and yell, "Look, Ma! No Hands!)
It is just impossible to keep a straight face when you are roaming around your house, asking everyone if they have "seen your hand!" But the funniest moment of all is when you have to explain to the dentist that you couldn't arrive promptly because you couldn't drive, because you only had one hand, because you couldn't find your other one, until finally you came across it in your sock drawer. Really.
And then there is the day that you are teaching a step aerobics class at the YMCA, and your prosthetic hand FLIES off your arm! When your arm gets sweaty, the prosthetic tends to slip off. You know this, but one day, you get carried away and forcefully move your arms up and down. (the more muscles you use, the more calories you burn, right?) That's when your arm slips off and SAILS across the room, almost hitting your favorite class member! You can't make this stuff up!!!
On another occasion I was team-teaching with one of my favorite instructors, and we had a bit of a snafu ourselves! We had just finished working our abdominal muscles, so I was laying down on a mat. At the end of our set, she stood up and went to give me a hand, to help me stand up. Well, I knew that my arms were a bit sweaty; but I just instinctively gave her my hand. As she grasped my hand and gave it a tug, she got more than she had bargained for. She stood there, holding my entire (prosthetic) arm in hers, and she gasped, "What do I do?" All I could say, and all I could do, was "Laugh!"
A good belly laugh. There is nothing prosthetic or fake about that.
*If you are an amputee and are reading this blog post, please post your favorite amputee story in the “comment” section. I wanna hear it!
**If you are a “normal” person (whatever that is), keep laughing with us! It’s OK! You’re allowed. Laugh at our dark humor. Chuckle at our jokes. Help us cope. We need all the help we can get.