Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't repeat that joke

“Oh Mommy! Mommy! I have a good joke for you!” cried Primo the other day while we were paying for groceries at the supermarket.

“I want to hear it!” I replied. I really can’t ever say no to either of my kids telling me jokes, no matter no nonsensical, or singing me a song.

“There were these three girl sailors and they found a bottle in the ocean. And what should come out of the bottle but a genie! The first sailor said to the genie, “I want to be wise!” And the genie said “Poof!” and made her wise. Then the second sailor said, “I want to be wise,” and then genie said “Poof!” and made her wise. Then the third sailor said, “I want to be a THOUSAND times as wise as them,” and the genie said “Poof!” and made her into a BOY!”

He smiled broadly at me, waiting to hear my laugher.

“Who told you that joke?” I asked him, trying hard not to sound mad.

“Zoe,” he said.

“Zoe??” I asked, “Really?”

“What’s the matter Mommy?”

“Well,” I said, choosing my words carefully, because I know how easily Primo’s feelings get hurt and how much he wants my approval, “Let me ask you a question. Why is that joke funny?”

“Because you can’t be a THOUSAND times more wise than someone!” he smiled.

“Oh, is that what it is? What do you think the message is?”

“The message is, ‘everything in moderation.’ She doesn’t get what she wants because she gets greedy and asks for too much.”

The kid has a heart so pure and sweet I hated to even tell him what the real message of the joke was, hated even introducing such a stupid, offensive idea into a head that couldn’t even imagine something so mean.

But then I worried that he’d go around telling this joke to everyone, as he does when he takes a fancy to something, so I told him, “You know what honey ,sometimes people like to tell jokes which are insulting and I think that’s one of them. I think the message is that a boy is a thousand times more wise than a girl, and that’s insulting to me, and to your sister and to all girls, including Zoe.”

He was embarrassed and continued to maintain that it wasn’t the insulting variety of joke, but rather a cautionary tale about greed and immoderation.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, “Just do me a favor and don’t tell that joke to anyone else.”