Monday, February 10, 2014
I should have known I’d get in trouble when I told the following joke:
Q: Why did the Siamese twins move to England?
A: So the other one could drive.
One morning shortly thereafter, I was home and my phone rang. It was our Turkish doorman calling from the lobby of our building. ”Good morning,” he chirped. “There are 50 Siamese twins here to see you. They are very angry. Should I send them up?"
“No! Tell them to get lost,” I said. But the twins wouldn’t leave and as soon as they began chanting for me to come down, I knew I couldn’t ignore them. It’s impossible to ignore a pack of Siamese twins chanting your name. If you don’t believe me, try it sometime.
So I went down to the lobby to meet them. There weren’t 50 of them. There were only six, or 12, depending on how you slice it. But in defense of my Turkish doorman, any group of two or more sets of Siamese twins does look like an army.
Their twin leaders wore guerilla berets. "We are the CTLF: the Conjoined Twins Liberation Front,” said the one on the left. ”And we don’t like that joke you told about us.”
A couple of women spoke up. “First of all, we want to be referred to as conjoined. We are not Siamese. We are not all from Siam. There isn’t even any such place anymore!”
The leader on the right spoke. “That’s another pervasive stereotype we’re here to debunk. People think all conjoined twins are Asian.”
Another twin next to the leader twins spoke. ”And people think because we’re twins our names always rhyme! But that’s B.S, isn’t it Pete?” he said to his twin. And his twin replied, ”It sure is, Demetrius.”
The leader on the left spoke again. “Don’t get us wrong. We got nuthin’ against jokes. We like to laugh as much as anybody. Ha ha ha. But we object to hearing the same old stale jokes over and over. If you’re gonna make a joke about us, at least come up with something new.”
I understood their pain. Whenever someone sees me in my wheelchair and says, “You better slow down before you get a speeding ticket,” I wish to hell I had a marching band hidden behind the nearest bush. I’d cue the band to march out blaring a raucous tune while encircling the joke perpetrator. And then I’d throw confetti in the air and say, “Congratulations! You are the one millionth person to tell me that joke!”
So I hereby issue this retraction: conjoined twin are not Siamese. And I will never make fun of them again.
But even after all that, I still didn’t learn my lesson. Because I turned around and made the following wisecrack:
“I’ve heard some people refer to cripples like me as vegetables. What would they call a guy in a coma? A mineral?”
It wasn’t long before I received a tersely-worded letter from the Comatose Anti-Defamation League (CADL). Who knew there was such an organization? The letter said, “We object strongly to your wisecrack about the 'guy in the coma.’ We believe in using people-first languages, which places the person ahead of the condition. Thus, when referring to someone in a comatose state, you should use the term Person Who Happens to be in a Coma. People Who Happen to be in a Coma are not defined by our comatose state. It is only a small part of who we are. First and foremost we are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives. We are people. Another acceptable term to use when referring to someone in a comatose state is 'differently conscious’”
The letter went on to say, “In regards to your wisecrack, it must first be noted that the CADL is not anti-humor. People Who Happen to be in a Coma enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone. However, when making fun of the differently-conscious, be respectful enough to come up with something original and not subject us to the same jokes we have heard a thousand times.”
Wow! I never knew People Who Happen to be in Comas are so touchy. So here’s my second retraction: People Who Happen to be in Comas are people, too. And I will never make fun of them again, either.