Today was Lily's last day of kindergarten.
I wanted to take a picture of her holding a craft project from school, but she didn't want to pose with it. So I just took a picture of the project instead.
The leaves read "Funny" and "Smart". I asked her if she came up with the words to describe herself and she said she did.
On one hand, I'm happy about this. "Smart" and "Funny" are two good traits to which to aspire. If that's how she sees herself, she could certainly do worse, and I'm not sure she could do much better.
I do think she's funny. She's sharp and when she was introduced to the concept of synonyms, the first thing she asked was, "What's a synonym for synonym?", which is awfully close to Stephen Wright's famous "What's another word for thesaurus?" quip.
More importantly, when I asked her what she likes about being funny, she said, "I like to make people laugh."
Likewise, I know she's smart. She's in kindergarten, and she's reading at least a fourth grade level. She's adding negative numbers and does some multiplication. Just the other day, she was complaining about the class, "We're still learning what a plus sign looks like!"
On the other hand, I'm worried. I asked her the other day why she prefers hanging out with adults instead of kids and she said it's because "grown ups understand what I'm talking about." Kids tend to think they're being teased or being made to feel foolish if their peers make jokes they don't understand. If she's in it to make people laugh, and she just winds up hurting the feelings of those she wants to entertain, well, she's going to stop in fairly short order.
This got me thinking along other lines. I think it's increasingly acceptable in mainstream and geek culture for women and girls to be smart. This hasn't nearly reached parity with men, but things are better than they were, and hopefully they will continue to get better.
(I'm not saying that things are great, mind you, just that they're better than they once were and seem to be on the trajectory to improve.)
But the same doesn't seem to be true of humor. When I asked some (female) friends if they thought so, they responded like so:
Female Friend: Yeah I think it is seen as more acceptable for men to be funny. It's not a "feminine" trait. You've probably heard a lot of female comedians talk about this.
Me: I haven't, but that feeds into your point, because I've most recently watched stand up comedy on Netflix and I don't recall seeing ANY offerings by female comics up there.
Female Friend: I've read that young girls are confident and describe themselves as smart until they reach puberty. Then a lot of girls slink back and keep quiet I guess falling into typical male/female roles. They lose interest in math and science around that age.
(She also pointed out Adam Corolla's comments that women aren't funny.)
I never really thought of it. I like my friends because they're smart and funny. I count my wife first among this group. Of course I want to be friends with my wife. She's smart and she's funny, just like our daughter is. I'd love them both if they weren't, but I like them more because they are.
Bonus Lily Joke!
Lily: Do you want to hear a fact about koalas?
Lily: They're only the size of jelly beans when they're first born.
Me: Cool. Wanna hear a fact about jelly beans?
Me: They're only the size of baby koalas when they're first born.
Lily: Jelly beans aren't *born*. They're *manufactured*. Like boy bands.