Friday, April 17, 2009

On Hearing Women Laugh

I love to hear women laugh.

Not that there's anything wrong with hearing men laugh, mind you. I would be remiss if I didn't mention here that the sound of my brother David's gentle laughter is one of my earliest and most treasured sensations, and my father's chuckle is something I hear coming from my own throat daily, but I have lately realized that it is the sound of a woman's laughter that most pleases and intrigues me; a lifelong addiction I have blissfully been able to satisfy.

The principle source of this bliss is and has been for now more than twenty-five years, the sound--no, range--of Valery's delightful and compelling laughter. It's fair to say that I have been trying, in one way or another, to tease a bit of that melody from her throat since I first cracked a corny joke and heard her beautiful laugh in response. It's safe to say that part of the pleasure comes from the fact that she will actually laugh at my jokes, lame though they be and have been, I assure you--if you don't already know this first-hand.

Valery's laugh is meldodious, to be sure. It is also the truest expression of her personality--more, I think, even than tears, of which we have had far less, in spite of trying times. Her laugh can be loud enough to hear acorss the restaurant, yet when she is really amused, her silent wry smile is enough to send me flying.

Lucky then, for me, Valery's willing response to my efforts at humor and irony have in turn made me more addicted to the sound. Over time I have become more at ease in trying to make her laugh. This is such a central point of our life and relationship that I cannot imagine it working any other way.

I often see colorless and silent couples in the restaurant and think how opposite we are as a couple, and how different we must appear to others like them, always laughing at some silly thing or another. I am grateful that Valery accepts that silliness, not just without critique, but with an energy and enthusiasm that energizes me, enables me to find pleasure. It's selfish, really, for the pleasure seems to be mine, even if the intent is to please her.

I would be remiss here as well if I did not say that I selfishly derive this pleasure from the sound of other womens' laughter as well. Lynda's for example, was a uproarious laugh, one that exploded instantly in a wide show of teeth. I saw little of this laugh until we were both much older and enjoyed our best moments together in her studio, laughing about silly people, things and ideas.

Reaching back into my childhood, my Aunt Rae has a wonderful laugh that I can call to mind with ease. Funny it is that sound is so deep yet so close to the surface that these primal sorts of sounds are as fresh in my memory now as the very moment I first heard them. On childhood visits to her home I remember that Aunt Rae laughed often and with such glee that it's hard to say whether I enjoyed her laughter or her cooking more. Probably both.

Looking back a bit but not so far, my friend and mentor Francesca has a deep and tender laugh that hints at great happiness tempered with great sorrow. It is that way with laughter for everyone I guess, so much and so close to tears that that the two expressions are often necessarily simultaneous. When I met her as a young man, it was as a student eager to learn and please her for another chance to hear her laugh. In spite of great emotional pain she laughed often, and it always energized me . I heard it last with Lynda when we two visited Francesca at her home in Italy now five years ago. I'd love to hear it again.

Another laugh that I'd love to hear again--and will, soon!--belongs to Valery's mother, Billie. She laughs with the ease of her daughter but without the Italian timbre of her offspring. Hers is a gentle laugh that speaks of wisdom and restraint, caution and encouragement and I have heard it often around the dinner table, hers and ours, in Texas and Michigan alike. Her laugh is as different from her sisters, Mary, Joan and Sally as their personalities, but they all share a tenderness derived from their mother, Dorothy, whose soft and toothy cackle I often heard on the cottage porch swing on long Michigan summer days.

I hear Dorothy's laugh in Maddie's laugh now, for hers too is mostly a soft one. Madelaine can, however, have what I call the 'Italian roar' when something really strikes her as funny. Her laughter is spontaneous and with rich with abandon, just for the sheer joy in it. I am reminded by her laugh to be as innocent as I can, taking from life the pleasure not just the complicated jokes, but in simple observations as well.

The laughter of good friends derived from observation is also something I am fortunate to enjoy on a weekly basis at work. We laugh at each other and the patrons with equal abandon. Sara is of course the ringleader. Her deep and energetic outbursts are so spontaneous and so genuine that not just I but everyone on the staff seeks to say something to her to make her laugh, and she frequently obliges us. The result is a near constant high energy, happy presence in both the front and back of the house. It is but one thread in the tapestry of sounds that make up a busy night in the restaurant, but an important one for all of us.

No less important to the energy at work, but far different in tone is Nora's quiet and gentle laugh. She can be serious and silly rapidly in turns and is one of those kind souls patient enough to hear a silly story through to the punchline and even rewards the teller with bright eyes, a wrinkled nose and a truly genuine laugh. Kelly too wrinkles her nose and smiles with her eyes when she laughs, which is more of a giggle than an outright outburst. I have heard heard her break out, so to speak, though and it is an infectious sound that can be heard through the din of service, lifting us up even when we don't know how or why.

So this is the need that a woman's laughter fills in my life and considering my 'sunny disposition', I consider myself lucky to have had my fair share of it. To those women I've left out of this brief account--and all the men--I ask your forgiveness.


valhere said...

LOL AHHHH HAHAHAHAHA - HEEEH EEEEEHOOOOO HOOOOO HAHAHAHA - guffaw - chuckle - chuckle OMG - haaaahaaaaahaaaa - snorfle - heh!!

bc said...

I will be listening to more laughs with a different perception...interesting thing to look for. I'm not sure about that spouse of yours though...