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Bemused When You’d Rather Be Amused



I once dated a man who was perfect in every way except that he had no sense of humor, which is to say he was not perfect at all.

The worst thing about people who don’t have a sense of humor is that they don’t know they don’t have one. If I had said to this man, “you’re humorless,” he might have said, “Why, that’s ridiculous! I like a joke as well as the next man.” He did indeed respond well to jokes — as long as the humor was not at all subtle, made no ethnic or national references, and hadn’t a syllable of profanity. His life was a series of strivings interrupted by the occasional knock-knock joke.

Senior men and women know about heartache, and most of them know that without comic relief life’s vicissitudes can be soul-crushing. Humor is high on their lists of desirable traits in a partner. Ninety five percent of mature men and women posting online dating profiles say they require a sense of humor. The other 5% are curmudgeons who just want someone to cook, keep the house clean, or pay the bills.


Finding a man who will make you laugh is great, but you’d be wise to recognize the ups and downs of old guy wit.  A lengthy repertoire of jokes is not necessarily what you need. Telling jokes – or laughing at them — is not what having a sense of humor is about. What it IS about is viewing life through a lens of lightheartedness.

The man you want is one who can find fun in the moment, who can make you laugh at your wrinkles, who will convince you that “bad hair day” is a term reserved for the digestive idiosyncrasies of cats. In turn, you appreciate his gift of upbeat banter and you show it (good humor is catching).

The best relationships thrive on inside jokes, and the goofier these are the more they bind a couple and make them weak with happiness, though an outsider listening to their repartee would surely think them a pair of idiots.


Hold out for someone optimistic and cheery. Well, not TOO cheery. Buoyancy, confidence, good will, and just a little silliness are what you’re looking for. Spending days and nights with a serial joke teller, a devotee of slapstick, or someone who makes light of absolutely everything is not going to do it for you.  Too much jocularity is just as bad as too much sex.

Wait! Is there such a thing as too much sex?!?

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'Bemused When You’d Rather Be Amused' have 16 comments

  1. May 6, 2014 @ 9:21 am Real (Old) Men Don't Listen | Dating Senior Men

    […] A worthwhile man will appreciate a good sense of humor because he will have his own. Old guys love an appreciative audience, and your laughter in response to his wit will be music to his ears.  Warning: old guy humor can be painfully corny, so be careful what you encourage. See my earlier post for more about the nature of old guy humor. […]

  2. June 24, 2013 @ 8:26 pm Sienna

    Elaine, It sounds as though you have the best of both worlds with this man — someone who understands humor in its various forms and who also knows when to get serious. That you can laugh together and be unself-consciously silly makes me think you’re on the right track to long term coupledom.

  3. June 24, 2013 @ 4:18 pm Elaine

    One of the men I am dating has a huge sense of humor. We get silly, and sometimes I am weak at the knees laughing. It makes us feel young, I am sure, to be silly and laugh at ourselves, our silly word play, etc.!
    And yet, he will get clear and serious when the time is right, and talk about the real stuff.
    It is not clear yet if this wonderful man will feel that ultimate “attraction” to me that leads to a long term coupledom, but the humor certainly allows us freedom and fun while the rest is being figured out in the universe of… all of it.

  4. March 27, 2013 @ 5:34 pm Percy

    Show me a woman who won’t laugh at my corny jokes and I’m outa there.

  5. November 3, 2012 @ 10:23 am MJH19

    You hit it right when you suggest that some people who think they have a sense of humor don’t. I have had some pretty embarrassing experiences with people who think joke telling is all there is to having a sense of humor. I love what you say about thriving on inside jokes. So true for couples that understand each other and value their history together.

  6. September 2, 2012 @ 8:10 am JPWriter

    A man would have to be pretty quick and clever to keep up with you, Sienna.

  7. May 18, 2012 @ 7:59 am Sienna

    Too true, Walker. Balance is the key. Renee is a good example of the sort of balance you’re talking about. She writes hilarious stuff, but it’s never without underlying wisdom.

  8. May 18, 2012 @ 4:49 am Walker, aka The Diva of Dating

    Like Renee said, we all need a little humor in our lives. For me it’s about balance. Too much humor is irritating and yet a lack of the ability to see and express humor is sad.
    I’m drawn to a dry sense of humor–the British type. But, I have to say that in my list of desirable traits intelligence, the ability to carry on a good conversation and the willingness to listen rank higher than humor.

  9. May 2, 2012 @ 6:53 am Sienna

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Renee. I too am a fan of men who use self-deprecating humor. A little humility now and then — even the coy kind — can’t be bad.

  10. May 1, 2012 @ 4:32 pm Life in the Boomer Lane

    Great post. A sense of humor, especially a self-deprecating sense of humor and an awareness of the irony of life, can be the sexiest thing about a man. For me, that’s what allows us to get through life without making everything a crisis. It’s also what makes even ordinary events extraordinary.

  11. May 1, 2012 @ 12:27 pm Sienna

    Not subtle, not ethnic, and not profane – perfect! I”m sending it along to the guy I mention above. And Molly, don’t expect us to feel sorry for you when you can always demand a compensatory accordian serenade.

  12. May 1, 2012 @ 8:31 am molly campbell

    A short man goes into a restaurant. “Do you serve shrimp?” he asks. “Sure. Sit down.” The waiter replies. This is what my husband calls hilarious. sigh

  13. April 30, 2012 @ 4:07 pm Tracey

    This really resonates with me. I was married to a totally humorless man for 19 years. I didn’t realize how much I would love having men tease and laugh with me. It’s a whole different world, and a wonderful one. Thanks for this post.

  14. April 30, 2012 @ 3:53 pm Sienna

    Ellie, I’m with you on the teasing, especially the kind that is meant to seem well-intentioned but hurts because it hits a sore spot. I hadn’t thought about your ED example. That’s a good one.

  15. April 30, 2012 @ 3:22 pm Ellie

    I like humor but I don’t like too much teasing, especially about putting on weight or getting older. I hate when a man puts on that self-deprecating act about being old. It makes me wonder if he’s preparing me for erectile dysfunction problems, like if he can’t perform he can simply blame it on aging. Otherwise, why would a man want you to focus on his being old?

  16. April 30, 2012 @ 2:11 pm Pollyanna

    I used to be with someone who thought he had a sense of humor but he could never laugh at himself, only at other people. Whenever we went out with other couples it was like being at one of those celebrity roasts where the master of ceremonies says unkind things about the honoree. I couldn’t take it, even though, as you say, he was perfect in other ways.

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