One-way mirror

A few months I was at an art exhibition opening in Raglan, and I was possibly the youngest person there. The crowd was mainly middle-aged folks, and the entertainment was provided by an elderly gentleman who told a joke that went a little somethin’ like this:

A man found a bottle, rubbed it and a genie appeared and promised to grant the man one wish for setting him free. So the man said, “OK, my wish is for there to be a bridge between New Zealand and Australia.”

The genie replied, “I can only grant wishes for things that are possible! A bridge between Australia and New Zealand is too far! Not even the best engineers can manage that! Wish again plz.”

So the man said, “OK, well, I wish that I could understand my wife.”

The genie paused, and then said, “Hmm… Let me have a think about that bridge idea again…”

The joke brought much raucous laughter to the (wined and cheesed) middle-aged audience. But I did not lolz. Instead I was thinking, “Wait, was that a sexist joke? And if so, who was it sexist towards?”

Then I realised – the men were laughing at it from the perspective of, “Ha ha! Women are so confusing and hard to understand! No wonder the genie couldn’t change her!” and the women were laughing at it from the perspective of, “Ha ha! Men are so bad at reading emotion and subtext! No wonder the genie couldn’t change him!”

It was like the middle-age comedy version of an optical illusion – a joke that is funny to everyone who hears it, but for different reasons.

And so it made me wonder – am I going to get to a point in my life where I’ll be laughing at jokes about how men are X and women are Y?

Oh, I hope not. Pass the Courvoisier.