Although my mother taught me many wonderful things now considered archaic, such as sending hand-written thank-you notes on completion of a visit, she also taught me one thing I wish she hadn't: how to fear offending people. My mother is so afraid of offending people that she rarely speaks in the company of strangers except to make innocuously pleasant remarks, leading them to think of her as proud, stuck up and prudish. Attempting to be funny deliberately, therefore, has always taken a great effort. For example, after hitting the "Submit" button on my recent post "Reasons I Dislike Cyclists", I agonized for a couple of hours over the title, because I didn't want to offend the considerate cyclists I know. But a post titled "Reasons I Dislike Cyclists Except The Ones That Are Nice And Don't Do The Stuff Listed Here" simply would not have been as funny, not just because the length of the title is off-putting but because the sentiment has been watered down. I compromised by adding a caveat, although part of me wishes I had the nerve to leave it off.
It is nearly impossible to try to be funny without risking giving offense. Without at least a bit of a bite, it becomes either twee or tedious. For those of us whose tendency is to try to please everyone, humour is a faculty that is only acquired after a long struggle.
Oh, and those of you who were offended by my cyclist post? You'll be pleased to learn that I am getting my comeuppance beginning next week, when I begin cycling regularly on my commute.