April Fools! Did anyone else get the privilege of hearing those two words yesterday? Does anyone else get extreme anxiety at the thought of hearing those two words?
Well, I do.
Fortunately I come from a family who has never been big into pranking, but as my son gets older, he seems more interested.
Don’t get me wrong, I can handle my little 7 and 8 year old pranks. They put down whoopy cushions and I deliberately sit on them whilst also acting really surprised.
My children find this hysterical, and it’s worth the reaction.
They hang a fake spider in my room, or put a fake spider on my desk, and wait for me to notice.
When I do, I dramatically pretend to be scared, and then ask them to deal with the spider, because fake or not, I sure ain’t gonna touch it.
They love getting the reaction from me, and I overplay it for the reaction from them. Win-win.
When Adults Still April Fools’
But what about April Fools’ pranks in the office? Or at the grocery store? Or anywhere in public?
There are just too many enthusiasts out there who will take it a step too far, and I’m fearful.
I’d like to think that as adults, we’re over this silly game. But I have no idea.
The truth is, I don’t want to be pranked, and just the thought of it makes me petrified to go anywhere in public.
I’m on guard. I’m on edge. In addition to the anxiety I already feel, this is just too much for me.
What’s wrong with a harmless prank?
The whole point of a prank is to fool someone, or to embarrass them.
I really don’t like being embarrassed. I can’t handle it.
Whatever reaction you’re looking to get out of me, you won’t get it. What you will get is extreme quiet with a touch of irrational anger.
This is how I deal with embarrassment. Remember, a symptom of anxiety is ‘thinking too much’.
Technically I’m walking around every minute of every day with an abundance of thoughts, worried that people are watching, waiting, and judging.
If I get pranked with a harmless April Fools’ joke, it makes all of those irrational thoughts true. It makes those thoughts not so irrational anymore. How do I cope with that?
I get quiet and process. That’s what I do. And it’s not quite the reaction you wanted for a prank.
My Normality of Not Reacting
It’s the same reaction I give at a surprise party, if I am the honoured guest.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a surprise party thrown for me, twice in my life. Once was my 25th birthday I believe, the other was my wedding shower.
Both times, I was genuinely surprised and had no idea there was about to be a party held on my behalf.
Both times, I reacted by saying “oh hey everyone”. There was no look of shock on my face. I did not become rouge-cheeked. I just said hello.
It was my way of being stoic in the presence of sheer panic. Because let’s face it, on the inside I’m a hot mess.
Everyone looking at me. Everyone waiting for me to react. Everyone was absolutely prepared for that moment except me.
So I shut down and process, because that’s what I do. Apparently, on the outside it makes me quiet, and in this case ‘socially pleasant.’
But I guess I failed to show the shock reaction that everyone was expecting. The ‘oh my goodness, I’m so surprised, I’m startled, but flattered’ – all of the feelings and reactions one would normally give if they were thrown a surprise party.
Except I’m not normal. We know this. It’s taking all of my power and what little control I have to keep it all together – and quite frankly, my lack of response has disappointed the masses.
This is the same for a harmless prank. A normal person would be embarrassed, but then they’d get over it and move on.
It wouldn’t be remembered ten minutes later, except maybe to tell a funny anecdote of the past. “Guess what happened to me…” said with smiles and laughter.
As someone who suffers terrible anxiety, this moment is remembered for a lifetime, and it’s not rehashed as a funny anecdote told with a smile.
It’s put into that internal black box of shame.
It will constantly be remembered as “This is how I should have reacted but didn’t.”
So I hate April Fools’ Day. It’s just another constant reminder of how I should be reacting but don’t. It’s just another reminder that I’m not normal.
And it’s just supposed to be a harmless prank…