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Remembering a fit of the giggles can make me lose it all over again | Hannah Jane Parkinson

We get the giggles. We do not choose the giggles. The giggles choose us. It is entirely the giggles’ decision as to when they will join us, and when they will leave us. There is a reason, when I am roaring with laughter, that I say: “I’ve lost it.” (If I can get the words out.) There is a reason we refer to them as “fits” of giggles. It does not matter, the place, the time, the inconvenience – we are at their mercy. Our cheeks aching, shoulders shaking, tears streaming, nostrils bubbling.

The giggles are a distillation of pure, exuberant, atavistic happiness; and therefore one of the very best things in life. Some episodes are fleeting and do not linger in the memory. Others, when recalling the catalyst, will induce the same reaction for years, perhaps a lifetime. Muscle memory; the particular muscles being those either side of one’s mouth.

Laughing is a form of social bonding. (We are 30% more likely to laugh with other people than alone.) It is also contagious. It’s possible that I won’t find something funny, but the very act of someone else’s mirth will set me off.

Giggles do not discriminate. As much as I love them, they have frequently got me into trouble, or caused deep discomfort. Sometimes inappropriateness only serves to exacerbate them. I broke out at my father’s funeral when my sister and I were struggling to get out of the car. Of course, the all-over-body laughter made me weaker and I then struggled even more with the door handle. Eventually we tumbled out, creasing up.

I’m not sure I could count on one hand the number of times I have had to excuse myself from the Guardian’s daily newsroom conference because something has tickled me so much and won’t stop. It is especially difficult to compose myself when catching the eye of the colleague (or colleagues) who caused the laugh attack.

The only time I can remember when the giggles were a heart-stoppingly awful experience – it brings me terror just thinking about it – was when I was on stage at the Southbank Centre. Something, which I will not be sharing here, triggered me in front of 1,000 people, and I spent the next five minutes sweating, squirming furiously and rubbing my palm across my face in a desperate bid to calm myself down, while praying I would not be called upon to say anything. But now, in the comfort of my own home, I am thinking about what set me off. And I have lost it all over again.

Source: TheGuardian