Benjamin Franklin said, "Be neither silly nor cunning, but wise."
Horace taught us, "Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans; it's lovely to be silly at the right moment."
How do we know when to be silly and when to be serious? Here are a few hard-earned case studies (that may or may not have been perpetrated by me) that will teach you definitively when NOT to be silly.
When going through customs
In my experience, customs officials have very little sense of humor. They perform a tough job. It is tedious. Who knew? One time, I was going to visit a boyfriend in Canada. I was tired and bored, so when asked if I had anything to declare, I foolishly said, "Only the prostitutes, whiskey and heroin in the trunk." I was promptly pulled over, and everything, including the seats, was removed from my vehicle. I was flagged so that every time I passed over the border, I underwent the same sort of rigorous scrutiny. Not a good time to be silly.
When receiving a new assignment at church
I was new to a congregation in New York and received a new assignment of being the Homemaking Leader for the women's organization. I was told by the president that they wished to focus on genealogy for some of the classes and workshops. I beamed with a new idea. "Why don't we hold a seance? That way we can speak directly to the dead, and they can fill in the missing information we need." That poor woman and the entire board turned pale with fear at what they had wrought by calling me. I quickly laughed and told them I was kidding. However, the damage was done. I was marked forever as silly.
When you want to be released from a church responsibility
I had spent many years working with the young women (ages 12-18) at church and wanted to do something different. I spoke to my bishop and mentioned that I had told the girls to start to wear bikinis and do a lot of heavy petting. I was promptly released from my calling and have not worked with these sweet girls, again. My loss is due to silliness.
When you need a day off
When I needed a day off to work on a wedding quilt for my boss, I told a silly lie. I called in claiming to have mono. I figured she knew my sense of humor, but apparently she didn't. Two neighbors stopped in that day. They were told I was home with the illness. Before I knew it, I had casseroles arriving and offers for babysitting. Bad silliness. I lost hours because I had to carry through with the fabrication.
I presented my resume for a prestigious job. Along with it, I handed them a list of references from the likes of Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, Howard Hughes, and Ronald Reagan, among others. They didn't think it was so funny. They thought it was probable delusions of grandeur. I did not get the job. Reason: Mental Instability. No sense of humor, those folks.
When trying to earn bigger tips
When I was younger, and waiting tables, I joked with a group of regulars that they had better start tipping better because I was expecting. The joke was on me. I was. It seems that God has a sense of humor.
As I've aged, I have learned to discern when to be silly and when to be serious. More or less. Well, sometimes. I occasionally hold my tongue. OK, fine. I'm being silly again.