Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

I was kidding…

No. You weren’t.  You were hoping that the person you had hurt/offended/embarrassed, etc. would let you off the hook by pleading the Jokester’s Defense.  Well, I’m here to tell you, by the look on his/her face – the jury of your peers is not buying it.

 

Teasing, for the most part, is something done for sport – you know, kicks & grins to be had whilst poking fun at one other and nobody gets hurt, as long as no actual sticks are involved in said poking.  Psychologists say that men, in particular, value teasing as way to bond and connect with someone.  Problem is, there a not-so-fine line that can push “aggressive play” into bullying… and the sticks & stones theory be darned, words can and do hurt you.

 

Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of people out there who like to overuse phrases like, “I was only joking / kidding / playing around” to relieve themselves of the responsibility of picking up any of the pieces left behind from their verbal shrapnel.  They think they can use it as their “Get Out of Jail, Free” card in a relationship.  No.  There is a definite price to be paid, my friend, but one you might not notice until it is too late.

 

Teasing isn’t all bad.  Good-natured ribbing is definitely one way that love and affection are shown and for some, it is the only way they can comfortably interact with others.  The danger of using the “I was only joking / kidding / playing around” maneuver is when it is used as a power play, a form of manipulation or as a device to be the center of attention at someone else’s expense.  Once, I had the great misfortune of being present when a man I’d always loved and respected asked his nephew (whom he’d not seen in five years), upon greeting him if he was “practicing to be the fat man in a circus” – then laughed it off, as though nobody should take his comments too seriously.  While my love still remains for that man, my level of respect dropped dramatically that day.

 

There are couples whose hostile teasing with one another in public is used as a “safe” way to lob negative comments that they’ve been dying to say in private.  Doing so in a joking manner gives them the bravery to say what they've desperately wanted to say and then gives them the freedom to avoid responsibility for being honest.

 

Therapists tell their clients that teasing is an “important tool” to building healthy relationships, but that there should be guidelines.  There are multiple points to the rules of engagement, but the bottom line, is this: play nice.  Don’t attack or be malicious; don’t overuse the horseplay, balance it with down-to-earth conversation and seriousness; don’t be manipulative; don’t one-up one another; stop when it has (or you’ve) gone too far.  Again: Play nice, darn it.

 

If you’re at the receiving end of the teasing and you’re not comfortable with it, experts suggest tactics that are often used in bullying situations:

 

1)      Assert yourself and address the comments honestly.

2)      Walk away, especially when the teasing happens in a group.

3)      When confronted about #2, employ #1.

 

Honestly, good natured, healthy teasing can be the cat’s pajamas.  I’m all for the playful rapid-fire repartee that naturally occurs in some relationships.  There is a whole Nick & Nora Charles, Hepburn & Tracy thing that can happen between people that just makes me giddy.  Spoken-sparring with another human being is one of my favorite sports, one that should probably have its own electrolyte replenishing beverage, if you ask me.  But, if there are times when the bantering becomes harrying with pointed, hurtful comments that are hastily covered up with a thin blanket of pretend to avoid confrontation?  Well, you do not have to pretend that’s okay.  Not in ANY relationship.  I’m not kidding.

 ***

 

Nora: Pretty Girl.

Nick: Yes.  She’s a very nice type.

Nora: You got types?

Nick: Only you, Darling.  Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.

 

 

To learn more or make a difference in the lives of abuse victims,

survivors and their families go to www.thehotline.org

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