I have realized this week how terribly I am led to tease people. It’s a very bad habit that I got from my father, but since I never had much of an ego of my own, and was teased mercilessly and cruelly all throughout my childhood, it feels to me as though teasing, of the loving, funny kind, is what communicates intimacy.
It was odd to me the first time this resulted in a failure of a friendship, when a particular ex-boyfriend of mine revealed himself to be incredibly vain about his perception of his own age, that he could pass for ten years younger, which, let’s be honest, was a bit absurd. He looked great for 35, but 25 he’d never be again. I never said a word until he attempted to lie on a form asking our ages for a preview movie screening.
I’ve also realized that I tease more, as a teacher, than I ever do in other circumstances, and almost exclusively when I really intensely love my students. One said to me, when I asked why they were so very nervous about their final exam, “I think you forget that we’re not as smart as you are.” I responded, “No, that’s not true. I never forget that.” Imagine it with a broad smile and a giggle. It was funny!
But it’s also mean, I think. And I worry about the fact that it’s mean. It’s how I was raised, to think that a good funny tease is the most extreme expression of intimacy. But it can also hurt. I remember from when I was very young that it did hurt. And actual cruelty hurts me to the bone. But something funny? I can’t possibly care.
How sensitive are you to teasing about things that matter to you? Does it help, or does it make everything harder?