But I was just teasing
For his recent book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans,” researcher Karl Pillemer interviewed hundreds of men and women over the age of 65 to learn their secrets for living a good life. During in-depth discussions, these older Americans offered advice on everything from careers to parenting and — of course — love.
The book opens with a chapter on marriage and includes the lessons that came up in the interviews time and again: Marry someone who shares your core values, friendship is as important as romantic love, and communication is the foundation of a strong relationship. Which all makes sense to me.
But here’s a tidbit that caught my attention: Watch out for teasing.
“After we got married, we went through sort of a teasing phase, and it was getting out of hand,” the book quotes one of the interview subjects, Ben Santorelli. “So we made a pact that we wouldn’t tease the other person at all, and it really helped. It can degenerate into something nasty, teasing.”
As far as I’m concerned, a little playful mocking is the lifeblood of relationships.
Doesn’t an ability to laugh at ourselves bring us closer?
“I’m kind of a jokester, and maybe I thought it was funny,” Mr. Santorelli said. “But it digs a little too deep. And then she would probably retaliate. It certainly changes the other person’s attitude after they got teased.”
I considered what he was saying and realized it’s true that I’m often the one who leads the teasing. It’s also true that my own feelings are easily hurt. How many times have I sulked after a perceived slight from my beau, only to have him respond, “But I’m just playing”?
The more I thought about it, the wiser Mr. Santorelli’s suggestion seemed. And then I saw teasing in action.
I recently ran into a group of young teens at the local coffee shop. They were 12 or 13, a mixed group of boys and girls, loud and feckless as only teenagers can be. One boy, long and lean in a basketball jersey, elbowed the boy next to him and pointed at the girl standing in front of them.
“Look at that,” he said. “Look at that girl’s cellulite.”
The other boy looked around, unsure. “Cellulite?”
“You know, those bumps on the backs of her thighs.”
The girl stared at the floor. She was tall and pretty, and it’s hard to imagine the boy in the jersey didn’t have a thing for her.
By now all the boys were laughing.
“And look at her toenails,” the boy in the jersey said. “Girl, when we leave here I’m going to buy you some toenail clippers.”
The other boys snickered and nudged each other.
“Toe nail clippers,” one echoed.
It’s hard to gauge what our teasing looks like from the inside, when we’re either the ones dishing it out or taking it in. But when you see it from the outside, with all its petty meanness and downright ugliness, it’s hard to imagine how we ever let it creep into our relationships in the first place. ¦