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03 June, 2015


Truthfully speaking, I am a bigtime tease.  I have many ways of venting what I have come to recognize as a compulsion to tease, or one who runs the risk of having fun at other people’s expense.  I even hit on unsuspecting complete strangers and come away with the (misled?) hope that I have given them a chuckle or that I may have helped make their day.

I am also a slow learner…It has taken me all of my life to come to the conclusion that my teasing is not always understood or appreciated.  I walk a very fine line with my teasing.  Psychologists liken it to balancing a teeter totter.
I do not really understand what it is within me that makes me want to tease other people.  Maybe I have a personality shortcoming or a suppressed need of some kind, but it has become second nature and it seems to roll out of me with little provocation.  Many times I am half way into a tease before I actually realize it.  While most of my teasing is accepted good-naturedly, there have been times when it has backfired as if going over like a lead balloon, especially when done by means of the written word in the absence of body language and associated nuances.
I feel terrible on those occasions when my weird sense of humor (as my wife calls it) hits someone the wrong way and I am hard-pressed to make amends or to explain myself.  Usually, I end up with the justification that the particular other person “just can’t take a joke”…And maybe they could not but in retrospect I should have been sensitive enough to take that possibility into consideration before inflicting my kind humor.
Often, teasing is done in a spirit of affection and playfulness, and teasers attempt to convey these intentions through subtle nonverbal cues. However those who are being teased tend to miss these benign aims.  And that is where we get into trouble.  I have been rebuked in no uncertain terms by individuals whom I have offended with what I thought was a good-natured quip or tease.  Needless to say, friendships fall by the wayside at times like that.  I have learned the hard way.
Synonyms of teasing are joker, mocker, clown, josher, teaser, tormenter, and leg-puller.  All of the above apply to me. Guilty on all counts.
In an effort to curtail the jokester within, I have had to take a look at a continuum of communication possibilities: 
-- Humorous jokes, funny remarks, perhaps a pun or play on words, with no personal target.
-- Teasing, poking fun, wisecracks, directed at another person.
-- Picking, needling, short negatively toned messages directed at another person.
-- Biting humor, hostile remarks toward another person purported to be funny.
-- Sarcasm, clever comments which belittle others under the guise of humor.
-- Cynicism, insults, communications to another when hostile intent is less disguised.

The façade of humor is increasingly lost across this continuum, while the amount of direct hostility increases toward a personal target. Pure jokes are not a problem. Any of these kinds of communications delivered without a real personal target can also be funny or entertaining. Many standup comics use this type of negative humor which does entertain because the intended target is not a real person. Sarcastic comments can provoke spontaneous audience laughter based upon the comedian's wit and dexterity with words. The audience laughs with relief that the hostility in the comment is directed toward a hypothetical other person. For example, a few remarks by Groucho Marx: "No, Groucho is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend." "I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.”
When can teasing be ideally playful, affectionate and bonding between two people, one might ask? The answer:  When it is reciprocal between individuals of equal personal power, mutually agreeable as to the tone and content of the teasing, and when there is no direct or indirect hostile undertone
It is certainly true that some people are more able to use teasing — i.e., making fun or mocking someone playfully — in a nice way.  Some people like me can use teasing as a way to make people feel closer, as a way to show friendship — which is obviously a good thing. But maybe that’s more in the nature of “joshing” (teasing lite) than real “teasing.” Some people are good at using teasing as a way to bring up a difficult subject in a way that’s a relief to everyone — very tricky to do well.
In the final analysis, the true test of whether or not you’re being funny is when someone else finds you funny. The test of whether or not your teasing is friendly is when the person being teased finds it friendly.  Simple as that!  But there is always the risk of having it all go wrong.
I have engaged in this test numerous times recently and have come to the conclusion that it behooves me to make a concerted effort to refrain altogether from the impulsive teasing that heretofore turned my crank so gleefully.  It is safer that way!  Cold turkey as it were.
I simply cannot be a selective half-teaser any more than I can be half pregnant, if I could be pregnant.  But you know what I mean!!??
Please bear with me friends if I fall off the wagon from time to time though…It is going to be tough.  No joking about that!
Withdrawal symptoms are about to set in.  I they had a support group for recovering teasers I would be the first in line.

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