Monday, December 8, 2008

Jeez, You Take Everything So Seriously

My colleague Jim Lusby, at the pinnacle of a distinguished career in independent and Episcopal education, is an astute observer of the interpersonal dynamics of the not-yet-old. He enjoyed this New York Times article by a UC Berkeley psychology professor about the danger of defining bullying too widely:
The reason teasing is viewed as inherently damaging is that it is too often confused with bullying. But bullying is something different; it’s aggression, pure and simple. Bullies steal, punch, kick, harass and humiliate. Sexual harassers grope, leer and make crude, often threatening passes. They’re pretty ineffectual flirts. By contrast, teasing is a mode of play, no doubt with a sharp edge, in which we provoke to negotiate life’s ambiguities and conflicts. And it is essential to making us fully human.
Amen. I'm afraid it took me about 45 years to figure this out. In childhood I learned to process all teasing as criticism, as confirmation of my sense of inadequacy. Eventually I learned that there are people who go through life making cheerful fun of everybody. It's how they communciate, and by and large they enjoy being teased back. I've also learned that it's best not to try it via e-mail, since visual and tone of voice cues are missing (you humorless, judgmental bastard).

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