Bullying, Teasing, Humor and Beyond

Sometime around the year 2006 I read an article in “Pyschology Today” about the psychology of teasing and joking. The substance of the article stuck with me. It said and I’m not quoting, but paraphrasing, that we each use the tool of language a little differently and that, in order for something to be considered funny in a teasing situation, all the parties involved have to use the tool the same way in order for it to be funny to all of them. Most particularly for it to be not hurtful to the person of persons who is/are the butt of the joke. Makes perfect sense to me.

 Originally back in 1973 when I embarked on collegiate 15 year, baccalaureate career, I was majoring in languages besides my own English. They were French, Spanish and German. I have always had a facility for language, even venturing out in Eurpoean cities and speaking the tongue of wherever I was staying at the time.  I ‘ve always loved stand-up comedy also, even thought of writing it at one point in my writing life. Sophistcated stand-up is marvelous to listen to.

However, suppose everyone doesn t “speak the same language” in a given situation? Yesterday we were in the local grocery store. I observed this which disturbed me quite a bit.

A young boy of perhaps 2 years in age was sitting in the cart which was pushed by his dad, I’m assuming, of course, and his mom was emptying the items onto the conveyor belt to check out. The little boy was sitting quietly. His father had been reading a pennysaver type magazine and suddenly started smacking the boy on the top of his head lightly with the paper’s pages. Almost immediately the child began to cry.

In my opinion, this was his way of saying “No!” Do not do this to me!” People, including children, have a right to set a boundary and say “no”. 

We certainly defend the rights of women to say “No’ in a sexual context.

However, as I watched, his tears actually seemed to spur the father on to continue  smacking. Pretty soon, the mom looked up. At first she glanced with annoyance at her spouse. But, then her expression changed, and she started smiling. I could not see the adult man’s face. But now the child had both parents ganged up against him, and he really began to bawl.

This whole experience was a strange, reversed twist on the more common child-acting-up-in-the-store-frazzled-mom scenario.

In order for something to be funny and for people to share the humor of a situation, everybody involved has to be using language the same way. This parent was, in my opinion, bullying his son. I could not hear his words so I don t know what he was saying to the boy.Perhaps he felt he was misguidedly trying to teach his son “to man up.” Real men don’t cry nonsense.

Whatever the cause and effect, watching this bothered me quite alot. The boy had no advocate. The situation was weighted totally in favor of the adults. Children are no match for adults.

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