I recently had a conflict with a good friend of mine, and I wanted to loosely post what happened in a public forum, so those that read it can share their opinion. For the sake of privacy, let’s call the friend “Bob” and the third party participant “Roger”.
I have a tendency to make jokes at the expense of other people. Not always, but I do. I like doing President Bush impressions, poking at the elderly, etc. I also make joking comments about my friend Bob. He’s a bit overweight, and I’ve compared him to a manitee and sometimes a watermelon. Let me make it clear that I never walked up to him and said “You’re fat like a manitee.” I wouldn’t directly attack a friend like that. In fact, Bob consistently laughs along with whoevers present because (I assumed) he could take the joke.
The situation involved Bob, Roger, and myself in a pool while on a camping trip. Bob kept trying to do a flip into the water (like Sonic the Hedgehog spinning), but more often simply flopped which was really funny, and all of us laughed about it. Roger said it was like he was “beeching” and I said it was a “Whale of a Tale”.
Bob suddenly started saying how he hates the watermelon comparisions and any jokes made at his expense. But he would always laugh at them and one time he even said, and i quote, “You’re so cruel and heartless and I love it”. Some of my jokes range from simple impressions to the flat out morbid (ie “Old people on fire”). So i told him that all this time I assumed he knew i was always joking, but out of the blue he’s all like “You think I ever like that? Huh? Huh? You think I like insults?!”
I told him that if he had been offended at any point, he should have TOLD me, rather than encourage me by laughing. Then he said “I spend so much time and money on this trip, and this is what I get??”. I told him he could have taken me aside privately months ago and expressed that my jokes were hurtful, intended or not, and i would have stopped. So i basically accused him of screwing things up by waiting so long and giving me the false impression that everything was cool.
Then he said I wouldn’t change anyway. So I asked Roger (who I used to make some Jewish jokes about until he let me know he didn’t care for them)if he was still hurt by my jewish jokes. Roger said “you barely ever make them anymore, so why would i be hurt?”.
Points for me!
All Bob had to do was open his damn mouth. Otherwise, i had no idea he was that upset!I admitted that the first time I made a joke about Bob TO Bob was wrong, because it was a gamble. I didn’t know if he’d react well and laugh, or be offended. Obviously he laughed, so I’ve continued to take comedic jabs here and there. Him laughing was like the green light to continue what I was doing. It’s much like a parent whose kid gets a C, and the parents say “it’s okay” every time. Then the kid gets a C and his parents arwe suddenly furious. “But I thought a C was okay!”….you see what I mean?
So here’s where the problem arises. Is it wrong to make jokes about a persons religion or weight, even if they laugh about it as well? My personal answer is simply “no”. When making a joke, the intention is to draw a laugh, not a tear. And if you GET a laugh, why not get some more of them? I also believe it’s every human’s job to defend themselves, to let others know when their over the line or just plain being cruel. If you’re overly passive, don’t get pissed about something you allowed to happen for MONTHS. You have a problem with someone, let that person know and work it out. But by all means DO NOT encourage that person to CONTINUE down the same path as Bob did. I was under the impression that I was only being funny, since nobody said otherwise. How am I supposed to know what hurts who? If someone made a joke about comic book geeks (such as myself) I wouldn’t be offended. I’m a positive person who has to be severely insulted to be taken down even half a peg. But perhaps another comic fan WOULD take such a joke personally and be deeply upset over it. In summary, everyone is different. So don’t expect people to know what you’re thinking. Odds are they don’t.
So in the end, I remain stubborn in my position. I feel that it’s okay to make fun of someone indirectly through a joke as long as the person targeted doesn’t mind. And how do you know the person doesn’t mind? Either he/she says so or laughs at the jokes every single time. The latter was the case. But it turns out the latter was all an act and the person really WAS hurt the whole time. Should I feel sorry? If I knew how Bob felt the entire time, yeah, I should feel sorry. I should feel like crap. But I didn’t know, and I’m not going to beat myself over something I just now learned.
Feel like I’m a heartless jerk? Think I went about this rationally? Either way, leave a comment with your thoughts…