The Nicest Thing a Guy Can Do For His Friend Is Make Fun of Him

Yesterday was a big day for my husband. The Jets lost.

Matt is a die-hard New England Patriots fan. Considering the Jets beat the Pats last week, all Matt wanted was a Jets-free Super Bowl. (Yes, we live in Chicago, but Matt was raised in Boston. He has hometown loyalties.)

After the game, Matt and my brother-in-law (we spent the weekend in Cape Cod for my mother-in-law’s birthday) commenced texting every Jets fan they knew to give them a hard time. It was hard for us women to wrap our heads around.

“They’re your friends. Don’t you want them to be happy?” my sister-in-law asked.

“If you are truly good friends, you root against their teams,” Matt said.

This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true, at least for my husband. I’ve watched Matt and his friends delight in sports-related smack talk in person, via email, via text. All of it. These kind of jabs are, in some twisted way, how men bond.

Male and female friendships are very different (How? Let me count the ways) but I think the most drastic discrepancy might be regarding this kind of communication.

Men tease and, often, both sides enjoy it. Women not so much.

Take wedding rehearsal dinners: The speeches from the groomsmen are very often more roast than toast. The guests are regaled with tales of drunken outings and other such shenanigans, which usually score a lot of laughs. Then the bridesmaids get up and, from what I have heard, usually say things like, “You’re so pretty and smart and I love you so much.”

I’m not saying women don’t have senses of humor. Obviously. But I do often think about the inconsistency in friendly adult teasing between men and women. I wonder about it because, for whatever reason, I often default to the male tendency. In emails, I’ll write something that I think is clever—a harmless poke at a friend—but delete it before hitting send for fear of offending someone. And then I’ll think to myself, “If I were a guy this would be fine. Encouraged, even.”

I know that Matt’s college friends—who maintain close contact through their fantasy football league listserv—basically take turns taking shots at each other. Matt thinks it’s hilarious and fun, even when he’s the butt of the joke. It only gives him more motivation to get back at the other guys later.

I’m not saying I wish women were like this. I’m plenty sensitive and would probably feel the sting if my friends picked on me all the time, no matter how friendly the intention. But I do wonder why friendly teasing (is that even the right word? I’m talking the well-intentioned adult kind, not the no-good playground bully variety) is such a bonding mechanism for men.

Have you ever noticed this gender difference in communication styles? Why do you think it is?

11 Comments

Filed under The Gender Gap

11 responses to “The Nicest Thing a Guy Can Do For His Friend Is Make Fun of Him

  1. debbi

    Men have it in this instance. I think its great that they can say whatever(pretty much)they want to friends with no repercussion. Yet women have to think before we speak to each other, for fear we might hurt, insult-sometimes its exhausting, and I actually avoid people who are ultra sensitive(my mom especially). Maybe growing up with 3 brothers & no sisters shaped me as a no drama girl

    • Melissa Cafiero

      Debbi – I’m the same. I’m always making fun of people, even myself! I also grew up with brothers and no sisters. I think it definitely played a part in how I behave now. And yes, always thinking about what you’re going to say in fear of insulting someone is exhausting for sure.

  2. I’ve definitely noticed this – especially where sports are concerned. My husband and his friends take shots at each other’s sports teams all the TIME. It’s amazing to me.
    (You were in Cape Cod?! Next time you’re in Boston proper, let me know – we should meet up for coffee or clam chowda!)

    • I know! I will let you know. My mom-in-law lives in Cape Cod so we usually spend our time there, but I may come into the city one of these days and will definitely be in touch!

  3. Suzannah

    Here in my lil’ corner of world that behavior is modeled very early….it is normal for my husband and his friends to tease lil boys, in a nice but teasing way…..But this same kind joking would never be said to someone’s daughters….
    the teasing is somehow a sign that you part of the group…so lil girls are hugged& encouraged but not ” poked fun at”…..and if it bothers a boy ,hopefully he learns they are playing, and just tease them right back…
    and Football season in Texas kicks all this male bonding into high gear!

  4. Nico

    This is one thing I really enjoy about my relationships with male friends – I tease them, and they tease me right back. It’s a very different relationship from what I have with my female friends, which is often more supportive but less FUN. There are a lot more laughs around the table when I have lunch with my male buddies than my female ones. (But I definitely lean on my girls when I need that, I just feel like the guys are less interested and don’t really know what to say without seeming really uncomfortable).

  5. Husband

    The Jets are just not a good football team. What have they won under Rex Ryan, seriously?

    • Shannon

      The most recent game against the Patriots… :)

      Ok, so I’m clearly in the “teasing is fun” group. Sometimes girls need to lighten up and not read so much in to every comment. A friendly jab (and I do mean friendly, nothing mean-spirited) just should just be taken at face value. Not as a passive aggressive indication that there is some deeper issue. Besides, if someone’s joke is lame it’s just another opening for the rebuttal.

  6. It’s safe.

    And when all is said and done, all anyone really knows about you is who your teams are.

  7. Lauren

    Of course this is a terrible generalisation, but I think this is a very American thing. I’m Scottish and frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to one of my friends for any length of time without taking the piss, even during serious conversations. It’s just the way people interact here. Banter!

  8. Pingback: On My To-See List: Five Friends | MWF Seeking BFF

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