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?