The Importance of Inside Jokes

When I was in middle school I loved me an inside joke. My favorite thing to do was write in a friend’s yearbook in a language that seemed all our own. No one could understand our references to “Sally Kiegel” and “special schedules” and “‘you may go.'” That’s because they were just ours.

Now, ten years later, I still laugh when I read those words, even though they mean nothing to anything else. But there’s more to inside jokes than silliness. A good inside joke just might be the single thing that can elevate an acquaintanceship to a friendship.

Let me explain myself.

In MWF Seeking BFF, I tell the story of my friendship with Natalie. It started with a simple debate about rompers during a book club. The next day, when I spotted one out in the wild, it seemed the perfect excuse to text my new pal. It was our very first text exchange, and opened the door for us to text back and forth about rompers, and eventually other common interests, and eventually brunch plans. An inside joke becomes something that only you and your friend understand, or, at least, an excuse to open the lines of communication beyond friendly book club announcements or fundraiser invitations.

This has become something I look out for whenever I have a new friend. It doesn’t always have to be a middle school-esque gibberish joke. It could just be something you have in common that is specific to you. My work friends and I once started a fitness team called The Transformers. Now, whenever I see a random transformer poster, I take a picture and send it to them. Another friend loves bad dance movies as much as I do. (I saw Jessica Alba’s Honey in the theater. Twice. True story.) Whenever I hear about Step Up 4-H: You’ve Been Served the Last Dance, I go straight to her. And when I watched ABC Family’s Revenge of the Bridesmaids last night? The only person I wanted to call was Joan, who loves a good TV movie more than anyone I know.

This is what friendship is. Think about your bestest BFF. There are things you see, or hear, or remember, that make you pick up the phone and call immediately. These are the little reminders that, hey, you need to shoot her a hello and say, “I’m thinking of you.” When I look back at any of my new friendships, it is this moment when we went from “people who know each other” to “friends.” When we shared an intangible random connection, not just a sushi roll or a bottle of wine.

Have you been there? Did a joke or some other inside nugget elevate one of your friendships?

Book clubs are reading MWF Seeking BFF, and the conversations have been fascinating! Read it with your book club and you can use these discussion questions. Or I’d be happy to Skype with your group if it meets in April or later. (March is all booked up!)



Filed under The Search

7 responses to “The Importance of Inside Jokes

  1. ihavenofriends

    I agree that inside jokes are fun & great reminders for connecting again with old friends via text or otherwise…good times.

    I absolutely loved your book and could certainly identify with the difficulties of making new friends….but now add in a not-always-so-supportive husband and a 4yo…how in the world am I ever going to make any friends? I feel like it’s impossible at this point. I have lived in my current city for 6 years, however the first 2 were spent working from home and then involved in a graduate program were just about everyone was MUCH younger than I.

    I did recently befriend a gal here at work only to discover that she displayed some not so great friend qualities behind my back…and so I am DONE with her and feel like I am going to give up on any efforts to make new friends. It’s just too hard, too time consuming & too exhausting.

  2. Oh my gosh! I completely related to this post. My friends and I have so many little inside jokes, and I do believe they bind us together in a way that sometimes intimidates “outsiders”.

    One of my BFFs moved to Colorado (from South Carolina). She’s missed having an on-site BFF (as opposed to the dozen BFFs she left 1200 miles away). I sent her your book last month! Everyone needs a BFF you can see any day! Wish her luck!!

  3. The Grown Up Princess

    The best is when one of these inside jokes gives you a reason to contact a friend that has faded away… I recently sent a message to a friend I hadn’t seen in years about one, and it was sooo nice to reconnect. Our lives may be in different places these days, but the history makes us bonded for life!


  4. katieleigh

    Oh, I love me some inside jokes. They’re just as much fun now as they were in middle school. Great post!

  5. Callie

    I will add one more to the mix…”Prove it, prove it to us!”.

  6. I am 60% through the book and I love it so I decided to check out the blog and ta da, I love this too. Thanks for tackling this topic, I am sure it is difficult, as the book mentions there is not exactly and easy language to use when discussing your topic but from what I have read you achieve it well through a balance of comedy and science. Keep up the great writing 🙂

  7. Oh my God, I know exactly what you mean. Inside jokes I think are something that connects you with your friends on a deeper level. They make you feel special and warm inside because you feel like you and your friend know something that the billion people in the world don’t. I had a big group of friends when I was in college and countless inside jokes..I smile every time I think of them. My best friend and room mate was one year older to me even though we were in the same year. When we met for the first time, one of our conversations centred on that. She told me she did nursery school twice because she moved cities in between or something like that. The first time I ever teased her after we became friends was for that…joking ” I can’t believe you failed nursery so you had to repeat it”!…since that time I always call her “Nursery Fail” and its become a long running joke of ours. We have so many more so I don’t mind sharing this beautiful sign of my friendship with her to the world. Sometimes, I think I was the luckiest girl ever to have her as my room mate for 4 years. We have so much history and know each other so well to the point that we know every person of each others extended family personally. I, I know that she will be my BFF forever.

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