When I hang out with my good friends, there is a lot of back-and-forth joking. It is generally good-natured ribbing, and each participant typically takes about as much flak as he or she dishes out to others. Perhaps this isn’t the most mature friendship dynamic, but I enjoy joking around and almost all of my friends do as well. Some topics are clearly over the line but, for the most part, everyone knows the humor isn’t serious and gets a kick out of the back-and-forth.
Now, not everyone is particularly jokey. Some (most?) people are orders of magnitude more mature than I am – which should make you extremely happy that I’ll be treating patients in T-minus 12 years – and may not trade similar barbs with their buddies. I have several such friends with whom I exchange mostly light-hearted or topical banter, without engaging in person-specific comedery or ever venturing into the purely golden “that’s what she said” domain. On the other end of the spectrum are friends with whom normal conversation has nearly no humor restrictions. We don’t seriously insult one another, but the phrase ‘yellow-on-yellow’ crime would apply with significant regularity.
The golden rule governing this intricate humor interplay, an unspoken law that most people find intuitively obvious, is that one must be able to take approximately as much as one dishes out. If Robert makes a joke about how long it takes Kevin’s mother to cook Minute Rice (Note to Robert: it’s not that funny if she’s really smart and cooks it in 25 seconds), Robert must be willing to endure a similar barb from Kevin’s humor repertoire.
To illustrate this issue, a simple 45-degree line will suffice. On the x-axis, we have “out-dishing;” on the y-axis, “back-taking.” Thus, the more you dish it out, the more you have to take in order to meet the perfect 1-for-1 Repartee Ratio. Now, it’s no good to make fun of someone who’s polite/mature/nice enough not to dish it out. Nor does he/she deserve it. Thus, that friend is forced to take little back in return. Moving along the line, your obnoxious buddy that makes all those ridiculous jokes better be willing to feel the heat.
The problem occurs when people are disproportionately over-sensitive; they love to make inappropriate, callous jokes about others yet become defensive or upset when someone sends a yo’-mamma missile their way. This is one of my big-time pet peeves, a common pathology I’d like to call Dishes-it-out-yet-can’t-take-it-back Syndrome (DS). People with DS put a serious strain on one’s humor game, completely throwing off the mostly well-meaning, tongue-in-cheek vibe that brings me so much joy. Each one of you knows someone afflicted with DS. You can all recall an otherwise awesome social situation where DS made everything end in tears.
Well, thanks to my burgeoning biotech firm, the solution is finally here in the handy, dandy, Rx-only Getoveryourselfafilnoprene. Only 50mg nightly before bed has been shown to yield clinically significant reductions in DS symptoms. Stay tuned for our next pharmaceutical innovation in the treatment of Always-make-everything-about-them Disease…