Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Problems of Banter

Today I got to thinking about the ways in which friendships can go wrong. There are dozens of ways, obviously, but one way in which things can really get messed up (and more often than you think) is when banter gets taken too far. Either too far or too repetitive. It's often not a massive row which ruins friendships, but when it reaches the stage where it's like, "Okay. Insulting each other was funny the first four hundred and fifty seven times we did it, but either get a new line of chat or shut up!" Even worse when it reaches the stage where you think, "Why did they just do that to me in front of these people? Now I look like a complete moron. Nice one."

I love nothing more than making fun of my friends and I seriously enjoy it when they do it to me. Some of them are really funny about it - with an honourable mention going to CiarĂ¡n, Kerry, my sister Ashleigh and Eric. (NB: And Ellen!) But there are definitely mutual limits and I think that limit is when it's taken to the point either when it's happening all the time or where something that looks like banter, but definitely doesn't feel like it. Plus, when it's being done in front of other people, to whom the joke hasn't been explained, then that's very annoying. When this happens, the person being targeted often ends up being humiliated or made to look ridiculous, rather than simply teased. Plus, tone is everything, isn't it? A lot of Northern Irish banter is pretty brutal, but you can always tell it's good-natured by the person's tone.

Friends who take a kick out of making you look stupid or who enjoy changing banter into belittling don't actually like you. You may think they do, but they don't. Banter is supposed to make you laugh at yourself, not wish it was legal to punch your friend square between the eyes. When that line has been crossed, they are no longer your friends and have instead become the dreaded "frenemies." Ditch 'em.


  1. Yes, Gareth, I am choosing to live in my usual utterly self-involved bubble and decide that this post is, in fact, all about me. You evil, scheming little troll. And lucky for you, you seem to like spending time with people like me, so I suspect that in the very near future you're going to be inundated with a lot of extremely outraged bbms, text messages, emails and wall-posts demanding to know why THEY weren't included in your "honourable mentions" list. Me? I decided to go right for the jugular and post right beneath the offending article. Yeah, that's right, I'm doing a Jaqueline Howett. I mean, just look at how well that worked out for her? And on that note, HOW DARE YOU INSULT MINE WRITER TALENTS. THATS GRAMMAR WAS PERFECTING!

    Basically, what I'm getting at is, you will never be forgiven for this slur. Though I should note that I believe that our friendship has always been the exception that proves the rule that "Banter is supposed to make you laugh at yourself, not wish it was legal to punch your friend square between the eyes." Mostly because I think we mutually feel that urge without us even having to speak to one another...

    On a more, you know, reflective note (and enjoy this because I'm not associated with that word very often) I have had so many friendships with guys where that banter issue has gone way beyond the pale just like you describe. I would say you're a fairly rare breed in your ability not to be remotely threatened or confused by the prospect of a woman who gives as good as she gets, and if Meredith and Imogen are anything to go by, you positively revel in it.

    Right, I'm going to have to go and wash my mouth out with soap now, because I've just realised that I came perilously close to paying you a compliment in that last paragraph.

  2. Okay, in my defence, I would like to point out that I knew there was someone I was forgetting and, as you delicately pointed out, it is you. You cantankerous, evil harpy.


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