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 Ciarán, 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.