Can’t you take a joke?

Traveling with colleagues, I excused myself after lunch to freshen up.  Imagine my confusion when I returned to an empty table.  Neither my colleagues nor the others we’d met with were to be found.   I assumed they must have been paying the bill and readying to leave the restaurant.   Bear in mind, this was my first time in that city, we’d parked some distance away and had walked a few blocks to get there.  Fear and disbelief bubbled up when I realized they’d actually left without me.   Gathering my things I headed out in the direction I’d hoped was the parking garage.  About two blocks away, with my head down into the biting wind, I heard “surprise!” as they jumped out at me from an alley.  There, in the heart of it all was the ring leader, laughing hysterically.  The others laughed too, but not as loudly. It was obvious who’d led the pack and when my reaction was less than charmed, his words stuck the final blow, “Geez, can’t you take a joke?”

I’ve been witness to others’ pranks and the intended of many more.   Some were harmless – a plastic spider placed perfectly for a Halloween scare – but most were mixed with just enough cruelty to leave only a furrow of resentment behind.

I’ve spoken up, I’ve protested, I’ve defended and, shamefully, sometimes I’ve kept quiet.  Indignation has consistently been met by “Geez, can’t you take a joke?”

Being the youngest of 5 kids, yes, I can take a joke.   I really can.

This is what being the butt of jokes feels like; image courtesy Rachel

But … I’d prefer to laugh with you vs. being laughed at.

I am happy to be part of the fun, but I’d rather not be … the source of yours.

Being the “butt” of jokes hurts our feelings, destroys trust and the only thing that thrives is … ego.  And it’s not ours.

# # #

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”  -Matthew 7.12

# # #

Do you know the difference between harmless fun and bullying?

(by Alan Teal)

1)         Harmless fun lets everyone enjoy themselves

  • Think of going to a party and playing charades or cards with your friends; think of children playing “Freeze Tag” at a family reunion
  • Everyone chooses to play; everyone has a chance to laugh and have fun

2)       Harmless fun means no one ends up embarrassed or hurt

  • Your date uses a lampshade as his prop in charades and everyone laughs
  • When you have a choice, it’s fun

3)      Bullying starts when someone is singled out without their consent

  • When someone is chosen as the “butt” of the joke without their knowledge, bullying has begun
  • The intent is to embarrass, scare or humiliate
  • Some people don’t mind being the center of attention but many do

4)      Bullies aren’t happy with just the laugh

  • They need to talk about the prank over and over
  • They relish telling the victim how “funny” their reaction was, how “hilarious” the situation is and, therefore, how witty they are
  • They like to tell the target how ‘everyone was in on it,’ thereby increasing the humiliation factor
  • A bully’s laughter comes when the target is put down, made to feel smaller so … they can feel larger

5)      Groups can be bullies, too.

  • If you hear about a prank ahead of time, speak up.  Your silence equals permission
  • Confront the organizers.  Let them know you are uncomfortable with their plans; chances are others are also but lack courage to speak up (Pack mentality… the weakest follow the strongest).
  • If it appears that the person to be pranked won’t appreciate it, the shift from harmless fun to bullying has already started
  • Be brave enough to be the “party pooper” and tell the victim ahead of time.

I can take a joke; the question is .. why should I have to?

image from

Categories: Life, News, Personal, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , | 41 Comments

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41 thoughts on “Can’t you take a joke?

  1. So true, MJ. How bad for you….! Many times, I’ve been the “butt” of a joke, and it’s a horrible feeling. You have to wonder why people do that…? What enjoyment do they get from making someone feel like that poor little pup, who by the way, I would love to snuggle….
    (Wish I’d been there with you: I wouldn’t have left you at the restaurant!)

    • Thank you, Dianna. I have no worries that you would ever leave anyone. I just can’t see it.

      I know why he did it because I know him well; what puzzled me was how easily others followed. And when I didn’t laugh and make it easy on him, they maybe learned to not follow next time?

      Most people are good; some… aren’t,

  2. So true!

  3. How unfortunate that an adult would take so much pleasure in making someone feel bad. Lack of maturity, lack of character, need to feel superior…all contribute.
    You’ve taken an awful situation for you and made it into a great teaching moment for others. Thank you.
    (And the picture tells it all,)

    • I agree with all you’ve said. What I see, looking back, and this was about 4 years ago now, is that it still hurts. I still remember feeling .. as a woman especially .. very much alone in a city I did not know .. and realizing how very little this person thought of me. That I’d be so casually left behind and then laughed at for my distress was … ridiculous.

      The picture does tell the story doesn’t it? Thank you for your comments, MJ

  4. Whoah. My heart goes out to you and others who have had to endure something like this. It is eye-opening to have someone I care about speak up against it. What blows my mind the most is that it was ADULTS who did this to you. Supposedly we are the ones who are to teach our children not to bully. Thank you for the tips on how to deal with a bully.

    • Thank you, Alana. I struggled for a long time about whether or not to publish this or not. There are more stories, as I still work with this person.

      There are very few adults in adults-only land, in my experience.


  5. ohmygoodness, the picture of the puppy is so cute and depressing at the same time!

  6. So many times growing up among four siblings, we would ask our mother to participate in a joke. She never allowed it, not even cater to a “white lie.” She led with strong reins and we learned over time, our prankster plans were not funny.
    I’m so sorry you had to suffer this. I’m with Dianna, I wouldn’t have left you. In fact, I’m usually the straggler bringing up the rear always counting noses. As I read to my grandson at night, I sometimes include a “Goofus and Galant” question. What would you do in a certain situation? Are you a Goofus or a Galant?

    • I loved reading about Goofus and Galant in the Highlights magazine. I channel Galant at times, when I avoid housework. Rather, I channel Goofus … (smile)

    • Your Mom was a great woman; know that. I know you would never do such a thing .. and to some this story probably seems like nothing, but there are more where that came from. I’m too inclined to give 2nd chances and it took me a long time to learn, with this person, not to give him the opportunity to leave me behind or to put me down … because he’ll take it, every single time.

      Goofus and Galant – what a great analogy? And a wonderful example of how to be. Like I’ve asked my boys, “Who are YOU when no one’s looking?”
      Thank you for your kindness and words of wisdom, as always
      — MJ

  7. Very timely post. Many young people need to read this.

  8. Judes

    How unusual for this to happen at a business luncheon. That boy is seriously insecure. You’ve got something he wants. He knows others recognize it so he had to take something away from you in front of them. You shine. He doesn’t. Fortunately, your light comes from within so you have plenty in reserve. He steals it from others so it’s not really his and won’t remain with him. That boy has got it all wrong. When will such people learn?

    • .. Thank you Judes, I do believe you’re right on spot – he’s a light stealer! I’ve never thought of it that way 🙂 MJ

  9. Agreed! I also don’t mind to poke fun at myself, and frequently do. But no one likes the kind of treatment you experienced. Good for you for being honest about your feelings and speaking up! I hope the group you were with apologized for their behavior. Sheila

    • … Thank you Sheila. This was a hard post to write; I had to cut it half and cut out all the OTHER stories like it.

      I learned the hard way that not everyone is worth my trust.
      I appreciate your sweet words of support,

  10. Excellent post! Bravo to you for speaking up. Wish “everyone” could read this.

    • Thank you LeRoy. I wish I didn’t have to .. I really wavered on posting this, and rewrote it many, many times. Finally I just had to go with it and trust that others would understand where I was coming from.
      Being the butt of a joke means we’re still a butt – who wants to be that?

  11. cooper

    Guess I know someone who won’t be getting a christmas card from you this year…
    sorry you were put in that position…

    • Yeah well … this story was about 4 years ago and there’s been a few others since that would make your hair curl. I have to work with this person so my only choice is to NOT ENGAGE and never be without my own wheels – ever.
      Some people are just … clueless and mean.

  12. Wow, MJ. That is awful. Like others have already said, I would not have left you, either. I am a sarcastic person, and I’ve realized there is a fine line between sarcasm and snark – perhaps no line exists. In any case, there is a fine line between jokes and pranks.
    Great post!

    • … There is a fine line. I can be as sarcastic as the next person but, having been the ‘butt’ of too many jokes … I sing like a canary when I hear of one being planned.

      I have no patience for it anymore .. Thanks LD 🙂 MJ

  13. whenonedoorcloses

    This makes me so sad. I agree that it’s one thing to laugh with others but to be laughed at, that’s no fun. People are mean.

    • I know; I like to believe that most people are good and will do the right thing .. there are some who get their jollies by making others feel less than. The person I wrote about is just that.

      What’s sad? His character or lack thereof.

      Cheers! MJ

  14. Amy A

    It doesn’t sound like this was that funny to you, so I think it crossed a line. But, I wouldn’t judge them so harshly either, I don’t think they were trying to be mean, I just think it went too far.

    I love that quote from Harry Potter, so you be that to them, and who knows, in the end maybe these people will become closer friends, and you can all learn something from this.

    • … Thank you, Amy. It went too far, it wasn’t funny then, and it isn’t funny to me now.

      What I learned is that we have opportunities every day to teach people how to treat us and I don’t have to make it easy for someone to be mean to me. I could have let him off the hook but I didn’t — I let him show his true colors and I didn’t rescue him by saying it was OK. He’s done it again a few times since and now … now I know better. We no longer go anywhere if I can’t take my own vehicle.
      🙂 MJ

  15. Let me say first how adorable that dog is. I really hate situations like you describe. In my opinion, jokes are not harmless and run the risk of hurting someone. I may be a stick in the mud, but I avoid them if I think someone will suffer.

    • I agree, Leah. This experience (and others that followed with that same person) taught me that I needed to hold people accountable and teach them what I thought was acceptable … or not.

      You are so kind, and I adore that about you .. MJ

  16. Plain and simple: That’s just not nice. 😦 Sorry you were left to feel the way you did.
    Only friends and family can get away with stuff like that with me.
    Hope your colleagues learned a lesson.

    • You are right: it’s not nice.

      There have been other (similar) times like this .. and every single instance accomplished one thing: destroyed trust.

      He didn’t learn, and he probably never will. No longer my responsibility – what’s freeing is that I’ve learned .. to speak up, to stand up and to not expect too much from others.
      Cheers to you! MJ

      • MJ~ I’ve been reading your responses here and I guess I didn’t grasp the whole situation. That guy is an Jack A55. I too have been learning, just this past year or so on the in’s and out’s of teaching people how to treat me. It’s liberating! Good for you MJ, keep up the good work.

      • Well, to be fair, I held some of it back … there’s too much that has happened that I couldn’t write b/c I still have to associate with this person.

        This post had 2 intended lessons: that “the joke’s on you!” isn’t usually funny for the intended and that it’s up to us to speak up about how others treat us – and each other!
        thanks for your kindness,

  17. I’m definitely a ‘laugh with’ instead of ‘laugh at’ kinda girl. And I can laugh the loudest at myself, but not if it is mean or cruel. That’s just not funny and it isn’t fun either. I bet the others with ‘ring leader’ felt a little odd as well.

    • Me, too Renee – I can laugh at myself and do – but I don’t enjoy being “set up” to look a fool. I think the others felt odd .. and probably mostly because I didn’t make it easy on them by pooh-poohing their decision to leave me behind. I let them marinate in their decision … As my little 81 year old mother would say, “If someone wants to show their a** ….. let them!”

      Cheers! MJ

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