When is a Joke not a Joke

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I swear I’m not going to turn this into a constant rehash of my turbulent relationship with Z but I can’t help but notice certain things.  Perhaps I’m overly sensitized to this things or perhaps I’m just seeing them more clearly.  Who knows?

There is a song Tex really doesn’t like.  At our party on Friday, Z was manning the music and that was the first song she chose.  And she made a big deal out of the fact that she did it simply because Tex hated it.  Well that’s her style.  Last night, as I had my last lesson with the Body Double (sigh), I couldn’t help but overhear parts of their lesson.  Tex is working on nine new routines for a show in about a month and they were going to do Cha-Cha and, naturally, Z suggests they put on this song.  I couldn’t get a clear picture of the reaction but it really didn’t look like Tex was enjoying the joke.

Look, I’m fully guilty of sticking the needle in people from time to time and my humor tends towards the sarcastic side.  It is something my brothers and sister and I do to each other (and spouses) at every get together.  But it is also clear that we all love each other and none of this is meant to hurt.  It is just our version of family bonding.  I get into the same type of discussions with friends as well.  I’ve had to learn to temper it around my staff though.  Some can take it and give it right back but others still have that whole authority thing that scares them so they can read a deeper meaning into my words.  That was a lesson I learned the hard way and I have to reel myself in from time to time.

The essence of these comments is that you are making fun of someone and that is something that can easily be taken the wrong way.  I suspect that the whole power dynamic in a relationship makes a lot of difference.  If the person with the power is doing the joking, then how long does it take before innocent humor becomes something not so innocent?

It might be easy to assume that the student has the power.  After all, if you get sick of lessons, you can always stop paying and never see that person again.  But, I don’t think it is that simple.  We all know that ballroom dancing can easily become an addiction for some of us.  And, if you have a goal to really compete and do well, then changing teachers is not a decision that is easily made.  So, do you take those comments as part of the price to be paid for working with said person?

Some people can easily give it right back and aren’t going to be impacted.  Some of us may not be so lucky and are more prone to simply take it and move on.  But, you can’t bury that stuff forever and, sooner or later, the needling will trigger a reaction.  If the person doing it is honestly unaware and apologizes and moves on, then things can go forward.  But if the person turns it back on you by saying something like “can’t you take a joke” or “don’t be so sensitive”, then it is no longer just innocent fun but becomes something a little more sinister.

There are whole lot of reasons why our relationship turned toxic but this is a key one.  I don’t like seeing it happen to someone else.

I hope Tex is stronger than I was.  I hope I’m simply misreading the frustration I saw in his face when the song was brought up again.  I just don’t know.

PS – on a happier (and yet sadder) note, the Body Double and I finished with Tango and Fox Trot.  Both went really well.  M-Dawg asked us to do a little demo of what Fox Trot can look like for a new couple.  I saw OwnerGuy giving me the eagle eye at various points during our lesson.  Hope he liked what he saw because it felt great.

PSS – sorry, but that just reminds me of something else that happened last night.  At the very end of the lesson, the Body Double wanted to do one more Fox Trot to music just to cement what we had learned.  The new couple finished with their weeding song and Z was going over to change the music for Tex and the Body Double asked if we could have a last Fox Trot (Tex had another lesson with Z right after ours so he wasn’t through for the night).  Her comment over her shoulder was “haven’t you learned that routine yet”    I suppose to her it was funny but, really?  Its a minor thing but it felt relevant.

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