In the UK they call it “taking the piss,” your friend from Long Island may call it “breaking balls,” and your dad’s friend who owns a tire store probably calls it “busting your chops.” Whatever you want to call it, intermittently giving friends a hard time is typically a recipe for forging a much stronger bond when it doesn’t end in someone being maimed with a pair of safety scissors.
My research has this tradition going back at least into the mid 80s when I achieved cognition, but I have a suspicion that it may go as far back as when we kept dinosaurs as pets and used them like household appliances before we invented those appliances.
It’s never fun to always be the butt of the joke (you get out of a freezing cold hot tub naked ONCE and no one ever forgets it), but being on the business end of some regular ribbing is good for you. And you should work hard to keep those assh*ole friends in your life. Here’s why.
1. They teach you not to take yourself too seriously.
There’s a great saying in Latin: Memento Mori — remember, we all die. We all can use a reminder that life, already somewhat short, only gets more brutal the more seriously we take ourselves.
2. Admit it: They’re funny!
Piggybacking on the previous point, your friend who busts balls is likely funny. She doesn’t have to be the late, great Patrice O’Neal for you to appreciate a few zingers. Roman slave turned philosophical giant Epictetus said, “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.” Throw in the idea that laughter is the best medicine and your “dick” pal may be saving your life.
3. They give you thick skin.
Not to sound like Old Man Getoffmylawn, but being able to withstand a little criticism, even if unfounded, is one of the things that separates adults from children. Your sh*t does stink no matter what you’ve been told, and please heed the advice of the Trinidad James album title, “Don’t Be SAFE.”
4. They make you a better person.
We’re obsessed with self-improvement, and there’s a good chance that the friend who’s riding you like a borrowed burro is pretty observant of your flaws (and likely just as observant of your great qualities). You can use her eyes and mouth as means to improve.
5. They’re the reason for dreaming up massive, hilarious payback pranks.
Face it, unless you’re from Boston or a member of a rap super group, at least one part of your core clique is going to be a little slow on the jokes. And there’s a decent chance that if you’re reading this now, the friend who rarely has a good one-line chambered is you. But how great does it feel when you finally get to clown your obnoxious friend? It feels like you won the Super Bowl.
6. Their subtle digs help you let off steam.
While gassing you up about your inexplicable attraction to Lyle Lovett (or his music, depending on how you swing) may not seem like letting off steam, a million micro-explosions prevent the kind of blow-out that could make Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr look like a minor misunderstanding.
7. They know what makes you sweat.
It’s good to know your friends’ insecurities. It’s mostly good to know where funny turns into hurt feelings. But it’s also important to know where to stick the pin if they need a little deflating. You need a friend whose Rick James-esque line-stepping establishes for the rest of you where good fun ends and cruelty begins.
8. All that ball-busting makes you attractive to the opposite sex.
Maybe people are attracted to alphas and confidence and humor, but guys (or gals) who are constantly chirping seems to keep the single-and-ready-to-mingle crowd nearby. Maybe the Justin Bieber roast seemed like a lot of fun. It seems less common for men and women friends to enjoy a just-f*ckin’-with-you relationship, but if you do find that pal who can dish it and take it, hold onto her (or him!) with both of your dirty hands.
Look, insults are an art — a vulgar art, like water colors. Good-natured, instructive insults are a high art like relief sculpture. Appreciate your dick friend’s art and enjoy when the cross hairs aren’t on you.