Recounts the consequences a joke had on a lifelong friendship.
Two friends, Jenny and Jinny we're thinking what to play during the afternoon. For a long time, they could not decide upon any game. Suddenly, Jenny had an idea. She turned to Jinny excitedly. "Let's play school."
"Okay," said Jinny, "But I'm going to be absent.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a joke is "something said or done to provoke laughter." Wikipedia describes a practical joke as "a mischievous prank played on someone, generally causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion or discomfort." Bing states that it is "a trick played on someone in order to make them look foolish and to amuse others."
Who doesn't love a good joke? Who doesn't love to laugh? It's therapeutic. Patch Adams showed us just how powerful laughter can be. Impractical Jokers is a perfect example of a group of friends who enjoy the merriment only a good joke can bring. But, what do you do when the joke stems from a conflict between two of your own lifelong friends and you've been drawn into its beginnings through a group text?
We've all listened to jokes or been a part of a harmless prank. Everyone involved has a good laugh and recalls it later with fond memories. "Remember when... How about the time we..." The nostalgia of the silly incident has a lasting effect that is positive and brings friends closer together.
Recently, I became a reluctant participant, via text, in a practical joke involving three of my closest friends and a handful of acquaintances. The joke, however innocent the initiator claims, resulted from an argument two of my friends had during our annual girls' weekend trip. The argument involved Robin, Jamie, Robin's neighbor's shore house, and a pizza cutter that Jamie claimed was hers. She'd left it there the year before during a previous visit to the shore house.
When Jamie claimed the pizza cutter was hers and that she wanted to take it home, Robin insisted that Jamie leave it at the house. Robin didn't want her neighbor thinking that we'd stolen it. I understood both sides of the argument but carefully kept my opinion to myself. Robin and Jamie lock horns every year over some personality quirk and I didn't want to get caught up in it.
As the weekend wore on, everyone believed Jamie was wrong and she wouldn't let the subject drop. Things escalated, most of the women voicing in no uncertain terms their displeasure towards Jamie and laughing at her expense, save one, Sharon. Sharon and Jamie have been close friends since Kindergarten and still spend a great deal of time together. Sharon and I spoke briefly about the tug-of-war going on within the group then let the subject drop. In the end, Jamie left the pizza cutter at the shore house. The whole affair was quite tedious to watch and left a bad taste in my mouth. Needless to say I was relieved when the trip ended, anxious to put all of the petty high-school drama behind me.
I had forgotten about the incident until two months later when I received a group text initiated by Robin. Everyone who had gone to the shore was included in the group text, except for Jamie and Sharon. Robin thought it would be great fun for each of us to mail a pizza cutter to Jamie's house anonymously. My counterparts, eager to participate, all jumped on board, asking Robin for Jamie's address and texting "lol" repeatedly.
Unlike everyone else, I found the joke mean-spirited and stated my objection. Robin and Jamie had ended girls' weekend amicably but there was an undercurrent of hurt feelings that had remained. Robin seemed incredulous at my response and wrote that we would tell Jamie who had sent the pizza cutters afterwards. This didn't sit well with me for several reasons.
First, I had a strong feeling that Jamie would find the joke hurtful. After forty years of friendship, I knew she didn't like people laughing at her.
Second, why did everyone have to send the pizza cutters anonymously? It's your joke, own it from start to finish. Jamie would receive the pizza cutters and believe we were all involved. I didn't want her thinking I had anything to do with this adolescent sham.
Third, the whole thing seemed spiteful and small-minded. I thought we were adults who could reconcile our differences and move one.
What was I to do? The easiest option would have been to let the whole thing play out. Jamie would have found out in the end that I wasn't involved so why should I worry? Easy-peasy, I'm off the hook. When the whole thing came to a head, everyone else would have to deal with her unfavorable reaction and explain why they did what they did.
But...I knew about the joke.
If the tables were reversed I would want someone to spare me the embarrassment and humiliation this joke could cause. How could I in good-conscious explain why I hadn't warned her. Isn't that what true friends do for each other?
But...what if Robin and the others decided not to go through with the joke?
Robin had stated that she'd already bought the pizza cutter and everyone thought it was a hilarious prank. What if they changed their minds and I told Jamie? I'd open up a can of worms and make things worse.
I thought hard for a while trying to come up with a solution when I remembered that Sharon hadn't been included in the group text. With trepidation I called her. I was hesitant and embarrassed to involve her in this ridiculous charade but more anxious about the effects it might have on Jamie. If a simple phone call could assuage my concerns than I had to do it. Perhaps I was overreacting and taking things too seriously. I could be completely wrong about Jamie's reaction to the joke.
After I explained the situation to Sharon, she agreed that Jamie would be upset by the joke. We spoke for a while about how to proceed without making things worse. It seemed there was no logical way to continue without stirring up some trouble. Ultimately, someone was going to get hurt.
Sharon volunteered to call Jamie and try to ascertain her mood on being the butt of a joke, without revealing the truth to her. Neither of us wanted to hurt her unnecessarily. After the phone call, we would decide if Jamie needed to know the truth about what was going on or not. I hung up with Sharon and waited for her to call me back with the conversation's outcome. We both hoped that Jamie would think that jokes were as funny as its architects' intended.
That's not what happened.
During the phone call, Sharon had to reveal the joke and where it had originated. Jamie had not taken the news well. Later that night, Jamie had called to thank me for looking out for her. I felt like her gratitude was misplaced. I hadn't told her anything, Sharon had.
The next day Jamie confronted Melissa, another of our closest friends, to explain how hurt she was by the joke. As I had expected, Melissa promptly reacted to her conversation with Jamie by sending me a long angry text, blaming me for the whole incident. I received a similar text from Robin later that same day, and yet another longer and angrier text from Melissa the following morning.
When I explained to Robin that she had initiated the whole event by sending out the first text, she had deflected saying that my intervention had caused everything to go wrong. When I clarified that I hadn't been the one to tell Jamie about the joke, Robin had retaliated that I got the ball rolling by involving Sharon. I conceded to her point and I took full responsibility for that. Regrettably, I had put Sharon in an awkward position.
However, it seems that neither Robin nor Melissa want to accept responsibility for their actions in all of this high-school drama. They believe they are completely blameless and the harmful consequences were contrived solely by me. My interference alone has destroyed forty years of friendship.
I have claimed full responsibility for my actions in all of this nonsensical turmoil. I stand by what I did for one of my friends. I would do it again. Throughout the entire escapade, I tried to act like an adult. I've learned that no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, the mature thing, grown-ups can still find themselves caught up in the childlike behavior of their adult friends.
I guess the joke's on me.