Where does loving your inner child end and being puerile begin? My wife might say the border is somewhere around my sense of humor, which ranges from the ludicrous to the obscene to the grisly. The grisly part derives from working in surgery for years. There wasn’t much that we wouldn’t or couldn’t discuss at the lunch table. But for the most part, only family get to watch the antics; I keep everything mostly tucked away for the polite company.
I think the genuinely puerile belongs to those whose humor has more than an edge of satire; it edges into the cruel. Shortcomings are exposed, magnified, and exploited for cheap yucks at the expense of someone.
Individuals who behave this way seem to have a certain tone-deafness to the hurtful effects of their humor. It’s that cruel streak that leaves me cold and paints the border in a bright color. It’s not just a puerile prank or taste-defying joke. The aim is to wound.
At one time or the other, we all may have had a friend who met this low standard for behavior. I think the first one I knew was a close friend until I became the target. Then, one evening, after he ran through other marks, he turned on me. After that, it wasn’t so funny anymore. I think that self-esteem issues are at the core of bad behavior. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you look for attention, pointing out the shortcomings of others – real or imaginary.
My wife and I abandoned a friendship with a couple we truly liked because of that particular cruel streak. Finally, there came an evening where requests to stop got ignored. So we went home early and never socialized with them again.
These individuals can’t distinguish between the childlike and the childish. There is enormous resistance on the part of an individual who behaves this way to change. It’s like an addiction in that the problem has to be acknowledged before it can be resolved. And, as people who have struggled with addiction know, this is very hard.