This paper studies the effects of teasing on a twelve-year relationship between a husband and wife.
Studies have examined the effects of teasing on young children, but less is known about the effects of ‘the long tease’— in which one adult subjects another to almost constant teasing for more than a decade. Study participants have been hard to locate, because c’mon— who would put up with that kind of crap for more than a decade?
Researchers eventually located a married couple living in Los Angeles. Couple met in college, but did not date until five years later. For the purpose of this paper, we will refer to them as Husband and Wife, although definitionally they have only been married for four years of a twelve-year relationship. Wife: “It took me a while to figure out whether I could put up with that kind of crap forever.”
Husband grew up in a loving suburban Boston family. He had one sister, six years younger, on whom he relentlessly honed the dark art of the tease. Sister refused to participate in the study on the grounds of “Enough.”
Wife grew up in a loving, divorced New York family. She was an only child, and was, by her own admission, unprepared.
The research team observed thousands of variations and combinations of teases during this multi-decade study, but have attempted to categorize the prime tease types observed.
Repetition Tease: Husband remembers the time they made fun of Red Skelton on Saturday Night Live. Says “Good Night and God Bless” in exaggerated drunken slur. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Repetition Tease, Musical Variant: Husband picks one song lyric and sings over and over again. (“Biko oohhhhh, Biko.” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)
The Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Husband sits on couch next to Wife. Husband looks Wife straight in the face and yells, “GIZM-GAZM!”
The Heebie-Jeebie: Husband begs wife to watch horror movie. Wife reluctantly complies. Later, in bed, Husband says, “There’s something…in the yard… a woman in a white dress.” Husband falls asleep, leaving wife terrified and alone.
The Balderdash: Husband makes up fake outrageous statement, tries to sell Wife on veracity. (“Did you hear? They’re closing down your favorite restaurant!”)
The April Fools: Annual DEFCON1 escalation of The Balderdash. Discontinued as a result of the 2007 Arclight Accords. Summit was convened to resolve a day-long screaming match set off when Wife— exhausted from covering a wildfire overnight — returned home to hear from Husband that the landlord had sold their beloved rental home to a couple whose daughter wanted to move in immediately.
The Barbed Joke: Definitional controversy exists among team members as to whether this is a type of tease, or the root of all teases ever. For the purpose of this study, a barbed joke is defined as a passive-aggressive, humorous take on an issue that might be better served with proactive discussion. (e.g. “Since it’s your birthday, I’ll get out and pump the gas, unlike the normal days when I get out and pump the gas.”)
The Actual Funny: Any statement in which the primary purpose is to elicit laughter from Wife instead of producing a surge of tease-induced euphoria in Husband.
Evolution of Coping Mechanics
During the course of the study, the research team observed Wife develop coping mechanisms to manage the teasing. Each varied in effectiveness and some produced unintended side effects:
The Sigh: Gentle, forgiving sigh, like the wind rustling through the tops of the trees in a Hayao Miyazaki movie.
The Eye Roll: Like this.
The “Huh?” Wife pretends not to hear tease.
The “Huh? What? Dishwasher!” Tease. “Huh?” Tease is repeated. “What? I can’t hear you…the dishwasher!” Teasing usually abates.
The Redirect: Husband teases. Wife points out weird blemish on side of husband’s face. Side effect: Argument.
The Period: Tease. Wife: “What the fuck is your problem? Can’t you see I’m trying to read/write/relax/sleep? My fucking ovaries are tied in Gordian Knots! Don’t you have any fucking respect for my fucking peace of mind?!?” Side effect: War.
Tease-mageddon: Wife discovers long-dormant ability to return the tease in a manner so effective it immediately shuts down any and all teasing for the rest of the day. This discovery of mutually assured tease-struction creates a tease-induced euphoria in wife, as husband cringes in response to her dead-on imitation of his greatest annoyance. With teasing out of the picture, Husband and Wife naturally segueway into pranks, most involving surprise ‘bucket of water’ attacks. At which point the research team, dripping wet, bows out.
Don’t marry a comedy writer if you can’t take the side-effects.
Don’t react to the tease; find out what’s behind it.
Toughen up, tease right back, but remember: with great power comes great responsibility.
Jennie Josephson is an award-winning freelance producer and notorious over-thinker. You can read more about her at about.me/jjo