My closest friends know that a true sign of affection from me is when I pick on them. For one friend’s birthday recently, I called him a “broken-down barge” on Facebook. He loved it, because he knows that when I talk that way, I cherish the friendship.
I’m all too aware, though, that this trait is a double-edged sword that can cut deep when turned the wrong way.
I guess you could say I’m one of those people lacking a filter.
I get a lot of this from my father. He’s always been the type to share his observations with you, no matter how insensitive. He’ll look a friend or family member in the eye and tell them they’re getting fat. If someone doesn’t stop for him at a crosswalk, he’ll give them the middle finger and call them an asshole loud enough for people to hear at the other end of the street.
I’ve always worked hard to keep my observations about a person’s weight to myself. Having fought the battle of the bulge my whole life, I know people get zero benefit from being told in public that they’re fat. I would never flip someone off in the street today, though the 20-something version of me would have. Just ask my parents-in-law, who were sitting in the back of my beat-up 1985 Chevy Monte Carlo when I flipped someone off for cutting me off in traffic. Or maybe I was the one doing the cutting.
The present me is a lot more docile in that regard. I might tell someone to go fuck themselves in the heat of heavy traffic, but I do it from the privacy of my car with the windows up and the kids absent, though my boys will probably be able to recall moments when I slipped. They love it when I have to drop change in the curse jar.
I let the sarcasm fly, though. I like to tease — mostly because I like trying to get people to laugh. Yet I know I take it too far sometimes.
I may be too old to change my personality, but you’re never too old to refine your communication skills. So if you run into me on the street or in the grocery store and my words are too cutting, remove your own filter long enough to tell me so.
I’ll keep working to do better.