Retro Relapse: Men Who Can’t Handle Ribbing

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I’ve come across an epidemic lately. This epidemic just happens to be incredibly sensitive males who aren’t able to deal with good old fashioned ribbing.

What is ribbing? Well, if you don’t know, Google’s dictionary defines it as “good-natured teasing.”

Growing up, and I thought this was the same for all males, I often times found myself being teased or ribbed by many of my male friends and classmates. To be clear, it wasn’t bullying, it was mostly humorous banter and pranks that didn’t hurt or maim anyone physically or emotionally. In fact, to keep it fair, everyone got their fair share of ribbing in and got their fair share of being ribbed. It was a trade off and everyone was game for the sport.

Usually, if you ribbed someone, it meant that you were friends. It showed that someone was worth your time for you to put an effort into messing with them. With it came a code; one knew that if you ribbed someone, they’d certainly rib you back. Sometimes things would escalate but never did they cross a line into bullying or truly hurting someone, at least they shouldn’t have. That goes away from the essence of it being good-natured and fun. Anything mean-spirited usually ended up leading to a punch in the face or at the very least, friends no longer being friends. In my experience, if someone did cross a line, the other friends usually stepped in to squash it before it became a problem. It is all just a primal thing that males do; we’re always competing with one another but we also want peace within our own tribe.

To those who may be confused at the difference between ribbing and bullying, just watch films like The Goonies and Monster Squad to see how groups of young males talk to one another. Hell, look at the kids in E.T. As a kid who was both ribbed and bullied, I always understood the difference. There are things your friends can do and say that others can’t. They get away with it because they’re your friends and at the end of the day, you know they’ve got your back regardless. They’re allowed certain privileges that other kids weren’t allowed. This also carries over into adulthood.

Ribbing was important for a young boy. In my case, it strengthened my bond with my friends and gave us a sense of camaraderie that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some of those bonds survived for a long time and some didn’t. However, those I ribbed the most and vice versa, are still my strongest allies in life.

Over the last few years, a lot of newer guys I’ve met and become friends with, don’t seem to understand the dynamic of ribbing. I really think that many of them don’t know what it is or that just poking some good-natured fun at them is bully behavior. Honestly, I don’t even know if they think that far. They just seem to be reactionary and big sourpusses about the whole thing. It’s as if you’re ruining their game or something, even if they aren’t anywhere near a lady they’re trying to swoon. It’s like adult males, over the years, have developed some sort of faux suave sense of self and if you just so happen to tease them, you’re throwing rocks at their house of cards. God forbid someone completely exposes them as something less than perfect and swashbuckingly debonaire.

There are also the other type of guys who are just so damn sensitive that they take the littlest jab to heart. “Oh my god, he called my beard “patchy”, everyone is going to laugh at me till the end of time!” “He pointed out that I’ve gained a little weight, I’ll never get laid again!” “He doesn’t like my new glasses, he’s not my friend!” These guys just need to man the fuck up.

With both groups of guys, I see two types of responses. The first is that they just shutdown and go back into their fear turtle shell to hide until you’re long gone. The other response is they usually up the ante and go way over the top with their ribbing response. They go somewhere mean-spirited and usually throw a hard uppercut in what should just be a sparring match. Usually, their response isn’t clever or funny, it’s just some dude bro dick-wagging talk that comes from a place of insecurity and anger.

For example, I could say, “Hey dude, what’s with the Beiber haircut?” The insecure ante-upper would then say something like, “Fuck you faggot, I fucked your stupid girlfriend in the ass!” Yeah, usually these guys think words like “faggot” and “homo” are the ultimate burns to men and don’t understand that they’re complete bigoted assholes for saying them. They also don’t understand that my comment was an indirect way of trying to give them advice on their girly haircut. I could be a bit nicer and more direct and say, “Hey dude, I think your hair is too effeminate for a straight guy trying to attract females.” The problem is, they’d still react like a sensitive pussy trying to hide behind some bullshit machismo shtick. It is their hyper-defensive way.

I notice this a lot more in the younger generation. It doesn’t mean that my generation is oblivious too it. I’ve come across many thirtysomething males that are completely taken off guard by a good rib. I also find those poor saps who always want to dish it out but can’t take it themselves. I have a few bosses who always want to be one of the guys and rib their co-workers and employees but if the gesture is returned, they act like toddlers who lost their teddy bear.

Maybe ribbing was just an art that has somehow started to vanish. Anti-bullying is big in our culture, as is political correctness and feminist single mothers training their boys to be more sensitive. I understand that these things are social responses to negative aspects of our past societal idiosyncrasies but as humans always do, our responses have gone too far in the other direction.

Well, at least I can still hang out with old dudes at the barber shop and participate in their classic O.G. style of ribbing. Unfortunately, old school barber shops are dying out too.

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