“You can’t talk to girls the same way you talk to guys,” my father often told me.

He was right.

I tend to talk to guys in competitive put-downs. There’s a highly ritualized component to this. With certain friends, almost every time I see them, I accuse them of being gay (“How’s the great fight for marriage equality” etc). With other buddies, I constantly try to bait them about things they feel strongly about.

Some guys don’t like this talk and when they participate in it, they invariably break the rules. When I tease my friends, I never do it about matters they’re sensitive about. If a bloke was sensitive about being bald or a stutterer, I’d never tease him about this.

(People who grew up with a lot of siblings tend to deal better with joshing.)

When guys who don’t josh much try to participate, they inevitably get it wrong by going for the jugular.

As a teen, I’d tease my best friend about having holes in his underwear. I thought this was fair game until the day he responded by teasing me about the stains in my underwear.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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