504. Teasing

There are children who tend to tease, and children who tend to get teased. Sometimes teasees are also teasers. Adults do both, too, but the word “tease” tends to mean something different among adults; adults aren’t usually hurt as conspicuously as children are by name-calling and similar put-downs. Among adults, teasing can be good-natured. It can even be a form of flirting. And even if it’s meant to hurt, we have more ways to deal with it than children do.
I remember a time in my life when it didn’t take much to tease me in a way that hurt. When I was about four years old, a kid on my block once said, “Hi, Bobby Blue Crayon.” I ran home crying. I was NOT a crayon, and I didn’t want anyone to say I WAS one! I was a PERSON! Nowadays, you can call me “Bobby Blue Crayon,” and it won’t even faze me. I know you probably don’t mean any harm by it, and even if you do, it’s not much of a put-down, and anyway, I have plenty of good friends who are ready to reassure me that I’m not a crayon. I’m pretty sure of that myself, and if I’m wrong, well, life as a crayon has been pretty good so far.
The kid who called me that may have meant to hurt my feelings, and may not have. Probably, he had only recently learned what “blue” means, and he was experimenting with the word, maybe slightly confused by the fact that it was also my last name. Actually, my name comes from “Blustein,” and does refer to a blue stone that used to be used for healing purposes. Probably, if I’d known that
back then, and I’d drawn that stone, I would have ended up coloring it with a blue crayon. But I didn’t know, and I was hurt.
As adults, we can try to teach children not to tease, and we can try to teach them not to be affected so much by teasing. But that’s not always easy. Some children tease for complicated reasons, and though they may learn not to do it when certain adults are around, they still do it. We can tell children the old saying about sticks and stones, but the truth is, names CAN hurt, and it takes a while to build up a resistance.
When I was in second grade, I once got in trouble for teasing a girl. It didn’t make any sense to me; boys teased girls, and girls teased boys. Why was everybody making such a big deal about it? But I realize, now, that the girl I was teasing looked different from other girls in the class, and I had probably mentioned that difference as part of my teasing. I had hurt the girl with what I’d thought was normal, acceptable behavior. I was wrong, and I learned from the incident. And now, I don’t make fun of girls anyway; in fact, some of my best friends are female.
Most children don’t mean any harm, but it takes a while to learn what can hurt people. And it also takes a while to learn not to be hurt by comments that aren’t meant to hurt. Teasing still remains an issue throughout life (e.g., racial slurs), but at least we can help children begin to deal with it, and help them stop doing it.

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