Some fairly serious posts are tentatively scheduled for next week. In the meantime I’d like to dissect this strip from one of my favourite web comics, Mimi and Eunice.
It is one of the few items on my RSS feed that made me cringe-fully laugh out loud this week. When I was a kid I used to subtly irritate my brothers until they reacted. As far as I can recall it was never anything cruel or painful – just standard sibling teasing. When they retaliated mom and dad would often blame them for instigating the entire thing.
I don’t remember why I did those things. Maybe they had teased me earlier, maybe I thought it was funny or it might have just been a bizarre developmental phase. When my youngest brother finished high school I apologized to them for being sneaky and annoying. Despite the decade or so that had passed since we’d stopped interacting in those ways I still felt a touch of guilt for my part in it.
Why do adults act like this? We (typically) don’t physically jab one another with our fingers but I’ve seen more than one person a few decades removed from elementary school draw out the same reactions in others with a sharp word or aggressive body language. Every time it happens I wish I could temporarily re-write the rules of polite behaviour so I could ask what was happening in his or her life that made it seem ok to agitate someone else like this.
Is someone else poking their buttons? Have they had a horrible day, month, year and are running dangerously low on compassion? Do they enjoy introducing more pain into the lives of others? Why play innocent when the other person finally reacts? Have they missed social cues and don’t realize what they did?
I also wonder why more of the Eunices of the world don’t climb out of their comic strips. Sometimes this isn’t possible, of course, but if I was in her cartoon feet I would have disappeared halfway through the first panel. When Mimi was ready to apologize and stop poking me I’d come back and forgive her…but not before then.