Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daddy-daughter dynamic

As one who has worked all of my adult life in a male-dominated field, I am familiar with the not-so-subtle differences of men's and women's humor. Much has been written about it, but I've been able to observe it both on the sidelines and in the middle of it.

Women are self-deprecating. They will laugh about themselves, their kids and poke gentle fun at their friends, but they are more careful about real digs. No real woman friend will joke about you putting on weight, or getting a really bad haircut, especially not after you've just gotten it. They will commiserate with you about your common foibles, but women are (for the most part) more sensitive to a joke that can be seen as cutting or hurtful. Unless that actually is the intent.

Men have no such boundaries. Men joke about each other's baldness, weight, height, lack of athletic prowess, lack of romantic prowess and any other shortcomings. They can take a joke about themselves, but high hilarity is the joke about someone else. It explains why more men think The Three Stooges are funny, while more women find them just stupid. (I however am one of the exceptions, I grew up watching the Stooges, find them genius, and taught our daughter to appreciate slapstick humor in the vein of Curly, Larry and Moe, as well as Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies.)

Which brings us to the dynamic of humor in our family. One thing that is hilarious to Earbaby and her dad is the way they absolutely skewer each other. He makes fun of her and teases her endlessly. She counters, calling him Baldy, ribbing him about his paunch, and all matter of putdowns that still shock me. Meanwhile, he tells her she has a big butt (she's thin as a rail) and puts her in headlocks when they walk together. And they giggle over their own antics like two, well, 12-year-olds.

EB and I laugh at different things. Our humor is at situations we find funny, laughing about our own shortcomings. We have women's humor between us. We're self-deprecating, but we would never joke about each other's weight, only our own.

EB moves easily between these two worlds. She has an amazing relationship with her dad. I marvel sometimes at the love affair, and the confident person she is becoming because of it. She can stand up for herself. She can joke with the boys in her class and have friendships with them without getting all weird and girly, a feat at this age. She can find them annoying and funny and not have a problem getting along. They're not foreign creatures. As one who grew up with two sisters, I admire her easy movement through boy-girl dynamics of the sixth grade.

Her father gets the credit for that. She doesn't get upset when the boys tease her, she can give it right back. Where I was sensitive and easily moved to tears at her age, she gives as good as she gets. My father-daughter dynamic was different. It was good, but different. Although there was laughter and humor in our family, our parents rarely kidded with us, and there were rare one-on-one times with three children. EB gets the benefit of lots of father-daughter time and the relationship makes her stronger.

I'm proud of her. I'm proud of them both.

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