Ask Jono: Teasing Friends
My situation is a little weird, I guess. Sometimes I really don't like my friends, to the point where it feels like a lie to even call them friends. They'll do stuff like make fun of me for being short or for saying I'm from the Middle East (because I grew up there, even though I'm American), and they make me feel really stupid sometimes. It really hurts my feelings, but they'll still come up to me later and act as if they didn't do anything at all. There are a lot of people that I spend time with, of course, so I'm not trapped in the same social circle, and not everyone I socialize with on a regular basis irritates me, but I still don't know what to do.
Am I being overly sensitive? Also, how do I go about a) getting them to stop without being too confrontational, at the risk of being called dramatic or overly sensitive, and/or b) if all else fails, stop hanging out with them as a whole?
One of the reasons you guys can always trust my advice is that I am kind of an idiot. People write in and are like "Jono, what does my boyfriend want out of this relationship," and I'm like "Ummmm, ice cream," and Mean Uncle SparkNotes threatens to fire me, out of a cannon. The end result of my being kind of an idiot is that I have to brush up on my sociology and psychology before I answer anything, so what you get from me is often a combination of my perspective and science facts that came out of a smart person.
But I can't do that this time, because your situation doesn't have an easy solution. The simple answer is "ditch your friends if they're jerks," but the simple answer is not always the best advice, and anyway nothing is simple in high school.
I've actually been on both sides of this dynamic. There was a dude in our high school group I'll call Bert, and his doofiness was frequent enough that anybody who did something stupid would be labeled the "Bert" of the group. "But I'm not the Bert of the group!" Bert would protest, Bertly, and then a squirrel would steal his lunch and his pants would fall down. In retrospect, we were unfair to this guy, but only because trying to fit in at that age is a huge fat mess, and social status in high school is a zero-sum game. I wasn't the awesomest guy in the room, but as long as Bert kept inventing new dance moves that got him hospitalized and accidentally elbowing women in the face, I wasn't the least-awesome guy in the room either.
The point of all this is to explain why (I assume) your friends are doing what they're doing. I blame High School Madness, rather than any actual maliciousness on their part. However: you used the phrase "really hurts my feelings," and that sort of changes the game. I'd like to think that if we were genuinely hurting Bert's feelings when we brought up how he once trapped himself in a bathroom and had to call the fire department, and he told us that we were hurting his feelings, we would have stopped. He often invited mockery (which makes the situation different from yours), but we were, in the end, his actual friends. We'd have put his feelings over the high school compulsion to be terrible.
I'm not sure how much any of this applies to your friends. But you asked me three questions, so here are my responses:
"Am I being overly sensitive?"
No. Not if your feelings are genuinely hurt. For the record, I do think stuff like this bothers you less once you get out of stupid high school and can define yourself in other ways. I am also relatively short, you know; nowadays, if people bring it up, I'm all "Hey, Mac, I write for SparkNotes," and they're like "What is that, an electric company newsletter?" and then I shove them down the stairs.
"How do I get them to stop without being too confrontational?"
You do have to say something, at some point, but resist the urge to flip over the table in the middle of lunch and Hulk out on everybody. I would suggest singling out the one friend you're most comfortable with and talking to her one-on-one about it. Don't be accusatory, but be clear about what you're trying to say. ("I know you guys don't mean anything by it, but it seriously does bother me.")
"How do I stop hanging out with them?"
If you do air your grievances, and you're clear about it, and your friends are like "Ha ha, I can't hear you all the way down there, Shorto!! Go back to... Desert...istan!" then the heck with them. Stay civil with them, and don't be mean about it, but quietly stop spending time with them. If they're not willing to change at all when your feelings are at stake, you probably can't rely on them for much else, and that's stretching the definition of "friends" pretty far.