This phrase always bothers me, and it goes back to high school. (Yes, some things linger!)
One of my classmates—a popular girl—had a tendency to say hurtful things to people and then quickly add, “Just kidding!” She seemed to think that that little addendum took the sting out of her words, and negated the hurt. It did not. Everyone feels insecure in high school, especially someone as shy as me, and her comments were really hurtful to me and to other friends.
Some of us had finally had enough, and I remember sitting in Physics class—this would have been our senior year, but there were a couple of juniors in the class, too. I think we’d all been subjected to this for too long, and yes, we ROSE UP! We were all sitting around bullshitting and talking about stuff one day (Mr. Hanni was super cool and groovy and enjoyed letting us talk once in a while, even if it wasn’t about Physics!), and she started in on the insults, followed by “Just kidding!”
We let her have it. There were several of us, and we leveled insult after insult at her, following each one up with a cheerful, “Just kidding!” After just a few minutes of this, she was slunk down in her chair, her arms crossed, with a pouty look on her face. Mr. Hanni said, “Wow, you guys are mean!” but he was also laughing a little bit, too. He was a smart and perceptive guy, and I don’t doubt that he had noticed that a lot of her comments to others were hurtful. One of us—I don’t recall for sure, but it might have been me—said, “See how it feels?”
That was over 30 years ago, and I hope she finally managed to see how words can be hurtful to others, and that saying “Just kidding!” afterwards is not an excuse for cruel remarks.
Of course, close friends kid each other all the time, and I often say, “You know I’m just joshin’ ya!” But I only do that with those who know me best, and know that I truly would never say anything mean to them, because I...well, you know...I love them! Even then, it is never anything seriously mean, more like sarcasm, as in, “Really? I didn’t know that!” I’m really not the kind of person that levels insults, whether followed by “Just kidding!” or not. I just don’t operate that way.
Insults or hurtful remarks to others is something I see as a form of bullying. The phrase “Just kidding!” reminds me of that, and I don’t like hearing it. I know that everyone is different, and I definitely see a difference between men and women on this. Guys slag off on each other all the time, and hey, go for it. But I don’t enjoy doing it or being the recipient of it. For the record, I don’t find short jokes insulting. I know I’m short, and I learned long ago to not be insulted by that. But don’t go too far on it, okay? Because I may be short, but I have my limits…and I also don’t lack in fury! I WILL bite your knees!
As I’ve said before, love yourself and love everybody! Each to their own, but I prefer to be kind, and to be treated kindly. “Just kidding” is a reminder of remarks that were not so kind, and it bothers me to this day.