Jokes are meant to be funny.
Whether through irony, exaggeration or just good timing, the joke is meant to illicit a laugh.
What happens though when the joke doesn’t just fall flat, it is deliberately cruel.
More than that, what happens when the joke is directed at someone you love?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) ShutupHank766 when he came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.
“AITA for being hostile and rude to my sister’s boyfriend over a joke he told my wife?”
He began with the setting.
“My sister (26) brought her new boyfriend (30) over to our parents’ house to meet him for the first time, My wife and I came as well.”
“We met the dude, he seemed ok-ish at first but he then started asking weird and personal questions.”
OP then explained the specific problem.
“My wife had breast cancer and got a single mastectomy last year.”
“She told the story to my sister’s boyfriend and he was like ‘oh’ then he stared at my wife briefly then ‘playfully’ said ‘without even asking, I can pretty much tell which one got the blow’.”
“We were floored, My wife could barely keep a straight face. she lied so she could leave the table cause she was literally about to tear up.”
Once the shock wore off, OP called out the rude comment.
“I just looked at the dude and said ‘Are you serious?’ he said ‘What??!! I was just joking bro’, I started asking him to explain the joke to me, He just stared.”
“I asked him again to explain it to me in details but still got no answer.”
“My sister asked me to stop because clearly he got uncomfortable, but I insisted he explain the joke to me cause clearly….my wife and I didn’t get it.”
“Things got awkward with him avoiding eye contact while I just stared at him the entire time.”
“I still insisted and asked him to explain the joke right there and then, but seconds later he said he needed to step outside to make a phone call.”
“Turns out he got in his car and left.”
“My sister had a meltdown screaming and berating me for how I treated her boyfriend. Calling me hostle with anger issues to scare her boyfriend out of our parents’ house.”
“I told her he was overstepping and made my wife uncomfortable to the point of crying, She actually called me wife ‘such a princess’ and said she is soft and can not take some teasing.”
“I had an argument with her and my parents intervened, I took my wife and left.”
“My dad called me later and said that he understood how hurt my wife felt but my sister’s boyfriend was visiting for the first time and I showed hostility and aggression instead of just ignoring him.”
“He encouraged me to reach out to him and my sister later and talk it out but I declined.”
With his sister defending her boyfriend, OP was left to wonder.
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some pointed out how easily the situation could’ve been avoided.
“It’s f*cking sad.”
“All he had to do was apologize.”
“It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a joke or it wouldn’t do harm. If you learn the other was hurt, it’s irrelevant what you think.”
“You cannot push your feelings upon the other. What we can do is put it aside and think about the other for a moment.”
“You apologize not to ‘admit’ you said something bad. You apologize because you didn’t mean the other to be hurt.”
“But people that like that treat it as if they admit ‘defeat’/‘being a bad person’ and they get defensive. It’s such a stupid way to treat apologies.”
“But honestly though?”
“I think he was pushing boundaries. People like him love to find out their position with people and where their boundaries are. Good for OP showing him.” ~ Rugkrabber
Others had plenty of blame to go to the sister as well.
“The sister isn’t off the hook here.”
“She has had a longer relationship with her SIL than she has her new beau.”
“At the first sign of disrespect she should have been right there with OP to put this guy in his place.”
“Instead, she showed contempt for her own SIL going through two immensely personal life events: breast cancer and the prior miscarriage.”
“This won’t soon be forgotten. Sister better count her lucky stars that she doesn’t go through the same at another point in time.”
“Until then, she owes her SIL a gigantic, groveling apology.” ~ leftclicksq2
Responders pointed to how the sister’s boyfriend tried to forgive himself.
“Congratulations, you handled the situation perfectly.”
“You simply asked the a**hole to explain himself. He couldn’t.”
“You doubled down. He chose to not apologize which could have diffused the whole situation.”
” ‘What??!! I was just joking bro’ “
“This is always code for ‘I’m an asshole, but I’m going to let myself off the hook’.” ~ GreekAmericanDom
“100% agreed – the ‘just a joke, bro’ crowd is never, never funny.”
“OPs insistence that he explain the joke is something I tend to do when confronted with that as well and the reaction he got from the boyfriend is completely expected.”
“Sister should be ashamed of both her taste in men and her attitude towards OP’s wife.”
“OP’s family clearly enables her behavior since he got the whole ‘don’t rock the boat’ speech from Dad.”
“OP is NTA and frankly my hero for how he stood up for his wife.” ~ Levantine1978
There were even opinions on how to proceed from here.
“And of course he’s a coward with the way he just drove off instead of apologizing.”
“Also judging by Ops edit, his sister is real piece of work herself.”
“If I were OP, I’d just go neutral/low contact with the sister and let her find out on her own what kind of person she’s decided to get herself involved with.”
“Something tells me she’s fine when he’s sh*tty to other people, but sh*t rolls downhill.”
“NTA” ~ ToastedRage
There were also personal stories, of course.
“I had cancer a number of years ago and dating/when to tell a SO/anyone would come up a lot.”
“Some people would wait months, others just ripped the bandaid off and told people the first time they met.”
“It’s all personal comfort, so it coming up didn’t really shock me.”
“And it didn’t shock me because people aren’t usually such a**holes like this guy.”
“Sisters reaction is pathetic- this was all the proof she needs to dump this pathetic man.” ~ MonteBurns
Others were just stunned.
“I mean… how are they defending this guy?”
“Your wife told him about her life threatening ordeal with cancer, and his response was to joke that she had been disfigured by it – making her run out of the room in tears.”
“When you confronted him, the only salvageable response he possibly could have had was to PROFUSELY apologize to both of you, as well as to the rest of his family… “
“But he found it preferable to *sneak away* to avoid apologizing.”
“Your sister and father owe you an apology, for making this situation about your response rather than his actions (and your sister needs to either have her boyfriend make it right or come to grips with her terrible taste in men.)”
“I’m glad your mom is on the right side of this with you.” ~heffalumpish
People also took time to comfort OP and his wife.
“NTA at all.”
“And you played the perfect tactic here too.”
“When someone claims they were just joking it’s because it’s the only way that they can justify their sh*tty behaviour to themselves or because they weren’t just joking but they weren’t expecting to be called out on it.”
“He was a dick and he got called out on it.”
“Yeah you may have shown hostility but it was deserved and measured.”
“Whether he claims he was joking or not he also showed hostility. Even if it was an actual joke – which there is no way on this earth that it was – then it is still a hostile one.”
“I find it strange that this subject was brought up and that your wife told the story to your sister’s boyfriend on the first time of meeting him.”
“But frankly that’s her prerogative, just because it’s something I wouldn’t do and I find strange doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone.”
“100% NTA and I encourage everyone to adopt this mentality. When someone tries to play off being an a**hat as ‘only joking’ get them to explain the joke.” ~ CuriousPotato667
OP did return with some final thoughts.
“My sister and my wife don’t have a history but my sister tends to ‘see’ the worst in people.”
“When my wife announced her diagnosis, my sister actually thought she was ‘faking’ because the family no longer brought up my wife’s miscarriage months prior, I thought that was out of line and she apologized for it and we moved on.”
“My sister thinks that the only ‘bad trait’ she sees in her boyfriend is his smoking habit, she says that otherwise, he’s ‘perfect. smfh.”
Jokes are meant to be funny.
When the joke isn’t funny it’s usually either an issue of delivery or subject.
Laughing with someone is always a gift, laughing at someone is always cruel.
Always remember to be mindful of the difference, and never tolerate those who aren’t.