Maggie McCann Pike

INSIDE JOKES

The following essay by Maggie McCann Pike appeared in the March 2015 edition of Business Heroine Magazine (businessheroinemagazine.com)

All my children were gathered for days of Christmas celebration. One evening, Andrew stood up and posed a disconcerting question. “Hey, do you guys know if there’s a vet open this late?”

Everyone glanced worriedly at Scully, his new pup. “Well, there’s one not far from here. A veterinary emergency clinic,” Betsy ventured. “What’s wrong?”

Andrew lowered his voice to a machismo bass and flexed his bulging biceps. “Cause these pythons are SICK!”

The room exploded.

Tim followed with his own variation: “Hey, is there a dog park around?” Flexed arm. “Cause these puppies are barking to get out of their cage!” After that, obnoxious manly-muscle quips peppered our conversations.

Another inside joke was born.

Writer Dolores Curran, in her book Traits of a Healthy Family, interviewed dozens of professionals about what they see in well-adjusted families. At the top of the list: a sense of playfulness. Lucky for me, I’ve been treated to decades of humor and lighthearted bantering from my offspring, and I can say unequivocally that there’s no one I would rather spend time with. It’s always a party, and often those inside jokes are the entertainment. Whether it’s drollery in the way people talk, gag-worthy platitudes, or even quotes from small children,
playfulness thrives on our inside jokes.

Take this one, for example: “You’re just talking cause your mouth is moving,” is one of our family’s frequent quips. This dates back to 1972 when I watched my brother haggle at a market in Tijuana, Mexico—just for the sake of haggling. After about ten minutes, the exasperated vendor finally spewed his ammunition: “Go away. You’re just talking cause your mouth is moving!” So when one of us gets too opinionated and won’t let it go, we have our line ready.

Another came from a family friend. Frazzled after her yoga studio increased her schedule to an unmanageable level, she finally announced she needed to either cut down or resign, or she wouldn’t survive. But instead of proposing a pragmatic solution to keep her on board while supporting her in her attempt to take care of herself, the owner fed her a line of gobbledygook: “Now, slow down. I think you just need to ground to the source, spend some time meditating—and I’ll see you at the next class.” So in our family, “just ground to the source” is our solution to any dilemma that comes up.

And this one came from the years when my young children exhibited selective hearing. Their distractedness caused me to make such a statements as “I put your boots in the front closet. Where did I put your boots?” Their answer assured me they had heard me, and they always remembered. But that boot is on the other foot now. It’s reached the point where they know how lost in thought I can get, so now it’s “Mom, I’m putting your address book on the shelf below the phone. Where am I putting your address book?” And I’m required to answer.

Children, in fact, are a great source of inside jokes, their budding wisdom so fascinating to them that words can never quite express it right. My tutoring student Bartley is one such wellspring of humor, completely uninhibited and utterly sincere. “I’m sorry, Ms. Maggie,” he said one day. “I might not smell that good today. It’s cold outside, and my deodorant is heat-activated.” Now, in our family, we have an excuse for all things malodorous—from dragon breath (“Sorry. It’s cold outside, and my toothpaste is heat-activated.”) to smelly trash (“Sorry. It’s cold outside, and the trash is heat-activated.”).

(For a sampling of charming childhood quotes that can easily turn into a family inside joke, check out the entertaining website, Quippsy: http://www.quippsy.com.)

In his book Influence: Science and Practice, Robert C. Cialdini spells out three persuasion techniques: 1) Create familiarity to build trust. 2) Foster similarity to establish common ground. 3) Promote liking to cement a bond. When used sincerely, these three practices can make the world, our workplace, and our homes, a warm sanctuary indeed.

I can think of no better way to create that bond than to establish inside jokes and live playfully ever after.

copyright 2015 Maggie McCann Pike

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Maggie McCann Pike

I’m an author in Denver, Colorado, where I write from my office, which looks out onto the Rocky Mountains and the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that splash their colors across unsuspecting skies. My first three books sprang from my experience as mom of five, retreat director, and educator. Now retired from full-time work outside the home, I have the luxury of tapping into different chambers within myself. In addition to memoirs, I now write various forms of creative nonfiction.

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