DEAR HARRIETTE: Sometimes it feels like no matter what I say or do, my friend group always makes jokes at my expense. Even though I laugh along, it still feels like the jokes are usually pointed in my direction. I don’t know if it's intentional or not, but it's difficult for me to just sit there and take it. Everyone always tells me to lighten up and relax, but that's getting harder and harder each time we meet up. How can I stop this from happening? What could I have done to become the friend in the group that everyone laughs at? -- Butt of the Jokes
DEAR BUTT OF THE JOKES: Friend dynamics are among the most puzzling, second only to families. When you are part of a friend group, sadly there often is one person who becomes the punching bag. You are right to believe that the negative behavior demonstrated by the friends is not always conscious or intentional. It sometimes becomes a knee-jerk experience. One minute innocent banter is being volleyed about; the next, daggers seem to be tossed. You probably became the punching bag because you didn’t stop it immediately the first time someone threw a jab.
Regardless of the reason, the way to get it to stop is to stop tolerating it. The next time someone says something inappropriate about you or to you, call them on it and walk away. Leave the group at once. If they continue to barb at you when you rejoin, leave again. Be prepared to exit the group for good if they don’t get the message. You deserve to be treated better. This could be a sign that it’s time for you to make new friends.