Reverse psychology is exhausting.
It’s also a necessary tool to surviving life with a teenager, otherwise every single conversation turns into a steel-cage-loser-leave-town-Indian-strap-death match. And I don’t know about other teenagers, but something tells me The Diva can pack quite a wallop.
So we placate. We play along. We don’t incite or antagonize. We remain calm. We scream into pillows. And cry in the silence of the bathroom with the door closed.
We listen and respond in soft, easy tones no matter how asinine their argument because fighting with a teenager is like poking at a snapping turtle – sure it sounds like a good idea at the time, but somebody’s bound to get hurt.
Thus the need for reverse psychology.
It’s a covert way of engaging a teenager in a conversation that allows grow-ups to manipulate its outcome to their advantage … or so I’m told.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve yet to succeed. But hope – like the arguments themselves – spring eternal.
Take for example the boyfriend. Suffice it to say he’s not on my Facebook friends list. Heck, dude’s hardly allowed in our house – for reasons that I cannot write about until The Diva has moved out of the house, graduated from college, gotten married (to someone NOT currently taking up space on my couch) and had children of her own that torment her nonstop.
It’s one of those so-painfully-funny-it’s-got-to-be-true stories, that, according to My Lovely Wife, I’ll have to save for the book.
Letting The Diva know just how little I care for her beau would only turn their love into the kind of smoldering thing that Bon Jovi power ballads are written about.
So I play nice. I ask her about boyfriend – his goals and aspirations. I inquire into their relationship status, curious to know if they’re fighting and always trying to defend the boy, mainly because their arguments are about as nonsensical as those I had endured in high school.
While secretly plotting a way to have him deported back to Slacker World, I encourage The Diva to “talk things out,” to tell him “how she really feels,” even going so far as to offer relationship advice by culling from my myriad of emotional disasters.
At the end of the day I feel an overwhelming need for a bath and a strong shot of an adult beverage.
But reverse psychology is the only option. If I pretend to like this dude, to act as though I wanted to invite him over for chips, salsa and HD television, or start accidentally calling him “son,” The Diva will drop him like a dirty Q-Tip on the bathroom floor.
No teenage girl wants the kind of boyfriend you could actually bring home to Daddy.
But were I to present her with a laundry list of reasonable reasons as to why dating a rabid badger would be more beneficial to her future, my sincere concern would be rebuffed with a grunt and an eye roll. Pressing the matter would get me yelled at and possibly burned with one among her arsenal of hair straighteners.
So I lie – like a rug I lie … or at least I try to lie. Damn my journalistic integrity! What I really end up doing is biting my lip until it bleeds, and The Diva mistakes my tears of pain for tears of concern.
But I wonder … how long must I play nice before figuring out that I’m just getting played.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org