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Friends are mean because they love you.

The podcast Smartless is hosted by actors and friends Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. The format of the show is simple:

Each week they interview a celebrity guest. Actor, writer, musician, athlete…

But the joy of the show has little to do with the people who they are interviewing. They could be speaking to a tree, but I’d still be listening to their podcast. it’s the interaction between the three of them that I find most appealing:

They make fun of each other. Constantly, pointedly, and relentlessly. Their verbal jabs are funny, biting, and sometimes even cruel. They almost never say a kind words about one another.

It’s a clear indicator of the depth of their friendship.

Bateman, Hayes, and Arnett truly love one another.

Teasing, I think, is a sign of genuine, deeply-felt affection. It’s an acknowledgment of the love and appreciation that you feel towards another human being. It demonstrates a level of comfort and ease that you only feel with the people to whom you are closest.

When I am teased by my friends – and I am a lot – I know that they love me.

I’ve been told by women that this dynamic exists more often or more frequently in male friendships than female ones. Not being a woman, I can neither conform nor refute this claim except to say that in my many friendships with women, teasing is exceptionally common, too. Perhaps not as frequent as my friendships with men, but not too far behind.

Recently, my friend, Jeni, texted me and her friend, Amy, to tell us that she had just successfully parallel parked.

Sadly, this is an achievement for Jeni.

She texted her husband, Mike, separately as well, and he rightfully offered Jeni words of congratulation.

Of course he did. Yes, his wife is a grown-ass women who has been driving for decades, but when you’re successful at anything for the first time, your spouse is undoubtedly going to be proud of you. Spousal relationships tend to be more supportive and complex, though Elysha and I – and especially Elysha – are more than willing to tease each other from time to time, too.

But in the case of myself and Amy, our responses over the next 15 minutes were far more indicative of the teasing that exists between friends who truly care about one another.

Amy and I were relentless. It was lots of fun for both of us. I’m sure it left Jeni feeling overwhelmingly loved and incredibly supported.

Right, Jeni?