A tickler to detail

Adolphe Willette: Pierrot tickles Columbine to death


It’s not every day that The New York Times sends me cascading back into childhood memories. It’s recent story on new views regarding tickling did so.

My dad was our family’s bad tickler, although my brother and I did all we could to copy him. I remember begging for him to stop, and times that he tickled my brother and sister to the point of involuntary urination. Tears were usual.

The Times story points out how a laughing face is close to a panicked or pained face. It references a quote from Socrates describing tickling as being more pain than pleasure.


Being the eldest child, I tickled my brother. We both tickled my sister. Later, I tickled my wife, although I have found Socrates to be right when it comes to myself being tickled.

Dad had other games, including one where my sister would shut her eyes and then open them. We were all to pretend we couldn’t see or hear her. I hear that one’s come up in her therapy sessions of late.

I played sleeping giant with my kid as Dad did with me and my brother. But without the relentlessness which my brother said haunted him as he grew older.

My dad was an only child with a narcissistic streak. He wasn’t great when it came to empathy. My mom, the eldest in a large family, preferred playing board and card games to win.

I asked Milo, our son, what he thought about tickling. He shrugged, and indicated it wasn’t his favorite activity.

“But I will play sleeping giant if you want,” the 14-year-old said.


Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.