I’m watching TV with my elderly mother-in-law “Mother Mary.” I’m writing this column during a commercial break. So I don’t have long.
But I just wanted to pass along an important message Mother Mary wants America to know. Here it is:
“People should have more fun.”
Currently, Mother Mary is drinking a vodka gimlet to prove what a dedicated fun lover she is. This is a woman who looks like a Methodist granny, sipping a drink powerful enough to make a dog go bald. She is a fun expert.
Mother Mary raises her glass during the commercial break and speaks words of wisdom: “F-U-N. I want you to tell people I said FUN is the point of life.” Then she giggles and adds, “Put that in your column and smoke it.”
Now, let me be clear, Mary is NOT suggesting that alcohol is the source of fun. I can already envision the emails I will get tomorrow. So please do not misunderstand, we in this household do not believe libation is necessary for genuine fun unless of course a national championship is involved.
No, the kind of fun Mary is hinting at is much more elusive.
The sad thing is, the older we get, the more we are discouraged from fun. If you’re a young person, this unspoken message will hit you from every angle. “Quit horsing around!” people will say. Your shift supervisor is only one example.
And so far this has been the basic motto of our modern culture. “Don’t have fun!”
Maybe this is why today you see elementary-school kids on their way to class dragging heavy rolling airline suitcases that are roughly the size of the Jefferson Memorial.
Last week I asked one such kid what made his case so heavy. He shrugged and said, “I have a lot of homework.”
Homework is not fun. Homework sucks. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t do homework. They should. But did you know that some American kids do 4 to 5 hours of homework every evening?
Since the pandemic, some children are doing so much virtual school they are suffering eye strain and back problems from sitting.
Too much work. Not enough fun. Mother Mary is not a fan.
But our society wasn’t always this backward. Kids from my generation, for instance, didn’t have much homework. We horsed around all day until our fundamentalist mothers lost their tempers and openly cussed. We had shiploads of fun.
Fun comes easily to kids. Kids are programmed for fun. Children are certified fun scientists. They love to laugh, shriek, eat, wrestle, and run hard. Even the things kids hate are things they LOVE to hate.
Trees are fun. Dogs are fun. Jumping is fun. Coloring books are fun. Pureed figs are fun. Even babies have fun when learning to potty. Potty time is such a big thrill that several adults will clap for their infant and say, “YAY, WASN’T THAT FUN?!”
But then comes adulthood.
(Cue post-war classical music in a minor key.)
Fun is a total waste of time to many grown-ups. You need to “get serious.” “Make a plan.” And so eventually you do. You start doing serious things. You act solemn. Your airline suitcases get bigger.
Over time, things you once enjoyed don’t seem fun anymore.
Take baseball. When was the last time you saw anyone over age 30 playing a game of softball? It used to happen all the time, but it’s happening less these days.
Yesterday I read an article that said softball among adults is going to be nonexistent soon. The reason, according to the article, is because many millennials just aren’t into getting together and hanging out in person.
I realize I’m generalizing here, but I’m not far off the bag. The fact is, when you become an adult your capacity for fun diminishes. Suddenly, nobody claps for you when you use the potty.
And now even the fun-centric millennials are forgetting how to have fun.
I wish that when I was a kid someone would have told me how many non-fun changes my life would undergo. I wish someone would have told me that to be alive is to struggle. Sometimes each day feels like walking uphill. Most times, NOT having fun comes way easier than the reverse.
Work, work, work. Never quit. That’s what modern society encourages. And that’s how most of us rational adults live our lives. Mother Mary says enough already. Live a little. Lighten up.
And I for one will never forget this elderly woman before me, cradling her sweaty glass. She is a woman who has every excuse not to have fun. Her legs don’t work, and she has to be carried from place to place by someone strong.
But guess what. She’s still a fun gal. She’s still watching sitcoms and laughing hysterically.
Occasionally, she hands me her empty glass and in a weakened but fun voice, says: “I know you’re typing a column thingy, but how about you get me a refill before the commercials are over?”
To which I say, sounds like fun.