September 15, 2018

What if the things you're doing for fun are, you realize, in fact, work?

The saddest thing about this question is that when I googled it, the top hits were advice to people who were stymied by the question, What do you do for fun? Doing things for fun isn't an end in itself, but an intimidating line of inquiry en route to something else you want.

So, from the eHarmony blog:
Have you ever given your dates a blank stare when they asked, “What do you do for fun?” Yes, it sounds like the simplest of questions, but it can be the one of the most stressful to answer.

Maybe you think back to what you did last Sunday, and you come up with this list: Snacking. Napping. Surfing Facebook. “You can’t tell your date that!” you scold yourself. “You’re supposed to be doing something interesting!”...
It's not that they want to do something interesting (other than have a successful date), but that they're afraid another person will view them as uninteresting.

This helps me a little with the question I'm trying to answer. I'm thinking: Perhaps when things you think you're doing for fun are, honestly, work, you've been looking at yourself from the imagined viewpoint of others and hoping to seem interesting/attractive/fun-loving to them, and you've lost track of how you really feel.

And here's some advice for people doing job interviews and anxious about the question — worded exactly the same way as it was on the dating blog: What do you do for fun? The advice, as you might imagine, is to have something specific to say that makes you seem like an active and constructive person. And leave out the illegal stuff! I'll quote this because I laughed out loud:
The point is that you enjoy things outside of work and that you have some way of communicating that enjoyment to other people, even if they don’t share that interest themselves. Or even if that interest is something societally disruptive and objectively unfun. Like cycling....
Back to my question in the post title. I invite you to talk about the realization that the things you've been doing for fun are, to be honest, work. Have you had this realization? When? What did you do with it? Did you abandon the activity or change how you did it or how you thought about it? You can also resist the question with ideas like: 1. "Fun" shouldn't be an important organizing principle, 2. The idea of "fun" is a substitute for something more meaningful that should be discovered and forefronted, and 3. Thinking in terms of "fun" ruins fun.*

___________________

* And that's why we laugh at the comic strip with the line "Are we having fun yet?"). From the Wikipedia article on Zippy the Pinhead:
In regard to Zippy's famous catch phrase, at the 2003 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, Griffith recalled the phone call from Bartlett's:
When Bartlett's approached me in—I forget what year, five or six years ago—I got a call from the editor. And he was going to give me credit for the "Are we having fun yet" saying, but he wanted to know exactly where Zippy had first said it. I did some research (I had no idea), and I eventually found... the strip "Back to Pinhead, the Punks and the Monks" from Yow #2 in 1979... That's the first time he said, "Are we having fun yet?" Certainly not intended by me to be anything more than another non sequitur coming out of Zippy's mind.
Zippy's signature expression of surprise is "Yow!"
I have Yow #2 somewhere in this house. I know because I show myself buying it on Page 13 of my Amsterdam Notebooks. (The Dutch salesman at the comic books store pronounces "Yow" as we say "Yo," and I'm delusional enough to think he'd like to hear a 42-year-old American lady riff on the "yow"/"yo" distinction in English.)

But I don't need to look for my copy of the book to find that ancient strip. Here.

60 comments:

rehajm said...

Menlo Bob was on to something- you really should freehand the blog.

Probably falls into the 'work' category.

Art in LA said...

The best work is fun. But generally speaking, we go to work, not go to fun every weekday morning.

Laslo Spatula said...

Althouse's take on this dovetails nicely with her opinions on travel:

1. "Travel" shouldn't be an important organizing principle;

2. The idea of "travel" is a substitute for something more meaningful that should be discovered and forefronted;

3. Thinking in terms of "travel" ruins travel.

Kinda like that.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"Probably falls into the 'work' category."

The way to keep up drawing like that is never, ever get a camera. Or somehow ban yourself from taking a camera anywhere. But you still have to have your phone, so it's impossible not to have a camera anymore.

rhhardin said...

There's an Iowa ham contest at the moment, so I scan the band and work whoever is new from time to time. It must be fun.

Birches said...

I just finished running 5 miles. Yes, it was work, but I got to listen to a podcast and didn't have 5 kids pestering me. And it was a lovely morning. So it was fun work.

tcrosse said...

When musicians work, they play.

Anonymous said...

Before kids, I had a couple hobbies. Hobbies didn't always mean "hugely invested amateur" nor did it mean "service". It meant where I spent disposable income and disposable time. Husband and I would go on long day drives, in fun cars or on a motorcycle. The experience of being in a car or bike on a winding road through pretty terrain someplace we'd never seen before was fun. Not deep. Not self improving. Not other improving.

We spent money on good gear for riding motorcycles and good tires. Then we got into attending racing events, a spectator sport. Also fun.

Attending music shows was another such fun thing.

Now I've got kids and neither disposable time nor money. So no more hobbies. It's okay for now. The kids are worth it, and the hobbies will return.

I think recognizing "doing something decent in the community" is another form of duty, and therefore, work, would help people. App would recognizing "self improvement" as a duty. Then people could feel better about having hobbies that aren't forms of self improvement. We should do our duty. We have a duty to be decent and invest in civilization as befits our status and current vocation. We also need to improve ourselves for the same reason. But it's not the same as fun.

jerpod said...

I can tell you what’s not fun: trying to derive some amusement out of Zippy the Pinhead comics.

Annie C. said...

I love fishing of all kinds. I love eating fish of all kinds. Being outdoors is fantastic. Figuring out a catch strategy is interesting to me.

So I started tying flies. I always loved needlework so it seemed a natural. Got a desk, a vise, lotsa tools and materials.

I do not enjoy it all that much.

Part of it is sitting. After spending 8 or more hours at a desk, I don't want to sit any longer. Part of it is that it is a very confining hobby.

And another part is that there are so many options, I'm left lost because I want to do so much. Have you ever felt that way? Like going to a restaurant with an 11 page menu.

What did I do about it? I gave myself permission to let my tying desk get dusty. No guilt. Now,I only tie when I come across something I really want to do. If I see a fly on line or in a magazine that really compels me. And even then, I only tie a few.

Perhaps when I am no longer confined to a desk job, I will do more. For now, I'm good.

Sam L. said...

I'm retired. Most everything I do is for fun.

traditionalguy said...

Having fun is why God created Eve and Golf for Adam. That's about it.

Yancey Ward said...

I now must fear for Meade's safety! Althouse is surfing e-Harmony!

William said...

Napping is extremely underrated as a leisure time activity. It's one of those things you get better at as you grow older. It's refreshing, healthy, and inexpensive. On their deathbeds, no one has ever expressed regret at being in bed.

William said...

Buying rare comic books in Amsterdam demonstrates quirkiness and disposable income. Those are the necessary preconditions for an interesting life.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Fun things I do that may or may not be work

*Day trips through the back roads to places we have never been. Fun

*Gardening Fun and Work

*Fishing Fun mostly Cleaning the fish Work

*Short hikes on well traveled paths Fun and exercise

*Cooking new recipes Fun Cleaning up Work

*Canning the abundance of fruit we are experiencing. WORK ! Fun to eat the stuff and give away as gifts.

*Lazing an afternoon away in the house,or on the deck, napping, reading, listening to music playing video games....FUN.

John henry said...

"the effective executive never knows whether he is working or having fun. He's always doing both" peter Drucker

"Find something you love doing so much you'd pay to do it. Then get so good at it that people pay you to do it." Zig Ziglar

"Where else would I have a chance to fly an A-4 at 10 feet above the water at 500 knots. And get paid for doing it?" one of my Naval Aviator students back in the day

All quotes from memory and approximate

So Ann, is blogging work or play?

John Henry

Michael K said...

Back when I could afford it, I did a lot of sailing.

I played golf as a kid but less later, since both golf and sailing are very time consuming.

Neither is work.

John henry said...

William,

Not only is napping a nice leisure activity, when sleeping you produce less co2 and fighting climate change!

"NAP FOR HUMANITY!"

John Henry

Dust Bunny Queen said...

“You’re supposed to be doing something interesting!”...It's not that they want to do something interesting (other than have a successful date), but that they're afraid another person will view them as uninteresting.

Here is the key to having a good social interactions with people. Dates, clients, or anyone you have contact with.

Don't try to be interesting. Be interested

Showing interest in the other person's life, ideas, likes, etc will eventually lead to them being interested in you.

gilbar said...

rhhardin said... There's an Iowa ham contest at the moment
There's ALWAYS an Iowa ham contest at the moment! We're the Pork State!

Oh wait, it's rhhardin... is it 40 meter? or are they all over place?


I quit my boring job as a Database Admin so that i could concentrate on more important things, like avoiding tailing loops and unnatural drag. As the saying Goes Fishing Is Fun!
Plus, the trouts won't catch themselves.
I only tie flies to save money, since i lose so many of them. That's 6X for you

Mr. Groovington said...

For fun today I rode 400 kilometres from Klawer through Springbok to Vioorsdrift, yards from the Namibia border. Cross in the morning. The sun has that super-radiance, similar to the Atacama in Chile. Burn you to a crisp, even at only 85F. The Miky Way tonight will look like someone spray-painted a million diamonds across the sky. No wifi here, pairing the iPad off the last of my South African cell data.

It’s a kind of fun. Better, really.

The Crack Emcee said...

"It's not that they want to do something interesting (other than have a successful date), but that they're afraid another person will view them as uninteresting.

This helps me a little with the question I'm trying to answer. I'm thinking: Perhaps when things you think you're doing for fun are, honestly, work, you've been looking at yourself from the imagined viewpoint of others and hoping to seem interesting/attractive/fun-loving to them, and you've lost track of how you really feel."


I'm thinking I'm finally getting the meaning behind the title of that Steely Dan album "Pretzel Logic".

rhhardin said...

Oh wait, it's rhhardin... is it 40 meter? or are they all over place?

I work 40m, having a quarter wave vertical for it and there's always something on the band. The antenna works on 15m too but the band is often dead.

Fernandinande said...

So here are some tips on how to boost your fun factor:

1) Don’t be fake fun

Is your voice a little too high? Is your disposition a smidge too sunny? Is your laugh overly animated? If so, you're having REAL fun!

2) Do something fun

Set a festive tone for your date by choosing a place with a lively atmosphere or cheery outdoor patio. Or plan a fun activity, such as a summer food festival or outdoor concert. "You have to sit in a café and stare at each other" says our Fun Expert.

3) Laugh at the other person’s jokes and stories

What if your date’s one-liners aren’t quite hitting the mark? Then tell your date some "Walks into a bar"™ jokes, and Latvian jokes, and laugh at your own jokes.

4) Be good company

Take a deep breath, lean back in your chair, and relax, and ignore steps #1, #2 and #3.

What you think makes a date fun?

rehajm said...

For fun today I rode 400 kilometres from Klawer through Springbok to Vioorsdrift, yards from the Namibia border

Rode on what?

Mr Wibble said...

I love to dance. Argentine tango, west coast swing, blues... they're all fun. But to really enjoy them I have to commit to learning the figures and how to properly lead my partner. That often isn't fun. It's hard work. Same with martial arts. I love swinging a sword and wrestling and opponent, but practicing hours each week does get to suck. Often in order to fully enjoy something, you need to put in the work beforehand.

"What do you do for fun" is about identifying your tribe. I see a lot of white women on dating sites who say the same things in their profiles, "For fun I love traveling, wine, yoga, blah blah blah..." It's about signaling that they're part of a certain class.

Fernandinande said...

Here are a few tips on how to seem like an expert in having fun:

1) Find the big themes

You don’t just love boating, surfing, and tubing. You love being out on the water. Start with the big picture to give your date a chance to say, “#Metoo!”

2) Sprinkle in some feelings

Why do you like the water? Do you crave the feel of the sun on your face and your boobs on the waves? Do you get so focused on stand up paddle-boarding that you forget to care?

Don’t just say “I like to go to the gym.” Tell your date that you hate the gym because it smells funny.

3) Make it a story

Did your grandfather take you with him to the county fair every summer and you just got hooked? Tell your date about your three fun-filled years in a halfway house, thanks to Grandpa's pain meds.

4) Think about your entire life

The reason this question stumps even the most fascinating people is because we (us fascinating people) tend to think about categories of hobbies or sports. But when you're dying your entire life will flash in front of you, so get ready for fun!

5) Talk about what you’d like to do

Worried your fun resume is on the short side? You like cooking and want to explore more farmers’ markets even though that's not any fun at all. You’re a lifelong baseball fan and want to visit every ballpark in the country before you die for some bizarre probably OCD-ish reason.

What answers have you tried that resonate with dates?

Fernandinande said...

He Wants Fun and You Want Commitment: Can It Ever Work?

Scenario #1: He’s your hook-up buddy

Leave Mr. Hook-Up guy behind and start dating dozens of other people all at the same time so that they can all see each other and can also see you fucking all of them and then Mr. Hook-Up guy won't feel so goddammed fucking special!

Scenario #2: You’re blinded by the chemistry

Wear googles, Blondy!

Scenario #3: It’s a hot-and-cold love affair

When you send mixed signals to the Universe, higher power, or God, you find yourself in the type of relationships you don’t really want over and over again. Don't say eHarmony didn't warn you!

Scenario #4: The relationship is starting to get serious

If it's really serious, call 911.

Scenario #5: He needs to put a ring on it!

This will keep his dick hard for a long time, but watch out for Mr. Gangrene Jeans!

Leslie Graves said...

Camping. That's supposed to be fun, and it is work, work, work. We took our kids camping when they were little. They have now all gone camping as adults and expressed astonishment at learning how much work the grown-ups must have been doing when they were little and we were camping. That said, I really enjoyed it all.

Michael K said...

They have now all gone camping as adults and expressed astonishment at learning how much work the grown-ups must have been doing when they were little and we were camping

Yes, my younger son takes his kids to the same campground that we took him when he was a kid.

It was at the end of a long winding road and his sister always got car sick. I would chase her around the back seat with a Compazine syringe.

Great fun.

Howard said...

Mike: you might want to reduce sharing your inner monologue about how you used to dose your kids with random pharma at the drop of a hat. It's no wonder they are mostly liberals.

mikee said...

Early in my life, I realized that I could entertain myself inexpensively by collecting things. I started with small bits of fossilized wood readily available around my apartment in college. I made a small Stonehenge replica on my coffee table from some of them. Visitors liked it. I gave the petrified wood to my Mom when I graduated and they still reside in her flower bed.

I later collected knowledge of public restrooms, which was fun and necessary during my children's toddlerhood. The ability to access a toilet within 30 seconds of my child's announcement that they had to go was useful, as well as an entertaining challenge.

In Austin, I collected a local "index fossil", Exogyra ponderosa, a Late Cretaceous oyster that is found readily enough that my back yard is landscaped with hundreds of them. My kids liked hunting for them, and it was a nice walk looking for them in road digs and construction sites.

I started collecting dropped license plates for no real reason. I saw one on the ground and picked it up. Over several years I have collected dozens from the roadside, quite without trying to do so. Eventually I will use them to line the inside walls of a shed out back, as redneck art.

Fun is where you find it. I also like word games. I once asked my son to get me an self-referential uncertainty for Christmas. When I asked him if he'd succeeded, on Christmas Day, he responded, "I'm not sure." Best. Gift. Ever.

Darrell said...

Chase Howard around with a sodium thiopental syringe.

wwww said...


"Fun" is generally a different category from relaxing, or unwinding from a long day.

Relaxing is resting. Fun is active.

Humans have large brains & get bored if they aren't doing something with their brains or their bodies. You can see this with adults and with toddlers.

Adults & little ones need to constantly challenge their brains or bodies or they are bored & upset. Play is how toddlers learn to think, to move, to draw, to write, to walk, to run, to jump, to skip.

Darrell said...

Now Lefties are trying to ruin fun.

Bilwick said...

I write, which is "fun" in that it produces enjoyment when I'm pleased with the results; but it is also work when I'm not, and have to revise, edit, revise, edit again, etc.

exhelodrvr1 said...

20 years as a pilot in the Navy - work was awesomely fun. Fun "off hours" spent reading, playing various sports, spending time with family. 20 years since the Navy as a computer programmer/data analyst - work is (generally) enjoyable due to the problem solving involved. Fun "off-hours"? Spend time with my wife. "Work" with children (which includes spending time with our grandchildren, coaching soccer, teaching 4 yo Sunday School class, volunteer tutoring at our local elementary school.) Read. Occasionally play computer games.

Tina Trent said...

Norm MacDonald seems like Zippy the Pinhead, if he was Canadian.

Michael K said...


Blogger Howard said...
Mike: you might want to reduce sharing your inner monologue


Howard, why do you act like an asshole ?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

just finished my novel, "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy"

How do you like it?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

William Chadwick : I write, which is "fun" in that it produces enjoyment when I'm pleased with the results;

That is how I feel about cooking. It can be a lot of work but so much fun/pleasure when it turns out great.

Today I blanched, peeled and sliced about 12 quarts of peaches. (ended up with 48 cups of sliced peaches) 12 Then I made 7 frozen peach pie fillings, with the peaches, tapioca, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and put them into individual gallon freezer bags (To be used later) and two large peach cobblers. One of which I am freezing and we will eat the other tonight.

Work. Slimy, tedious, sloppy work. Then I get to clean the kitchen before making the cobblers and afterwards too. More work (think in Maynard Krebs' voice)

The left over peaches, I am making a peach brandy sauce for ice cream. Tomorrow. I'm sick of peaches today!!

:-D

The fun part comes when I serve the pies/cobblers/ ice cream with sauce. See the enjoyment and appreciation on everyone's faces. And eat the results of my work.

I don't think you can always completely separate the work from the fun.

Howard said...

Mike can dish it out, but can't take a little good natured ribbing.

gilbar said...

i don't think questioning a doctor's prescriptions counts as 'little good natured ribbing'

Michael K said...

Howard said...
Mike can dish it out, but can't take a little good natured ribbing.


I asked you a question, Howard.

Barry Dauphin said...

When my date asked what I do for fun, I said, “I read Ann Althouse.“ She said, “That’s not funny!“ Actually, that didn’t happen, but it should.

tim in vermont said...

Be yourself or suffer the consequences.

Unknown said...

A friend of mine is a comedian and this is my favorite joke from a routine at a comedy club in Baltimore:

I was playing with my 4 year old nephew, and he shit in his pants. I said "Andrew! You're a big boy! Why did you do that? You know how to go potty!" And he said "But Uncle Joe, I was having so much fun playing with you that I didn't want to stop to go potty." Just once in my life I'd like to have so much fun that I didn't care if I shit in my pants.

wildswan said...

It was fun getting to know the great old garden we inherited by a move. And fun to help it out by pulling up a few weeds. And sort of fun to pull up long strands of creeping charlie, I told myself. And it would be fun to obliterate the creeping charlie from the front lawn. Round-Up would be fun and it's on sale right now. Spray right down and watch creeper shrink down to Nothing, BAWAWAWAAW - die, creeper, die while I laugh. Fun can be sort of funny due to mission creep. I've switched to planting bulbs.

ALP said...

I invite you to talk about the realization that the things you've been doing for fun are, to be honest, work.
****************************
Challenge accepted! One of the things I do for fun is get high and watch "Rick and Morty" or "South Park" or "Archer" or "Venture Bros."....I challenge anyone to find the work involved in smoking weed and watching cartoons. I don't even roll joints anymore - packing a bowl isn't 'work'.

Michael K said...

No surprise Howard has vanished.

Jon Ericson said...

Fernandistein:
Very funny.

Howard said...

It's a blog, Mike. Asshole is one of the default settings.

Michael K said...

Asshole is one of the default settings.

For you, maybe. Nice of you to admit it.

tim in vermont said...

The shit I do for fun bores the crap out of other people. Sometimes it’s kind of interesting to me to try to convey the parts of it that I find interesting to other people while not glazing over their eyes.

Tarrou said...

Serious hobbies/sports can be a lot of work, the fun is in the accomplishment of improving/winning.

I love my sport, but my sport involves a lot of practice. The matches are fun, but the dry-fire, the setup, the time spent being a range officer are only instrumental to that fun. I probably do ten hours of work per week for five minutes of fun. But when it all comes together, you run a perfect stage and move up in classification? Worth it.

Rusty said...

tim in vermont said...
"The shit I do for fun bores the crap out of other people. Sometimes it’s kind of interesting to me to try to convey the parts of it that I find interesting to other people while not glazing over their eyes."

I just gave up talking about it.
Steelhead fishing.

stlcdr said...

In general, fun things are work. Depends on your definition of 'work', though. Work: takes effort, vs. Work: need to do it to put bread on the table.

michaele said...

I love to garden ...planting and caring for bushes, trees, flowers, etc....not vegetables. I'm 70 years old so the physical effort is definitely work and the sweat droplets blur my glasses. I think I might be addicted to it which makes me question my sanity a little but I find the activity itself so gratifying.

Anthony said...

I work out for fun. Which kind of illustrates the point.