I will be the first to admit that I like plenty of things many people wouldn’t consider fun. I do an abnormal amount of crossword puzzles, spend every spare penny on shoestring-budget backpacking trips, have a deep obsession with British reality TV, and I just can’t stop taking online personality quizzes (turns out I am more of a Chandler than a Phoebe, which is a little surprising).
One of the joys of reaching adulthood is the corresponding decline in caring what people think. You think crossword puzzles are nerdy? Will Shortz and I respectfully disagree. Does hitchhiking and eating ramen throughout Thailand sound crazy? Well, sawatdee ka! As we grow older we find it easier to express our likes and dislikes and let others know what we find fun and what we don’t.
I believe there are three categories of “fun” activities. The first is niche fun — things only a small group of people would call fun. Consider this recent headline: “Thrill Seekers Suspend a Giant Hammock 400 Feet Above the Desert Floor.” That is fun for those guys, the 970 members of the Facebook group Extreme Hammocking, and no one else.
The second category is acceptable fun. This includes things like my British reality TV or those Groupons for BYOB painting classes. I don’t judge you for painting the same flower as your friend over bottles of pinot grigio and you don’t judge me for binge watching The Only Way Is Essex. I play a lot of tennis and you like to run. I spend my money on plane tickets to Asia and you buy an SUV. To each their own, potato, tomato.
The final category is the universally fun. This is where the trouble starts. These are the things that will net you several surprised follow-up questions if you admit to not enjoying them. No one thinks anything if you announce that you’re not into deep-sea diving but tell them you don’t like tailgating and they question your sanity. You don’t care for poetry slams? OK. Don’t like amusement parks? Tell your story walking.
But the plain hard truth is that sometimes “universally fun” just isn’t fun for me.
Tickets for Adele’s 2016 U.S. tour went on sale in December. They sold out within minutes, and now tickets are going for around $85,000. Just the parking passes cost more than I generally care to spend on concert tickets. Or rent.
I have no doubt that all the rich kids and kidney sellers who can afford those tickets will have a great time. I absolutely love Adele and listen to her music almost exclusively. Like most people, I believe her songs were written entirely for me and they turn on all my waterworks.
But I can’t think of anything I would want to do less than go to that concert.
People simply cannot understand why I wouldn’t be clawing and fighting my way into that arena. You like Adele? Very much. Can you afford it? Technically. The ticket is free, how about now? No.
I could sit on a crowded CTA bus to Chicago’s United Center, where I’d have my bag searched and my flask confiscated before I crowdsurfed to my seat where, since I doubt my kidney is worth much at this point, I could see a tiny speck of Adele. Maybe just the tip-top of her bouffant.
And, yes, while there I would enjoy her witty banter and charming jokes. I would slowly let my tears fall into my ridiculously expensive stadium beer as she sang right into my soul. I would also give a lot of side-eye to people who were talking when they shouldn’t be or shushing me when I was already sobbing as silently as I could. Then after several encores (it’s Adele, she wouldn’t let anyone down) we would move like an ocean wave out of the arena and fight our way back onto the CTA. Unfun.
If you’re one of the 10 million who didn’t succeed in scoring Adele tickets, let me describe an attractive alternative. Go into your closet and pick out your finest pair of sweatpants. It’s a special night, dig out the matching sweatshirt! Open a bottle of the best midpriced bottle of wine in your collection. Put all three Adele albums on shuffle and get those feet up on your ottoman. And go ahead and let yourself ugly cry because, guess what, no one is watching.
So the next time someone asks that dreaded question, “What do you do for fun?” don’t be afraid to answer honestly. Sure, have your niche fun item locked and loaded: “I’m into duct tape art.” And follow up with a couple of acceptable fun items: “I also am in a soccer league, and I read a lot of historical fiction.” But don’t be afraid to shun those universally fun ideas: “And I like live music. As long as it’s streamed through my computer into my living room.”
Katie Dow, a 2002 graduate of Saint Mary’s College, is a preschool teacher in Chicago. She once helped 120 baby turtles find their way to the ocean in Agonda, India. That was fun.