When I started my MFA program at Goucher College, my mind was in a frantic race for a thesis. Would I write Kisstory: The History of the Kiss? Would I write The Law of Average: How Mediocre Became the New Great? Would I finally write the book of essays—about running and climbing, amusement park riding, and camping: Things That Were Fun When You Were Young (But Hurt Now That You’re Old)? (Instead, I wrote The Book.)
I meant to delve into the history of those activities and compare how it feels to do them as a child with how it feels as an adult fraught with a physical intolerance for vertiginous puking agents and bug bites, ground sleeping, and immobility. Give me songs around the campfire, then drive me back to the hotel.
I’m thinking about fun now because I’ve had my fill of it this weekend. Friday night, I went with a friend to see Boister, a local band with national proportions, at the Wind Up Space, a comfortable venue on North Avenue. The place was filled friends: former, old, new, Facebook, ex-, ex-Facebook, wanna-be, and wanna-be-ex friends. My husband was asleep at 9:30 p.m., when I left. So I told him the next morning that I’d had fun
“Fun? What’s fun?” Marty wanted to know. “What’s fun about watching a band and drinking?” His argument was that I might have had a good time, but enjoyment didn’t make for the wild, childlike abandon of fun.
But I disagree. Friday night, I smiled endlessly. I flirted with friends. I hugged. I talked and laughed. And damn it, I even danced (or, rather, moved in a pre-dancelike fashion). It felt more heady than enjoyment to me. It felt let’s-do-this-again good. And what makes it fun instead of enjoyment could be this: for nearly three hours, I didn’t think about my father being dead or the things I needed to do the next day.
I forgot the woes of life and felt only the joys. So playing Scrabble with my mom is enjoyable. Seeing Chuck Prophet is fun. Having coffee with my friends on Friday mornings is enjoyable. Riding a rollercoaster is fun. And sex is both—enjoyable for most of it, fun for seven point three seconds.
At lunchtime yesterday, my cousin in Delaware sent an email that she was thinking of popping over to say hi one day; would that be a problem? Were we averse to people popping in? Nuh-uh. But if she came now, I was cooking chili; I’d just make more, and we’d make it an early dinner. My sister had a ticket to see Linkin Park, but she canceled those plans to come.
Marty went shopping for bread and corn; I cooked a gargantuan crock pot full of chili; he made super-size salad; Serena-rella scrubbed the toilets. We straightened up. I set up a mini-PA in the living room, and we took breaks for singing and playing. At 4:00, my cousin and her husband and their three children (6, 4, and 3), and my sister, my brother-in-law, and my nephews (5 and 13) invaded our house. The kids ran around screaming and touching things, and I took 200 pictures of them doing it. We talked, sang, ate food, and drank growlers of hoppy local-to-Delaware ale. Music happened in every room in the house, and nearly everyone contributed.
We sang for hours. We sang “Hallelujah” in four-part harmony (sometimes). Serena sang and I sang and Stacey and Beth sang and the kids sang in the microphone with the harmonizer on.
When they finally left just before 8, the house was already straightened up, and we were exhausted—asleep by 10. This morning, we talked about how tired we were to have passed out so early. “That was a lot of work!” Marty said.
And then he added: “But it was really fun.”
By all accounts and definitions, all that cooking and cleaning, all the kids running around, compounded six-fold by the fact that we’re all related, shouldn’t even have placed this event on the enjoyment scale. Add the household chores that faced us at every turn, and there wasn’t even any forgetting involved.
So what makes something fun? It must be your own active participation, with a little bit of joyful noise. Fun is some kind of boister in your soul.