What is “Fun?”

Today is the first “Fun Friday” of 2022. Usually, I try to publish a “Made-up Word Monday” and a “Fun Friday” post here every week on my little midlife-woman-reinventing-herself blog. Today, I’m wondering about the definition of fun, and how it changes in midlife.

I’m reading the book Fun – How to Feel Alive Again, by Catherine Price. Price writes that true fun is active, magical, and childlike, and has three key components:

  • Playfulness
  • Connection
  • Flow

Playfulness is not invested in any outcome, efficiency, or purpose, according to Price. I’ve described my learning how to make bourbon as a whiskey intern, and my learning how to kayak, as “fun.” But since I definitely was invested in an outcome (a. not fucking up a company’s product, and b. not drowning), I guess I’ll call these activities… “enjoyable?” “Fulfilling?” “Freakin’ awesome?”

OK, I’m sorry, but this was fun!

Connection involves other people. Yes, even for introverts, who may only involve one or a few others. As a not-shy introvert who finds large groups of people energy-draining, I can relate to this.

Flow is when you become immersed in something and lose track of time because you’re completely engrossed and present in the moment. Price makes the point that screen time — on social media (such as this blog…yikes) or on streaming services (such as Netflix) — is “fake fun.” Yeah, you can lose track of time alright. But fake fun, she explains, is activities and pursuits deliberately designed by a commercial enterprise to “trick us into thinking we are having fun.”

Be Intentional

Children instinctively know how to have true fun. Until we screw them up with screens, trendy tech devices, and over-scheduling. Price encourages us to be more childlike when we choose where to direct our attention. Instead of just plopping down on the sofa and starting to scroll on your phone or tablet, “be intentional about where you direct your light.”

In that spirit, for this first Fun Friday of the new year, I thought I’d show you some examples of where I’ve intentionally directed my light for lighthearted, “true fun” that was playful, connected, and flowing.

Christmas Day dress-up and cocktail crafting contests had one clear winner. My son had everybody — including COVID-sick family in NY, via Facetime — cracking up with the “wrapping paper suit” he ordered for his 6’6″ frame. His mama brought home the cocktail contest win for our team with my “Lake Erie Iced Tea” concoction. Think Long Island Iced Tea, but with Cleveland booze.
Fun at an indoor go-kart track after Christmas.
Best, most laugh-worthy gift ever! The reaction to giving and getting gifts like this is great fun to me.
I want to do an internship here! Do we need fucking instruction? And that contact email address! I may have a girl crush on “Jamah, Lady Boss.” I have to believe working here would be hella fun!
Super last-minute decision to dress up and join the festive crowd at November’s Dia de los Muertos parade. I was dead tired, feeling wistful, and still had a ton of moving chores to do after selling my house. Ditching my to-do list and soggy tissues for unexpected laughter and a little craziness was the best thing I did for myself and my mood.
I double-dog triple dare you to sneak this key chain into an office, classroom, or Zoom meeting and not dissolve into raucous, contagious laughter. This silly toy, which makes four distinct and realistic gas-passing sounds, was purchased at the aptly named but now defunct Big Fun store here. So much better than a whoopee cushion, this baby has defused some stressful situations with the touch of a button. I bet it would work like a charm to send a bad date packing.
One hundred percent recommended by retired 2nd grade teachers.
Childish? You betcha! That’s the point.
And speaking of raucous laughter, nothing beats the healing power of a deep belly laugh. The kind of laugh that is unattractive, loud, and may result in a tiny bit of fluid leakage (spit, snot, or you-know-what). Anything that results in this kind of makes-my-stomach-hurt laughter is automatically tops in the fun category. Here, my friend since kindergarten was turning me on to telling me about vibrating panties, which I’d never heard of and wasn’t expecting a lesson on during a selfie while walking.
For me, much of my first solo travel adventure was not what I’d call “playful.” There was a near total focus on planning and logistics. Memories such as this one are reminders of the power of playfulness, connection, and flow in creating a truly fun experience. I’d connected in Bangkok with friends of a friend for what turned into an evening of conversation and hilarity at a “secret” yet highly rated gin bar named Teens of Thailand. Nope, not an illicit porn place! Just a nonsensical name, incredible selection of gin,…and zero food of any kind.
Fun…
…times…
…in Portugal.

Today I’m having fun looking at these photos from Portugal. They evoke fun memories of playfulness, connection, and flow during my last week in the country I plan to move to later this year. I know the act of just looking at these photos doesn’t fit Price’s definition of fun. But looking at them reminds me that I’m strong enough to go through with my plan. I feel reassured and calmed. They make me smile, and joy creeps into the space where worry was. Maybe that’s exactly the “fun” I need in this moment of midlife.

Price makes the point that we overuse the word “fun,” and I agree. I know I do. Some activities I might describe as “fun” are passive, not active. Watching a sunrise or meteor shower, for example. Others don’t have the required connection with others, such as the solo walks I love. These things bring me joy, happiness, and contentment, but they don’t check all of Price’s boxes for qualifying as true “fun.” Had I not had that experience in Bangkok — and similar experiences connecting with others in Portugal, Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia, and Japan — I might have disagreed with Price about the impact of connection with others on the fun factor.

I realize as I’ve aged I’ve become more likely to find a solo activity to be just as “fun” as a group activity — even before the pandemic. I wonder why. Is it that my feelings of happiness, joy, peace, contentment, accomplishment, and confidence as a solo midlife woman register as “fun” because they’re so…new?

What about you? What do you think about Price’s definition of fun? What do you do for fun, and how has that changed?


All images are my own.

The Hot Goddess

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49 comments

  1. Everything about this post was fun and in direct contrast to my far from fun Friday. *See my poem White*, Man’s Burden. OMG I love your blogs bluntness, your sailor talking ways. You read like a hoot of a friend. The kind of friend who’s time I’d enjoy greatly with. Oh and your son’s suit….Stylin’ !

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much Matt!❤ I’ll have to go check out your poem. Sorry it has not been a fun day for you.
      I love that you love my blog! Reading your comment is so fun for me…really fun. I keep reading it and, yep, still fun AF! No better compliment than reading “like a hoot of a friend.” Thank you for reading, and making my day💖😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was wonderful to read. I’ve never thought about intentional “fun,” but I definitely need more of it in my life. Generally speaking, I am a very soft spoken person, until I laugh—it usually catches people off guard. Definitely need more laughter in my life. Victor Borge says it’s the “closest distance between two people.” Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Laura!❤ I guffaw, and my mother still shushes me. Laughter is something I could not do without. I bought the fart keychain during a tough time when there wasn’t much to laugh at. I got it for my son, but I’ve definitely gotten more out of it, lol

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post! Do we have to so strictly define fun? That takes the fun out of it! 😂😉. I agree it needs flow, but doing things alone can definitely be fun. Happy Fun Friday!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post, love the vibe as always! The only thing I disagree with Price about is that fun shouldn’t have an outcome. I paint. It’s fun. I could spend hours messing around in my art room…making a mess. But that joyful, creative, loose track of time feeling, that “fun” still has an outcome. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a piece to hang in my own home. But that’s technically an “outcome” by her standards. At it’s heart, I believe anything “fun” creates the endorphins we need to relax, reduce stress, and feel non-synthetic joy! And I’m dying to talk to you about Portugal!!!

    Cheers,
    Cynthia

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmm this one is making me think! And yeah I think fun can be so underrated when we become adults. I’m so grateful for my twin sister bc we really do make fun a priority when we’re together. And yeah it comes down to comfort and flow, I agree. Connection because you feel safe enough to let go in another’s presence. Fun things for me are definitely dancing and singing. But when I’m with her, honestly anything is fun!! Thank you for this one, I really needed the lighthearted thoughts happening today 😊💖

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Here I am.. late to the party, again! You definitely know where to find the fun. Since childhood, I have never really had unadulterated, guiltless fun. Maybe it needs to be one of my mantras this year. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. 🥸

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that suit!

    So, I understand those three things should be included, but I’m like you. I have fun by my damn self…A LOT! I also think blogging is fun, because it actually does include other people, depending on how you engage/interact.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a wonderful post, dear Natalie. ❤️ I completely agree with the definition of fun defined in your post; especially the engagement and flow pieces. Important. Your son is adorable and that suit is amazingness. I want one. 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is the most fun blog post I have read all day… ok fine never mind that I have just woken up and this about the third blog post of the day that I am reading hahaha but still the fun is Infectious… what is fun indeed?

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That suit has me cracking up, definitely looks fun. As do the rest of your photos.

    I love this definition of fun requiring playfulness, connection and flow! I have been working on how I can implement “fun” in my teaching philosophy but the definition. I will definitely have to look into how I can design activities that incorporate those three points as they make fun more measurable. I will have to check out that book.

    And yes, I do think the word in fun is general is often overused. I like to run for fun – this was not true when I was a child/teen. I often run trails and I definitely think running through the woods is playful, especially when I hop over logs, etc. There is definitely connection – I either use it as time to check in with myself or I connect with my friend/running buddy. And there is usually flow. Although I will admit there are definitely times I don’t always find running fun but when running starts to feel less fun and more like a chore I address it by cutting back. I don’t get paid to run so why force myself? Running is my stress relief and if it is not serving that need then it needs to be fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

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