I never cared much about fun. Even as a kid, I felt as if it were just something other people had. Those children could jump in their bouncy castles and play with their Slinkies; I’d be catching up on my Jane Austen and figuring out what a line producer does.
I don’t mean to say I was some kind of precocious genius—I barely understood the mechanics of sex, was scared of sleepovers, and needed a calculator to add single digits—but I considered childhood a test run for a successful career. And once I had that, my concept of fun was working from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and then eating pizza over my sink.
Last year, the election scrambled my brain like an egg. And suddenly the old numbing agents—work, fatty food, staring at negative Instagram comments—didn’t work anymore. My heart was cracked in too many pieces to play pretend. I realized I needed to find a space in which the state of the nation didn’t play like haunted-house music in my head, a way to connect to the inner child I’d forgotten to connect with even when I was a child. I needed … fun.
Slowly at first, like a foal rising to its feet, I tested activities I might enjoy. There was an aggressive crafting phase, a dalliance with coloring books, an involvement with Pinterest boards (“TV heroines’ bedrooms!” is a favorite), and the addition of two poodles and two hedgehogs to our family. (I love them all, but I would not consider the amount of urine I clean up “fun.”)
It took a little time to figure out what my version of fun really was. Now, nearly a year later, I can officially report that I know what I like and I like what I know. Below, the top six activities that bring me joy:
1. Watching Reality TV
Listen, I know I’m approximately 17 years behind on this, but when it comes to manufactured drama, better late than never. While all reality TV is hypnotic in its idiocy, there are three shows that stand above the rest. Flipping Out, with Jeff Lewis; Tiny House Hunters; and, the queen of ’em all, The Real Housewives of Auckland, where the six most famous women in New Zealand (the only famous women in New Zealand?) launch their books at competing cocktail parties, create cat sanctuaries just for the opportunity to use the word “pussy,” and say their r’s super-weird. “You drunken chardonnay whore!” is my new greeting for all my friends and some of my enemies.
2. Throwing Parties
I don’t really like going to parties, but it turns out I love throwing them! With the help of my friend Paul, a specialist in creating true glitz out of duct tape, old earrings, and a can of pink spray paint, I have hosted a Thanksgiving gourd-decorating summit, an all-pink poodle birthday party, and a 68th-birthday party for my mother for which we found eight kinds of tinsel and a very affordable harpist. Aside from a “no jerks allowed” policy, party throwing is all about sticking fake jewels to things, serving pizza straight from the box, and making sure guests get a fun party favor like silver pom-poms or house slippers bought in bulk from a spa-supply website.
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3. Leaving Party Decorations Up
This is connected to Item 2 but is a joy all its own. Allowing your decorations to glisten and decay is kind of a perverse luxury. Every day when you get home and drop your keys, there’s just a moment when it feels like someone is about to yell, “Surprise!”
4. Googling a Celebrity’s Romantic Past
I’ve been known to spend an hour or two on one candidate (say, Chris Pine), getting a sense of whom they dated when, where the pair enjoyed lunch, and (if the images predate 2012) what kind of subtly ridiculous fashion choices they were making (not you, Chris—ya been killin’ the game a long time). While this may seem “sad” or “crazy,” what’s more fun than the study of human behavior? A related activity: diving deep into the aforementioned celebrity’s IMDB page. You will invariably take some fascinating left turns, and suddenly you’re remembering that Chris Pine was the male lead in Just My Luck and, wow, Chris Pine has been through so much, I am so proud of him.
I love to dance. Whether it’s Ailey (self-taught), jazz (also self-taught), or hip-hop (Rihanna-on-YouTube-taught), it takes me out of my churning head. But did you know that there is likely a dance studio with classes for adults near you? You can return to a time when your tutu wasn’t just for a Madonna Halloween costume and forget your troubles for an hour of foot-twisting, ass-busting dance mania. Do not be afraid to freestyle when the moves get challenging. It’s only quitting if you sit down.
Do you love walking around your neighborhood listening to Joni Mitchell? Why, yes, me too. Do you also enjoy peeking into people’s windows to get a better sense of how others spend their time? Yup, I’m also into that. Forget what the “cops” say: As long as you don’t literally sidle up to the residence, a casual gaze into your neighbor’s family room never killed anyone. Don’t go all Rear Window on me. Don’t make eye contact with anyone. But look at their weird leather sofa and appreciate the many ways there are to be a person on this earth.
For more stories like this, pick up the December issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Nov. 10.