There are some words that cause a physical reaction for me that is similar to anger. Manage is one of those words, and I’ve written about that before. Fun is another one of those words.
What?? I don’t like fun? No, I do like having fun. I love the concept of fun. I believe that it is perfectly possible and enjoyable to have fun. But, I don’t like the way the word fun is used in sentences. Most often, when I hear/read the word fun, it appears like this: “It will be fun” or even worse “You will have fun”.
What’s wrong with those sentences? They seem innocent enough. They’re probably said with the best intentions, but they have implications that people may not have thought about. To explain this, I will use a scenario from when I was a kid.
I was often told “you will have fun” or “it will be fun”. My earliest memory of hearing this was when I was taken to a circus. Circuses are not fun for me. They’re loud. They’re smelly. In those days, they involved a lot of caged and trained animals, and all I felt was horror for those animals, and discomfort from all the sensory stimulation. And, I haven’t even started on clowns yet. Clowns freak me out. Clown faces freak me out, and their antics make me feel incredibly embarrassed, and I do not understand why people find humour in that sort of slapstick comedy where it’s funny to fall down.
So, as a kid, I’m taken to the circus where I was told that I “will have fun”, and I’m not having fun. But, everyone around me seems to be laughing and having fun, so maybe there is something wrong with me? My four or five year old self thinks that maybe she is broken because she isn’t having fun even though she was told she would. Afterwards, when I’m asked whether I had fun, well, I don’t want people to think that I’m broken because I didn’t enjoy the thing that I was told that I would enjoy, so I simply say “yes” which means more circus excursion and the cycle repeats.
This type of scenario repeated itself many times over the years, and my parents never realised that more than half the “fun” things we were doing together, I was absolutely hating. Then I became a teenager, and I had a different reaction to being told that something would be fun. My teenage self would internally shout “F- you! I won’t have fun!” I admit that that reaction probably led me to miss out on some things that may have actually been fun, but my point is that you can’t tell someone that they will have fun.
Fun is something that you can only evaluate after the fact. So, what could you say instead that allows an individual, child or adult, to retain a sense of autonomy over their perception of the experience?
That’s easy: you can say “We’re going to do this, and it might be fun. If it is fun, maybe we can do it again sometime, but if it isn’t then we don’t have to do it again”. That way, you can really start to gain an understanding of what the other person considers to be fun because when you ask afterwards, they’re allowed to say no.