This is the single most stressful question in the world for me. Everyone seems to have a perfectly good response to it but I. Whenever I’m asked it, I become paralyzed with fear. Like if I lived in the Harry Potter universe and I were cleaning out a spooky mansion and came across a boggart, it would repeatedly assume the shape of a person I'd want to impress asking me what I do for fun, and I would instantly collapse in a heap and the boggart would feed on my tears for eternity.
When someone I want to impress asks me what I do for fun in the actual world, I respond a bit differently. At first I just don’t say anything at all, as if by keeping perfectly still and quiet, the questioner might simply forget they asked the question and move on. I call this the “T-Rex strategy” of social interaction (they can only see you if you move.)
When that doesn’t work, I panic, because I am immediately convinced that nothing I do could possibly be considered fun by this person who is obviously hip beyond imagining, who probably spends his or her weekends eating fire while hanging from a trapeze suspended over a pit of lions and juggling hedgehogs. I start to imagine all the impossible fun this person has in their spare time, and I become more and more convinced that nothing I do could possibly interest them.
At this point, my addled brain begins to realize that I have to say something and tries to compile a list of stuff I spend my time on. That process usually goes like this:
Me: Brain! Tell me quickly: what do I like to do?
Brain: WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK.
Me: No, I mean for fun.
Brain: YOUR JOB YOUR JOB YOUR JOB.
Me: I know, I know, I really do enjoy my work more than anything else, but normal people don’t feel that way. What do I like to do that’s normal?
Brain: [Long pause.] TV TV TV.
Me: I can’t say that, that’s embarrassing! I know I’m an active and discerning consumer of television shows and that I approach them in an intellectual and stimulating manner, but if my answer to “what do you do for fun?” is “TV,” I’ll sound like a total bum!
Brain: [Pause.] MOVIES MOVIES MOVIES.
Me: Argh, same problem there. I guess I could talk about the films I’m making, but that just seems pretentious. Besides I haven’t actually completed a film yet, and it’s not the number one activity I spend my spare time on.
Brain: STUDYING STUDYING STUD-
Me: NO. Fun stuff, brain. Fun stuff like what cool people do.
Brain: ERROR, ERROR. CANNOT PERFORM FUNCTION REQUESTED.
Me: Why not?
Brain: YOU ARE NOT COOL.
Me: Well, fuck.
At this point it’s a tossup between the honest answer (reading fiction or writing stupid blog posts about how I can’t deal with simple social situations) and a generic one that is always the exact opposite of what I should have said. Like if I’m talking to a couple of bros, I’ll say I like shopping and then cry as I watch the possibility of ever appearing interesting or intelligent in their eyes fade like something that fades extremely quickly. But if I’m talking to some girlie girl, shopping and fashion won’t even occur to me. All I’ll be able to think about are cars and guns and Tom Clancy novels and how much I hate Twilight.
The worst part is: I don’t even like cars and guns and Tom Clancy novels that much (or shopping, for that matter.) But I do fucking love to hate Twilight. I guess that’s just my contrarian nature screwing me over once again.
Actually, that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is the reason why I don’t just tell the truth in these situations: the question itself is fucking retarded.
No, I’m not saying that what a person does with their time is irrelevant, although the question almost always implies that what you spend your non-working time on is more important/essential/interesting than what you spend most of your waking hours doing. You know, that little thing you’ve dedicated your life to. That couldn’t possibly be worth talking about. No, no, we have to talk about hobbies, about the little things you come home to that make your 9 to 5 bearable. Well fuck you, I don’t have a “9 to 5.” I have a goddamn all-consuming passion that takes up 80% of my time. The rest of the time is for sex and sleep and that’s how I bloody well like it.
Okay, that’s one problem with the question. The other is that with recreation, like so many things, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. You could have the most impressive hobby in the world (“Me? Oh, I like to alligator-raft down Angel Falls with Stephen King on weekends. Yes, that’s when you stand on an alligator and use a pole to maneuver it like a gondola over the largest waterfall on Earth. It can get pretty intense. That’s why I bring Steve along, to keep it real.”), but if you’re a passive, intellectually-stunted bore about it, it becomes lame. Passivity is the main ingredient in lamesauce and baby, you are smothered.
If you’ve ever met a person who is training for a marathon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s a packet of instant lamesauce, right there. Same thing if you know someone who has a dog, does crossfit, likes football, does volunteer work, is totally into this beardcore band, or has children. Yet all of these will get you free admittance to Cool People Land at the “What do you do for fun?” Q&A session. Meanwhile I struggle to explain how I like to read books alone in my spare time because frankly the people in books are much more interesting than the ones you meet at parties who ask you what you like to do for fun instead of more substantive questions and then expect some pre-packaged, easy-to-digest answer and why am I trying to impress you anyway, I’ve got 60 IQ points on you, motherfucker, piss off.
And this is why I am such a hit at parties.
Screw you guys,