I am not FUN.

I’m thinking about things that are fun.

This is not something I am proud of or like to admit.  It is not the first thing I tell someone when I meet them or what my name badge says underneath my name.  It is my dirty little secret.  It is this:  I am not fun.  At least, not the commonly accepted notion of fun.

You see, my husband is really fun.  This is what drew me to him, part of the reason I love him and lots of the reason my kids love him.  I remember when I first met him and he had a group of about 6 (really awesome) girls who were his close friends. When we would do things together, they would always tell me how lucky I was to have him because he was SO FUN.  Sometimes he would tease me and tell me I am a “grandma” because I like to:  go to bed early, think deeply, read, go home rather than stay out late and refrain from bodily injury or needlessly embarrassing myself.   Well, I am aware that  America does not idolize people like me, and that being a badass in this culture is considered pretty fucking cool.  I have never been the girl who swung from chandeliers, dropped out of helicopters, recorded a narcissistic video for the admissions committee or rallied the troops for an all-nighter.  Yeah, no.  But I used to wish that I was more like that.  There are even websites dedicated to teaching you how to be more fun.  How sad for all those kids (and grown-ups even) out there who are constantly pushed to be someone they are not.

I adore my friends who are fun.  They love to party, stay out late, host huge soirees, do adventure races and create elaborate competitions and festivals.  I have so much fun hanging out with them and being with them because they are FUN.  My 8 year old daughter is FUN.  She loves fun, dreams about fun, thinks about fun and engages in FUN.  Her every day is in pursuit of FUN.  When my husband is away, my eleven year old tells me, “Things are fine when dad is away, just not as fun.”

Very coincidentally, Gretchen Rubin wrote about this today on her blog for the Huffington Post.  She states emphatically  that just because something is fun for other people does not mean it is fun for you.  She cites examples of things that are fun for other people but are simply not fun for her such as cooking, drinking wine, shopping and skiing.  And that she finds it really hard sometimes to be “just Gretchen” and be true to the things that she really enjoys doing.  Some examples of things that others find fun but I don’t:

Sledding:  I love sledding when it’s just my family but when there are other kids around I worry about things like head injuries and lawsuits.

Drinking until ridiculously drunk:  Never something you look back on as a highlight of your life, it’s usually when you do something really stupid.

Kid games:  Being dyslexic,  learning new games is painfully difficult for me.  Those page-long instructions are torture.  But I love charades, Apples to Apples, I Spy and other simple games.

Team Building Exercises or Competitive Team Building Exercises:  People get crazy and ruthless and all Mad Max and shit.  Really?

Video games:  Don’t really get it.  Especially if they are violent and bloody: yikes.

After reading Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,”  I realized that it is perfectly okay to be the way I am after spending a lot of time wishing I were more fun.  That I could somehow force myself to be the life of the party.  That I could be the “fun” parent.  But you know what?  It’s okay.  My kids are lucky to have parents who are different and provide alternate ways to be in the world.  My husband has a confidante who thinks deeply about all kinds of issues.  And my wonderful friends, of all stripes, I get to enjoy and bask in their uniqueness.  Things I find fun and recharging, (which Susan Cain calls “sweet spots”)  include reading a great book, spending time with people I love over a glass of wine, shared laughs with small groups of friends, watching my kids play with abandon, going for a run with my dog, a bike ride with my husband, writing a good story, snowshoeing in silent whiteness, the irreverence and joy of people who are not like me and happy hour with my husband.

I know, crazy-wild shit like that.

You know what?  I am changing the title of this post to “I am Fun.”  My own kind of fun.  Fun is not universal:  We don’t all like the same foods or movies or whatever.  Why should we all think the same things are fun?

What’s fun for you?

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Being true to myself in the ‘burbs.

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin

Photos courtesy of Barbara Paulsen of Mt. Hood MaMa Iphoneography.  Her photos are incredibly fun.

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Do I have to do EVERYTHING around here? And other falsehoods I proclaim…

You're not alone.  We all say stupid things.

You’re not alone.

Nearly every morning, I find my husband’s bowl and spoon on the counter or in the sink.  Most of the time, his cereal box is out, too.  Never mind that he quietly and politely closes the shower door and leaves lights off for me so I can sleep.  Never mind that he helps get the kids moving and the dog fed.  I see that cereal bowl and get pissed.  Listening to my fellow suburbanites lately, I hear them engage in the same magical thinking, that HE is this or that, while I am clearly downright fucking perfect.  It got me thinking, are we really doing more?  Or do we just think we are?  And, more importantly, how can I climb down from my precarious high horse and get on with it?

The media has dubbed this gender-differentiated conflict the “Chore Wars.” In TIME’s article, women and men participate in roughly the same amount of day to day “work” as calculated on an hourly basis including paid work, child care and housework.  This is actually the closest amount of time spent “working” that men and women have ever achieved in recorded history!  Isn’t that fabulous!  So, why do we still feel like shit?  Well, take a deep breath.  Because we may have to collectively eat some crow here.

This is an entirely self formulated equation so I boast no research here, but I have gleaned some insights from writers like Gretchen Rubin, who writes the “Happiness at Home” blog to accompany her book.

A lot of it is about the ask.  Or non-ask, known as martyrdom.  Do you ask for help when you need it?  Or do you stand quietly and fume while others sit around completely oblivious to your near-meltdown?  And when you ask do you do it like this?:  “Maybe SOMEONE could have eyes and see that the dishwasher needs emptying!!”  I feel your frustration, but it’s all in the ask, friends.  That kind of request is more likely to inspire an eye-roll than the kind of get up and go behavior you are looking for.

Men and women are different.  Were you aware of this?  Because it’s been kind of well documented.  Men, on the whole, do not see the need to carry 5 items upstairs at once.  Generally speaking, they are people who are more prone to projects, taking their time to sort it out.  Women are predisposed to fast, get-it-ready-for-guests cleaning.  Space is too limited to characterize the vast differences of men and women but suffice it to say that they exist and you would do well to recognize them, and not ruminate on what-the-hell-is-he-thinking.  It makes you stressed out and your face will turn all wrinkly and irritable.  It’s not sexy.

The more you do around the house, the more unnoticed it is.  It is a small dose of relief to come to the realization that the people around you expect you to do what you do.  Have you seen these “moms on strike” on reality shows or talk shows?  They decide to stop doing what they normally do, and after about a week of mile high laundry and flies buzzing about the dishes, some people in the house start to sense something is different.  I can’t imagine a more virulent form of self torture than watching the people in your household sit around while filth piles up.  Which leads us to the next thought…

Others do not give a shit about the things that you give a shit about.  Recently, I let go of the requirement that my children make their beds everyday.  Maybe it’s the fact that they are in bunk beds now and the unsightly clump of used bedding is not as noticeable, but I realized that it was really not important to them.  I continue to make my bed every day, because it matters to me.  You really do have to choose your battles.  Your mom was right.  Just as there are things that my husbands deems very important (how the dishes are stacked in the dishwasher), I must try to respect those if I want him to respect the things that I think are important (a clean counter before bed).

We are prone to thinking that we do things better, and more often.  Do you put much thought into how your partner repaired the shower?  No, but I am sure that you are acutely aware of how well you cleaned that same shower once said repair was finished.  In our brains, we have a bias toward the more positive aspects of our own behavior, to the point of overestimating how much time it took, how well it was done and how much credit we deserve for it.  Seriously.  It’s called optimism bias and all humans do it.

So in closing, I must say the following which for me, is the truth.

I do not do more than my husband.  (More than my children, yes, but they are coming around thanks to a united front from us).  In looking at the list of things he does and things I do, neither is more important.  And on top of that, I think we spend about the same time “working” around the house or out of it in the grand tally.  But…

I do spend more mental energy perseverating on what needs to be done.  Making lists and turning over the ins and outs and possible outcomes of every little detail in my mind.  Also, being a woman, I am evolved to react to a situation based on my awareness of my environment and other people.   I believe that when my husband sits down to watch the game or read the paper, he does just that.  Oh how I wish I could do that! However, I will watch with one eye, think about what I need to do the next day, plan out the kids lunches, strategize a plan of attack on how to get a babysitter for Saturday, mull over what to get for the birthday party, what to make for dinner, agonize over what I said or did at some point during the day, etc etc.  All that thinking is sometimes exhausting and I wish I could shut it off.  And that is why, in my opinion, I get pissed off and feel like I am doing more.  Because I am doing more.  More mental work.

How ’bout you?

Thanks again to Mt. Hood Mama for the gorgeous photo.