Elizabeth Day: When did fun become such hard work?

Life is full of mystery. The head-scratching convolution of quantum physics, the existential pondering of what life really means and the eternally pressing question of how to pronounce ‘hegemony’, to name a few.

But recently I’ve found one of the most difficult things to get my head around is the concept of ‘fun’. I suppose it’s because lockdown meant conventional fun was no longer available. All the things that would normally constitute fun – parties, cinema trips, holidays, snogs in nightclubs – werebanned and we became empty shells of our former selves. Or at least, I did.

Elizabeth day
Hair: Fabio Nogueira . Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Blouse, Lisou. Trousers, Roland Mouret. Jewellery, Alighieri. Image: Jenny Brough.

In my pre-lockdown life, I seemed to have a lot of fun. I had a hectic social calendar. But now I’m wondering how much fun it actually was.

What is fun, exactly? It’s one of those words bandied about nonchalantly without anyone nailing down what it entails.

People who think of themselves as ‘fun’ are often anything but. They’re the ones who will describe their personality as ‘bubbly’ on a dating profile, accompanied by a picture of them tilting a magnum of rosé to their mouth and pretending to drink. They like ‘bantz’ and enjoy holidays where they will belly-flop into the pool and accuse anyone who complains of being splashed as ‘not being up for a laugh’.

A self-declared fun person is guaranteed to have made team T-shirts for a stag do, to have a party playlist including ‘Agadoo’ and ‘Come On, Eileen’ and to make you feel bad for not joining their Tough Mudder team.

The problem with fun is that it’s performative: you have to be seen doing it for it to exist. In that respect, it is a character trait designed for social media – all show and no substance. And when it comes down to it, fun is always a bit disappointing. When was the last time you were promised it and the occasion truly delivered?

As we’re being gently encouraged to take up the reins of our past lives I have tried to rediscover what my previous self would have considered fun. I’ve been out to dinner but the restaurant had a confusing one-way system and downbeat staff who looked like they’d rather be on furlough, so the atmosphere wasn’t great. We sat outside and it felt as though everyone was busily evaluating how much fun others were having so that they could be seen to have more of it. I had become so used to my own company that I’d forgotten how to be in crowds of (albeit socially distanced) people.

Perhaps part of it comes from being slightly anxious to venture outside, fearful of picking up deadly germs. But I find that many of the things I used to consider fun are no longer appealing.

I’m not even sure how sociable I really am. Lockdown has shown me the people who count; the ones who are worth investing in with love and energy. It has shown me, with glaring clarity, the ones who aren’t. That’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind you how fragile life can be and how little of it we might have left.

So I don’t think I want to go in search of ‘fun’ any more. I want to be content and joyful and centred and relaxed and fully myself in everything I do. Fun is altogether too much effort.

This week I’m…

Sporting

Elizabeth day bikiniAn Asos crinkle crop mix-and-match bikini in yellow. Super flattering for every figure and looks far more expensive than the £26 price tag.

Cleansing

Elizabeth day Bamford cleanserWith Bamford’s Refining Exfoliator: smells divine and just the right level of gentle exfoliation, rather than feeling your skin has been stripped raw.

Snacking

Elizabeth day peanutsOn KP Salt & Vinegar peanuts. Just writing this made me salivate. Whoever thought of introducing vinegar to a peanut needs a medal.