A Case For Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously
For me, silliness has been a good thing. It’s been a gift that has allowed me to see life in a different way, to notice its outrageous absurdities and revel in them.
There’s been an internet meme making the rounds lately that makes me incredibly sad. It goes something like this, “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play for the last time, and no one knew it.”
I have to admit, my first reaction was to think, God, I hope that hasn’t happened to me yet. Obviously, my friends and I don’t go outside and play Hide-And-Seek in the middle of a workday (although who wouldn’t occasionally love to hide from their boss?), but play is still important to me as an adult – maybe even more now than ever.
Some of us grownups have been reconnected with play through our kids, nieces or nephews, or through sports or hobbies, but for me, the best kind of play is just in laughing and being ridiculous. Being silly.
As women, we face an enormous uphill battle each day to be taken seriously in this patriarchal society. So why would any woman want to turn around and be silly, be ridiculous, play the fool? To me, the answer is easy – because while we’re fighting for equality in work and in stature, we ought to be entitled to equal fun, too.
“Oh, he’s the ‘fun dad,’” so many women I know lament about their husbands, adding that they often wish they weren’t consigned to the responsible “bad cop” role women are so often squeezed into. We’re the ones who are somehow expected to enforce bedtimes, to rein in the nonsense, to be the downer. As far as I’m concerned, we deserve better than that.
I try to find time for silliness daily. Maybe it’s some ridiculous YouTube video of a bat eating bananas; maybe it’s laughing on the phone with a friend after I’ve accidentally taken NyQuil in the middle of the day; or maybe it’s just talking back to my GPS navigator when she starts “recalculating.”
“You’re ridiculous,” my husband said to me not long ago, in response to an episode I can’t even recall. I didn’t deny it, and I didn’t take offense.
For me, silliness has been a good thing. It’s been a gift that has allowed me to see life in a different way, to notice its outrageous absurdities and revel in them. It doesn’t necessarily equal “not taking things too seriously” – in fact, I take most things very seriously – but it’s just a chance to look at life’s injustices, blow them up to cartoonish proportions, and let them explode, often hilariously. To me, laughter has always been just another way of getting my feelings out.
In a deck of Tarot cards, “The Fool” is actually viewed as a positive card. It is often a young person starting out on a journey, facing a new beginning, viewing the future with optimism. It represents openness to the new, to what lies ahead.
Not only is this appropriate to the start of a New Year, it is also part of what influenced my book, The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Life. The book is for young women who are setting out on the journey of life and adulthood, but who aren’t quite ready to relent to a life of rigid obligation.
As the title suggests, the book encourages ‘laziness,” but it’s a good kind of laziness, a balanced kind of laziness. It’s the kind of laziness that doesn’t oblige us as women to be drowned in a sea of adult responsibilities, at the expense of laughter, fun and mischief. The book offers hacks for these grownup duties, and provides a cheat sheet for passing as an adult while still indulging the kid within.
I really believe that as the increasingly powerful role of women continues to solidify, we will eventually begin to allow ourselves the luxury of being as silly as any guy around. As women, of course we deserve to be taken seriously. But we also deserve to have serious fun.
Jennifer Byrne‘s writing has been published online in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s.net, The Rumpus, The Hairpin, The Second City Network, Psychology Today and The Huffington Post. She is the author of Fake It and The Intrepid Parent’s Field Guide to the Baby Kingdom. Follow her on Twitter.