Is Fun Dead? We Say it’s Up to Each of Us to Define What It Means

Fun is like a familiar song that warms the heart. It makes us smile, laugh, giggle and feeds the brain by boosting our feel-good chemicals. 

And then there are those we consider killjoys who question whether fun is dead as a doorknob to use a cliché. We recently read in an article in the Washington Post by Karen Heller that “Fun is Dead” (Dec. 23, 2023).  We couldn’t resist replying in a blog since we think quite the contrary. Granted, it can seem harder to have fun these days since we’re more distressed with wars raging and hate crimes rising every time we look, listen or turn on the news or read a newspaper. 

During Covid, there was little external fun, so we had to create it whether it was taking a walk along a river or in a park and birdwatching, pulling out a good camera and snapping candid photos of people (at a distance) and wildlife, or learning how to perfect a skill at home whether making bagels, finishing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle or just opening a good bottle of vino, sitting out on a patio on a beautiful evening and sharing it with a partner in our pod. Not every moment of fun must be over the top and uproariously funny. 

That said, whether something is fun is how you define it (dictionary definition: enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure) and then whether we experience it is up to us, the individual, to orchestrate, make it happen and recognize that one person’s idea of fun can be another person’s idea of misery. For some fun needs to be well planned and for others it needs to be spontaneous. For some it possibly involves no dollars and for others huge extravaganzas and outlays of cash, piles of caviar and endless bottles of good wine. For some it involves quiet and introspection and nobody around to see you’re still in your jammies and for others it’s loud belly laugh with a crowd laughing along like a canned soundtrack from a TV show.

Author Heller laments that fun has become laborious because of over planning. This obviates the fun out of fun, she says. She focuses on the obligatory holiday entertaining and the fatigue that has eliminated the fun from the process. She adds weddings when now that they’ve morphed into multistage stress extravaganzas, as well as parenting that’s over-apped. Yes, we might agree when schedules become a topmost priority for parents who forget that babies are individuals who don’t do the same things at the same time and can’t be programmed like robots! She also cites vacationers who plant chairs at sunrise to grab the best views as lacking a fun gene; we’ve seen that on cruise ships for sure when towels cover chairs early, which imply—don’t think of sitting here in my chair. 

How do we get back on the fun track? Heller suggests that many need a fun coach or books such as Fun at Work. An oxymoron? Maybe, because to us neither notion seems fun to buy or to read. We opt for Roz Chast cartoons in The New Yorker or reruns of The Smothers Brothers or All in the Family. Now that’s fun (to us). 

As two fun seekers, we’d like to help by weighing in, even tickling your funny bone. Mainly, we think having fun requires a change in mindset that must work for each of us and not generically. Do you want fun? Let it happen organically. What works for you? Don’t copy others and do what they might consider fun, whether it’s with work, hobbies, housing, friendships, vacationing, almost anything. Produce your own party of one or parade of many. 

Margaret thinks cleaning can be fun. Yes, because she makes it fun. She gets out her paraphernalia, including a toothbrush supply, blasts operatic music or something like the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” soundtrack and goes over every surface in her apartment to the beat. No dirt escapes her focused eyes. She also enjoys her singing gigs whether at synagogue or in a neighborhood church where she’s re-learning and singing Mozart’s Requiem in a neighborhood church. Making music in a group is so joyous and it’s so much fun to spread the joy to an audience.

Barbara equates cleaning with having a root canal. She’s happy to pay someone to do the job. Fun for her is baking a new recipe even if it doesn’t turn out so great such as the pear loaves she recently made. And then voila! a new chocolate cake presented great fun—to see the layers emerge, slide out easily from the two cake pans, get frosted into a mile-high dark tower and wow guests. There was a bonus as each slice was topped with the ice cream of the guest’s choice—and this wasn’t even a birthday celebration! It was just a serendipitous fun evening. She didn’t even mind the clean-up for such sheer joy and gastronomy. Recently, fun was adding a few items to her two carefully crafted and curated dollhouses, including a miniature KitchenAid mixer and a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

We have so many other ideas of fun that you may roll your eyes at or approve of and either case is okay. We’re having fun compiling it. Here are some.

  • An evening of fun for Barbara continues to be all the TV series she’s watched, most recently the last episodes of the Crown and Call the Midwife and saying adieu to all the crazy characters on A Million Little Things. She loves discussing some of the series with Margaret and laughing hysterically or tearing up. Fun can be crying because something touched a nerve.
  • Another fun time for Barbara was helping the family to celebrate the 40-mile run of a son-in-law for his 40th It was fun for her knowing he did it and she didn’t have to but could observe and still share in the celebratory tacos, cake and togetherness of family and friends.
  • For Margaret nothing may be more fun than a long walk in her adopted ‘hood, seeing loads of people out and about, talking with one another and having their brand of fun when she remembers back to Covid’s dark days when people stayed in and kept away from one another. That was no fun but fortunately it was temporary.
  • Then there’s the fun (and we mean fun) of a new endeavor such as Zumba/dancing to great music, a new painting technique that works or the joy of singing in a group (whether Christmas carols or Handel’s Messiah) at holiday time. 
  • Fun also can be catching up with a pal in a long email or better yet a telephone call or even better still a visit in person.

We say long live fun, whatever that suggests to you. In the meantime, go out and have some fun spontaneously. It’s one of the best ways to keep the fun in fun. 


  • Betsy Domoto

    - and fun is recalling the great times we all spent together when you lived in St. Louis! Special times indeed! The “fun” has continued with new and old friends – but fond memories of the days we (usually 3or4 of us spent cavorting around when you lived here!) Food – cooking – chatting – dreaming of times to come – a big part of it all! I miss the East Coast- and think how smart you were to move back. But – life here is good! My days are filled with friends and activities.
    Do come back for a visit and say “Hi”
    Meanwhile, have a wonderful spring!
    We will be in Maine / late May – and then again in September. If you ever get up that way during those times – let me know.
    Miss you.
    Love, Betsy

  • Steven

    What. a timely topic!
    Lately, I found myself in a little bit for a rut. Recently, every morning before I get out of bed, I ask myself the question, “What am I going to do today to have fun?”
    For example, this morning I am joining a friend at the art museum to see “Art in Bloom”. Having fun has become a mindful activity!

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