Photo by Tina Rataj-Berard on Unsplash
This question is weird. I mean, I get why people ask it (see below), but that doesn?t change the fact that it?s odd at best; intrusive at worst, so my first thought in response is often ?why are you asking this weird question??
I know why, tho. People ask this not to actually ?learn just anything about you,? but to feel reassured of who you are, and feel at ease that:
- You are similar
- You are ?sufficiently socialized,? i.e., ?normal? (incl. ?have work/life balance?)
- You can be easily slotted somewhere
They don?t want to hear you say ?I make candles out of animal fat,? or ?I feed my anxieties, because it feels good.? That just leaves them feeling like they?re holding a gross, mismatched button with no proper home.
When people ask this, they want to know you?re ?okay? ? and they?re ?okay.?
So. Here?s a number of responses I give when I must, a few I?m really thinking, and a few honest ones I rarely or never say.
Answers I give
This scenario happens a lot if this is asked in, say, an interview. Or if a new boyfriend?s friends ask the first time I meet them, and I like him enough that I want These People to come away reassured of my normalcy.
?I really enjoy reading?
This is the safest answer for the most conservative situations, like interviews and nosy SO friends.
If asked ?what have you read recently?? / ?what are you reading now??, I say something that I really have read (and am equipped to discuss if prompted), but not necessarily ?recently? or ?right now? (esp. if that answer would be one of my many pop psychology reads.) Instead, I say something safe and sane, like ?Antifragile? or ?a book on Buddhism? (?unusual? but still okay.)
If asked my ?favorite genre,? I answer honestly ?all types? (and if prompted for examples, I may cite ?essays? but never ?pop psychology? in a list that also includes ?philosophy,? ?history,? ?software,? and ?business.?)
If asked my ?favorite book,? I answer honestly: ?it changes all the time,? and do not offer examples. If pressed for one, I?ll say ?well, I really enjoyed?? and cite something like the above.
In short: ?reading? is relatively ?normal,? but a reader?s comprehensive reading list can be pretty intimate for introductory conversations.
?I love being outside?
This is a still-honest answer for situations in which I may not want to give the impression that I?m some closet-swaddled introvert with no personal time for people. One example being: meeting a new boyfriend?s mom.
?Oh, normal stuff ? Netflix, drinks with friends, pretty standard?
Still true. And reassures others that I am ?normal.? (Though I?m not above honestly answering ?rom-coms? if asked what genre I watch most.)
?Nothing, really. I?m pretty boring?
The answer for situations when I do not want to bond, bc I either feel that there is no reason to, or feel the other person is being more intrusive than they need to be ? like the chatty mechanic while having inspections done on my bike, or the dude I don?t know making small talk at the gym.
I think you get what I?m saying.
This is about as ?off-the-wall? as I get, and usually it?s sufficient for people to realize what box I should go in: i.e., either ?neat? or ?not like me and I neither like nor trust it (and in fact I might hate her!(?) idk)?
A few responses I?m really thinking
When asked ?what do you do for fun??
?I don?t understand the question?
What do you mean.
?I find a lot of life fun?
It?s all play.
?Is it not odd to compartmentalize life like this??
Like, with ?fun? as a separate thing? I mean, I think a lot of work is fun. Entering meetings and trying to discern wtf is really going on is fun. Getting coffee afterwards to think it over is fun. Do you not feel that way??
?I don?t understand hobbies?
They?re like check-boxy cubby-holes in which to put things like tator tots; relics of childhood that were probably better off left there (or maybe, at best, retired and put to final rest when we listed them all out, dutifully, on our college applications.) When people ask ?what are your hobbies,? to me it sounds like asking ?what drawer do you put your socks in, and what?s your favorite pair?? It just leaves me a bit stupefied, like ?are we really asking these things?? why??
?Why is this any of your business??
I don?t know, man. I?m just a private person ? often for no reason at all ? but sometimes I just don?t understand why this is such a common question. But then I remember the very normal human tendency to want to feel reassured and slot people, and I guess I get it.
A few very common things I don?t do ?for fun?
Cooking. Calling people. Crossfit. Cycling. Climbing. Crafts. Cross-stitch. Clothing shopping. Candle-making. Community service. Cat cafs?
And many other things that start with other letters of the alphabet.
A few honest answers I rarely (or never) say
?What do I do for fun?? More accurately,
?What do I FIND fun??
Banter with (?tease?? ?troll??) people in my life
?especially colleagues, friends, my boyfriend, my boyfriend?s brother, my own brother, my mom. This brings me ceaseless amusement that beats the socks off ?puzzles? or whatever else people are doing.
Think about what makes people tick
Specific people. People in general. Pop psychology. ?Real? psychology. Astrology (?faaaaake!?) Motivations. Fears. Neurosis. Bad logic. Why we do what we do, and the sort of things we tell ourselves instead.
idk man, I like work.
Face masks (while seriously questioning their effectiveness)
Buy shit on Amazon
Like books ? a lot of books ? and face masks I subsequently question.
I skydive but never bring it up. Because conversations about skydiving go nowhere. It?s a bit like talking about vegetarianism (which I also don?t do), in the sense that it quickly becomes a situation of ?others feeling uncomfortable with your life decisions,? or feeling you?re judging theirs (which I?m not), and either way you?re just standing there having to defend your lifestyle choices to an acquaintance so they feel better. No thank you.
One of the biggest things I learned when I did improv is that people seriously ?hate improv.? I learned this because it was the number one response people felt compelled to say when I said that I did it. So I stopped. It?s just not the sort of rapport they?re looking for when they ask ?what do you do for fun??
lol, you can?t just say ?drink!? You have to say ?grab drinks with friends? or ?go out? or ?relax with a glass of wine.?
It should probably be worrisome that many other Buzzfeed users are like 10?20 years younger, but I don?t care. There?s just something about a good Buzzfeed quiz over white wine on a Thursday night when your boyfriend has a Grand Prix race on in the background that just feels right.
Clean the bathroom
A lot of people find cleaning relaxing but unless you come at it from the right angle in conversation, outright saying so just makes you sound insane.
Watch Youtube videos
?of shit like beatboxing competitions (100% true.)
KonMari my socks
?and the rest of my (albeit tiny) wardrobe. I have a serious issue with keeping my clothes tidy, and have re-KonMari?d that shit like 10 times.
Tweeze my boyfriend?s stray hairs
?and by that I mean ?those on his ears? and by that I also mean ?pop pimples.? We all do it. None of us talk about it. Whatev.
Pin wedding shit
Yo, I have more wedding-related pins than people I know who are actually planning a wedding. I have multiple hidden boards, some with hundreds of pins. Even though I don?t even want to get married. *shrug*
Yoga / barre
I avoid this answer unless speaking to someone of my own demographic, for the obvious reason (i.e., I?d rather not have my fitness sexualized?)
The answer we SHOULD say
People ask this because they want to know (be reassured) that you are a.) like them, b.) sufficiently-socialized (?normal?), and c.) can be easily compartmentalized.
So. When they ask this, we should all just stick to the answers that meet that requirement. Like [something intellectual(?)] such as ?reading? (genre: history), [some kind of physical activity that is ?normal? and not, like, ?shag dancing?], and/or [something social.]
In other words: just give them an easy answer and move the hell on.