My father John Bowes and his childhood pal turned business partner John Rosekrans always seemed to be having a good time. I can remember Bowes and Rose, as they called one another, ribbing each other, big grins on both faces. It didn’t hurt that they were in the business of fun —They sold products that made people smile, products that had no other purpose than to bring joy and laughter.
Amongst other acquisitions, my father and Uncle John bought WHAM-O back in 1982. Wham-O sold things like the Frisbee, Hula Hoop, the Super Ball, of which the Super Bowl was named after, and many other toys that were inexpensive, easy to learn and fun. Ever try twirling a Hula Hoop around your hips and not smiling?
Or throw a Frisbee across a field and, even if you’re like me and the Frisbee goes nowhere near its intended destination, it’s still entertaining.
More than the products they sold, my father and Uncle John loved hanging out together. In one article entitled “Childhood Pals Strike It Rich” journalist Linda Bucklin quotes my father as saying,
We’re having fun.
And Uncle John replied:
I’ve probably never told you this, Bowes, one of the things I like best around here is to hear people laughing – in the halls, everywhere.”
The two men always shared an office. Later in the article my father says,
When we moved to the new offices here, I said ‘Rose, you talk louder than I do, we’ve got to get a little more distance between our desks,’ so we moved them an additional foot and a half apart.”
So, you’d think having fun would be second nature to my father’s daughter, aka me. If only.
Elena, I don’t get the sense that you have a lot of play-time,” noted my astute psychic Deirdre on Face-time last month.
You are very focused and serious. You got to inject some fun. You got to laugh again. I want you to put play on your to do list. Break down the word recreation, Elena, it’s re-create. Play enhances your creativity. So go and have some fun!”
Turns out my psychic is on to something- (I guess that’s her job) According to author Catherine Price in her new book, The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again
Having fun is important for your resilience, happiness and mental and physical health. It’s not frivolous. It’s essential.”
By fun, Price does not mean scrolling through my various feeds or binge-watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. While those might seem fun at the time, they are more mood depleters than enhancers. Price describes true fun as “the confluence of three psychological states: playfulness, connection and flow.” It’s when you’re completely unself conscious, free from anxiety and self-criticism. Bellyache laughter is a good example.
Dancing and singing to a great song is another…
In an article in Thrive Global titled The Importance of Fun- Without it you get sick, psychotherapist William Anderson echoes Price;
Sometimes, as we grow up, life becomes hard and we stop having fun. We may even begin to think that having fun is not OK.”
Anderson believes that if we stop flooding our brains and bodies with those feel-good chemicals on a regular basis, we stop the natural medicine that keeps us well, body, mind and spirit. We get sick. We need to keep doing those things that trigger the flow of the good chemicals.
With Delta, Omicron, and the next weirdly named variant sure to appear soon, not only does having fun seem that much harder, it also seems that much more vital.
With no time to waste, I rewatched the 1986 hit comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for inspiration.
Actor Mathew Broderick plays Ferris, a high school senior who plays hookey with his girlfriend and his best friend in suburban Chicago. They go to a baseball game, an art museum and a fancy meal wearing sneakers- using the best friend’s father’s prized red convertible Ferrari as their mode of transport. In this scene, they’re at a parade:
Ferris regularly breaks the fourth wall and offers pearls of wisdom to the audience, including this pearl at the end:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Indeed, you could.
So, my New Year’s Resolution is not to go to the gym or become a vegan or a nun, but to sing, laugh and make merry at some point every day.
In these turbulent times where it seems the only news is bad news, where fear and scaremongering are everywhere, where adhering to rules are all we know, it’s fun, if not vital, to take a few calculated risks. While I am not recommending going maskless to a crowded concert, I am suggesting mixing it up.
Go sledding, play games, go skinny dipping, play karaoke, bake an upside down cake, dance to a whole album, learn to play the guitar, hula hoop until you laugh so hard you can’t hula hoop anymore.
Happy New Year!