Tuesday, April 6, 2004

You're No Fun

The above phrase is very popular in my immediate family, generally used when someone doesn't want to do the idiotic and ill-fated thing that you want to do. "Let's go down to the five-and-dime and steal something like in Breakfast at Tiffany's" my Mother might suggest some dull Sunday afternoon; "Aren't you on probation or something?" level-headed me might answer; "You're no fun," Mother would have pouted...

...if that exchange had ever happened. Mother never makes film references, and I was an adult and had little to do with her when she finally got around to getting arrested and probated for her little "shenanigans." Perhaps if I had been around during my adulthood, she might have asked me if I wanted to come along with her when she drove down to Modesto on her suspended-eternally-for-DUI driver's license, crossing two county lines and thereby violating the parole she received for assaulting a Tuolomne County sherriff, in order to buy a baggie of crank from an undercover cop; and had she asked me along for such a thing, I would no doubt have refused — I mean, aside from the illegality of such a trip, Modesto is one of the many armpits of our state and on warm days it smells like urine. And so, when I declined to aid and abet her in violating her suspended license and her parole in one trip to buy drugs from a narc in a pee-smelling town, if in fact such a scene were even remotely possible, she would have pouted and said, "You're No Fun."

And I suppose it would be true. Sometimes I look at myself through the eyes of a more adventurous (or heedless) person and wonder how I can be so practical, so cautious, so boring, so unbearably lame. Yes, I indulge in frivolity quite frequently, but it is always harmless frivolity, inconsequential frivolity, safe frivolity. The direst consequences of my kind of frivolity is that I might get overtired and catch a cold or might have to pay interest on my credit-card balance if I overspend myself at the mall.

During a discussion with my nephew recently, I found my practical side rearing its ugly but neatly-groomed head. He asked me the famous hypothetical question about what five items I would want if I were to be stranded on a desert island, and without hesitation I answered: 1) a boat, fairly large and enclosed; 2) someone who knows how to drive the boat back home, preferably cute; 3) sufficient fuel to make the boat bring me home; 4) sufficient food to eat during the trip; and 5) a working computer with internet connection to while away the time.

There are two possible responses to such a party-crashingly practical answer: either "You're No Fun," or a continuing discussion to find out what is most important to you in the world, further legalizing the conversations with rules (like those sneaky genies who won't let you wish for more wishes), such as you have to stay on the island and/or have to be alone on the island, and then what five items would you want... which is the tack my nephew took, to further the conversation. I gave it some thought and answered again: 1) some porn; 2) some lube; 3) a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or a good box of chocolates); 4) a thermos of coffee; and 5) a loaded gun with which to end my life on a high note, because who in his right mind would want to spend years and years completely alone on a goddamned desert island with only five things?

This all comes to mind as I sit here in my darkened room being an old fuddy-duddy. I'm on vacation for Spring Break, you see, and while college and high-school students from all over the country are flocking to Palm Springs, Daytona Beach, and other MTV-covered hotspots, I am immured at home, catching up on my sleep and reading. And that's not just my age talking... when I was young, you never would have caught me in a hotspot on Spring Break, you would have found me right here in this same room doing the same thing (except that when I was in high-school, there was no internet, and blogs weren't invented until well after I left college, so I would have had to write all this to you in a letter).

I have always stopped myself short of doing things that might have consequence, such as getting a tattoo or driving drunk or opening a joint bank account with someone I might break up with or moving far enough away from home that I couldn't easily get back. Prudence has always been my middle name.

Well, not always... when I was fifteen I did something that had consequences: I stole my grandfather's credit cards and carefully made it look like he'd lost them, and then got caught with them while shoplifting a black snakeskin envelope-clutch handbag that went so well with the black-and-white silk dress and black fox-tail-trimmed cape I'd just bought with Grandpa's stolen Emporium-Capwell card (I would have charged it, too, but the service was too slow and I was in a hurry). And of course my nonperformance in public school had consequences aplenty.

But none of these consequences were lasting. Sure I got no allowance for two years as I paid back the money for the things that couldn't be returned, and Grandmother didn't trust me any further than she could throw me for quite some time; and when I finally did start back into my education, I was able to completely erase my high-school performance by performing well in community college. So all I lost were two years of trust and seven years of youth (and the youth wasn't a complete loss, I "sowed my wild oats," what little there were of them, so I didn't have to waste time in college on being young).

Of course there was a certain amount of luck involved: I was lucky I didn't pick up any diseases while I was sowing my oats (and reaping the oats of others), I was lucky I never got hurt when I was wandering home drunk of an evening. But the rest of my lack of consequences was purely due to that little voice in my head that stopped me from doing things that had consequences: Miss Prudence.

Prudence and practicality are classic Capricorn traits, so I suppose I should just accept the written-in-the-stars inevitability of those traits and try to enjoy them. They have stood me in good stead, certainly (it's nice to be this age and have no children, no divorces, no serious debts, no diseases, and no tattoos), and have been beneficial to my friends and family as well (because you know perfectly well that I never keep good advice to myself).

It is not Miss Prudence, though, who prevents me from doing things that other people consider fun, like going to hotspots on Spring Break. It is part laziness, part homebodiness, and part poverty. I need the rest, and yesterday I took such an incredibly deep nap that I actually dreamed I was taking a nap while I was taking a nap, thereby increasing exponentially my napping accomplishment. And going on trips is so seldom restful to me, there is always something to do and see in a new place, as well as all the hassle of getting there and back. Not to mention the expense... my frivolities of late have left me with very little in the kitty to take Spring Break trips with.

So here I sit, not partying, or even vacationing in the proper sense of the word, just laying about and reading (I'm now on my third novel of the week, The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, and enjoying it immensely) and watching movies and eating and sleeping. It's who I am.

And in the meantime, I can pretend to be the sort of person who goes places on Spring Break, without any of the hassle. And I can watch MTV's Spring Break coverage. Still, I wouldn't mind being in the vicinity of this sort of thing for a few days (if I had comfortable accomodations and didn't have to walk very far to get to it):

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