This is the second post in my “The Story Of My Mother” series. And even though in my first post, I declared my intention to keep this series chronological, I’m already straying here. It’s just too impossible to share about my mother in any linear way. So I’m going to lean into the organic flow, and share some details with you about her zany personality in this post.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of fun. Who I tend to have fun with? Am I fun? Where do I get my sense of fun from? And what do I consider to be fun? And the more I think about it, the more I have come to believe a few things about fun.
1. I DON’T BELIEVE EVERYONE CONSIDERS HAVING FUN AS A VALUABLE PRIORITY IN LIFE.
I’ll just mention here that I do think some of this comes from cultural upbringing as well as gender stereotypes. And keeping fun as a low priority in life doesn’t necessarily align with a human being’s soul. Sometimes people have had to learn from a very early age that fun will get them into trouble or will bring on judgement. And so this poses the question about whether or not fun is a human desire that everyone feels, but perhaps not everyone has the privilege of pursuing or even experiencing.
2. I KNOW THAT I AM A FUN PERSON AND THAT I COME FROM A FUN-LOVING FAMILY.
3. NOT EVERYONE THINKS OF FUN IN THE SAME WAY AND EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT IDEAS OF FUN.
4. FOR THE MOST PART, ALCOHOLICS (RECOVERING OR ACTIVE) ARE A TON OF FUN, WHETHER OR NOT I LIKE TO ADMIT THIS. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T KNOW, MY MOTHER WAS AN ACTIVE ALCOHOLIC FOR MOST OF HER LIFE.
When I look back over my life and think about the funnest times I’ve ever had, including times with girlfriend, guy friends, and family members, these times have always been with addict-type people. When I’m with an addict-type, we could be parking a car and listening to a song and feel like the world is on fire with love. Or, we could be walking through a grocery store just looking at makeup. But for whatever reason, it’s so much more fun with an alcoholic or addict.
Let me be clear and say that my mother was an active alcoholic and the times when she was drunk were some of the worst moments of my life. So, I’m mostly talking about recovering addicts here. People who perhaps have addictive personalities, or who practice 12-Steps of recovery from addiction. Addicts are not just people who are addicted to substances. As I come from a family of addicts, I’m very familiar with the various nuances of addiction. And there is a personality type that seems to go along with the majority of addicts. And this personality often involves a bit of edginess, rebelliousness, and love of fun.
I actually hate being around drunk people and people under the influence of any substance. I find it very triggering. However, because I was raised by addicts, I’m very familiar with the personality type and find that almost every person I’ve ever been close to in my life, including now, has some kind of experience with some form of addiction. Even if it’s rather mild in nature. It’s just what I tend to be attracted to, and I can’t seem to help it, even though I try!
My mother at the top, me on the left, my twin sister in the center, and my half sister on the right.
I think my sisters and I have always been fun AF and have always valued fun. We love to dance and sing, and we don’t really care if we look ridiculous, ugly, or un-lady like when we’re having fun.
MY MOTHER DOES NOT SEEM LIKE A FUN PERSON AT FIRST GLANCE
The way I talk about my mother and her life, you would think she was this extroverted woman with a strong presence. But no, not really. Her presence in my life has been profoundly powerful. And I do believe her presence in everyone’s life was always very strong and influential. However, she was actually a very quiet thing. I witnessed her raising her voice about five times over the course of my entire life. And she was always very physically docile, gentle, and perhaps even a bit fragile.
She was oh so sensitive as a human being. A sensitive Pisces, always dreamy and seemingly off in another land with only one foot planted in this realm. And even though my sisters and I are all incredible dancers, my mother had zero dance skills. I remember nights of blasting music and dancing all around the house, and my mother would try to join in. Yet she was so terribly awful and had no rhythm. I can recall her adorably trying so hard to just find the beat. And my sisters and I would end up laughing at her because we actually thought she was just being silly trying to dance terribly on purpose. But one time she broke down crying about it. Her feelings were really hurt, and we all realized that she actually just couldn’t dance.
Mom 16, mixed media on paper, 2002 © Libby Saylor
MY MOTHER IS THE ZANIEST HUMAN EVER
I think my mother secretly wished she was an actress. Or maybe she just wished she was another person with another life. Either way, she seemed to have the ability to drop into whacky characters at any given moment. And as a teenage girl, it freaked me the ef out and humiliated me to no end. However, looking back, I see so much of myself and my sisters in this aspect of her. And I appreciate it so much, and recognize how rare this can be, especially for women.
Women, for the most part, no matter what generation, have been raised to behave in a certain way. And beauty and desirability are essentially what we have been taught to lead with. So, a woman acting like a complete zane in public, or even in the privacy of her own home, is actually rather rebellious.
My mother grew up in such a stuffy 1960’s time, learning all the etiquette rules of Emily Post, and trying every day to be her most beautiful self. And I wonder if she just got tired of it sometimes. And in moments, she just let herself go.
Never before have I been more mortified by my mother than on Halloween, 1992. My mother, my twin sister, and I were going to her friend’s house for a casual Halloween party. So it was really no big deal. And we hadn’t really planned out our costumes very well. So my mother just decided to put together some kind of nondescript fortune-teller kind of character. She literally took out all of the scarves she owned and wrapped them around her body. Then added jewelry and some intense makeup, and emerged from her bedroom, practically ghost-like in movement.
The costume was fairly convincing for a thrown-together look. But what really made me realize the enormity of my mother’s zaniness were the words emerging from her mouth. I actually don’t even believe she used words. Instead, she just uttered nonsensical syllables and phrases with a flat and monotone voice. I think she was just trying to be somewhat mystical, but also comedic. But it just came across as strange. A strange woman, wrapped in strange scarves, making strange voices.
She kept a straight face for the entire evening, never breaking character. She stayed this way in the car ride to the party and all throughout the party. Okay, maybe she deviated a bit once she got the laughs she wanted. But wow, she scared me. Her conviction to absurdity was appalling to my teenage sense of self. And on that evening, I wished I had any other mother but her.
Halloween ca. 1992
I’M GRATEFUL TO MY MOTHER FOR TEACHING ME THE VALUE OF FUN
It’s not like my mom ever sat me down and told me how important fun is. She just always loved acting goofy. Even right up until the end of her life. And now as a 42-year-old grown woman, I find myself having fun in moments. And feeling rather disappointed when the people I’m around aren’t up for fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m some kind of party animal. I love serious talks and serious times, I really do. But I don’t think I could really keep someone very close to me if I wasn’t able to have a bit of fun with them on a regular basis.
Fun for me might just look like breaking into a little dance when a fun song comes on the radio. I recall a friend of mine and I went to an amazing free concert in Central Park when I was living in New York City. And the whole night I wanted the band to play my favorite song. But they didn’t play the song until my friend and I had exited the concert. But since the concert was outside, even though we were walking away, we could still hear the music. And I stopped and started dancing in place while the song played. Without giving it a second thought, my friend joined in as well. Then we walked across town to eat McDonald’s together. To this day, it was one of the funnest moments of my entire life. I’ll never forget it. I felt so alive and it was so spontaneous. It’s the stuff that a magical life is made of!
THANK YOU FOR READING!
So, how do you value fun? Do you consider your mother to be a fun person? Do you consider yourself to be a fun person? And where do you think you get your sense of fun from? Do you suppress the urge to have fun for fear of what others will think? This is such a vast topic, I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks! xo
I’m not sure what year this was and I wasn’t with her for this one, but I believe this was another Halloween or costume party situation. No idea what she’s trying to be, but I’m guessing some kind of dignified scholar or Sherlock Holmes type???
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New York City photo by Timo Wagner on Unsplash