Sean Moncrieff: ‘Organised fun gives me the skin-crawling heebie-jeebies’

I don’t understand whimsy

“I understand why children might want to dress up and pretend to be adults, but can’t understand why adults would wish to dress up as other adults.” Photograph: Getty Images

“I understand why children might want to dress up and pretend to be adults, but can’t understand why adults would wish to dress up as other adults.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

In our day-to-day interactions, there is some information we shouldn’t have to volunteer. 

For instance, life would be unmanageable if we couldn’t assume that other people are telling the truth and saying what they think. Yet every now and again you’ll meet someone who seems to have a chronic need to tell you how relentlessly frank and honest they are. They will pepper their conversation with declarations such as: I always say what I think. No BS about me.

I don’t want to claim this as some eternal verity, but in my experience such people are usually the opposite of what they describe: often brimming with BS and misleading both themselves and anyone who listens to them.

Another unbidden self-description to be treated with scepticism is: I’ve got a great sense of humour. Sadly, it’s often an indication of the opposite. This poor soul is usually bereft of whatever set of synapses it is that makes us see things as funny. Not that they don’t try. They smile when others do. Occasionally, they’ll attempt a joke: which will end up sounding more like an insult. For them, the arrival of humour in a group setting is akin to everyone suddenly speaking in Serbo-Croatian. And this must be difficult, given that so many of our interactions depend upon humour. Even more terrifying would be admitting this to others. You don’t see No sense of humour on many Tinder profiles.

But my intention here is not to be cruel: we all have our shortcomings; things we simply don’t understand. I don’t understand whimsy. 

Not long ago, a Welsh student named Tom Kelross posted an invitation on his Facebook page for people to attend a picnic in the company of their Henry Vacuum Cleaners. (You know, the ones with the faces). The idea wasn’t to do any cleaning or stage some sort of hoover battle. The idea was just to sit on the grass and eat sandwiches in the company of an inanimate household device. 

I just don’t get it. However, many did get it. About 37,000 people expressed an intention to attend: so many that the event had to be cancelled due to issues of insurance and crowd control. Still don’t get it. I understand that in the pub one could say to one’s friends: wouldn’t it be funny if we went on a picnic with our Henrys? It might be funny in that moment, but in the execution would quickly become embarrassing and stupid. 

I feel the same about fancy dress. Don’t get it. I understand why children might want to dress up and pretend to be adults, but can’t understand why adults would wish to dress up as other adults. Is this because they wish to reclaim their childhood by pretending to be a child pretending to be an adult? Is it because of some profound dissatisfaction with who they are?

Fancy dress also seems to be connected to annoying puns, the procedure being that you have to be asked why you are wearing a cornflakes box as a hat and carrying a knife: so you can reply, I’m a cereal killer geddit?? Oh dear.

Perhaps my discomfort with fancy dress is something to do with how it has to be organised: and organised fun gives me the skin-crawling heebie-jeebies. I find it forced, even Orwellian in the way it is prescribed and scheduled. You shall start laughing . . . now!

I can already hear the howls of protest: that I’m a grumpy old expletive, squirting my bile at those flaunting a happiness I will never achieve. The problem isn’t with fun, organised or not. The problem is you, Moncrieff. You’re anti-fun. 

But I’m not. I’m very much pro-fun. Always have been. Ask anyone. When I meet new people, that’s always the first thing I tell them.

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