"Have fun" should not be a rule

A lot of summer camps, youth groups, and other activities have a “have fun” rule.

The implied message is usually: This is a fun place. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. Fix your attitude and have fun doing the fun activities.

Sometimes “have fun” rules are explicit. Sometimes they’re more implicit, and come in forms like: making people sing a song every day about how much they love camp, announcements about “we’re all having so much fun!”, or whatever else.

The problem with this is: nothing is fun for everyone. People have the right to feel how they feel about things. It’s really degrading to tell an unhappy person that they should just feel some other way.

“Have fun” rules are especially problematic for many disabled people.

Because — most programs are not fully accessible, even when they think they are. Most of us expect to encounter activities that are inaccessible in ways that make participation impossible — or that make them no fun.

And often, initially fun activities are ruined when someone treats you in a degrading way or says something awful about disability.

Being left out when everyone else is having fun is bad enough. When there’s a “have fun” rule, it’s even worse. Not only are you hurt by the exclusion, you’re told that you’re violating the rules by being hurt and unhappy.

“Have fun” rules make it really hard to solve these problems, because they make it risky to admit that you’re not having a good time.

“Have fun” rules make problems harder to solve, even when the problem has a straightforward solution. All the more so when the problem is complicated. (Or only has a partial solution.)

“Have fun” rules actually make things a lot less fun.







 chavisory answered: If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer

realsocialskills said:

That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too. 

A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.

And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.

Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.

lady-brain said:

I would suggest, if you are a host, letting all invitees know ahead of time explicitly whether or not there will be alcohol (or drugs, or anything else people might want to avoid or be forewarned about) at your event.

I’m a sober alcoholic, I appreciate knowing whether there will be alcohol so I can make the decision whether or not I am able to attend the event. I understand when people require alcohol/other substances to socialize/feel safe (especially since I used it for anxiety myself), so I know that not all my spaces can be alcohol-free, and I don’t require that. What I do require is a heads-up, because I am not comfortable around alcohol all the time, around all people, in all locations. It depends, and I need to make the call myself. I can’t do that if I don’t have that information.

realsocialskills said:

I agree this is an important thing to do, but I don’t know of a polite way to do it. Do you know of one?

Mystrich said:

First of all, please do not ever ever use alcohol as a way to handle your anxiety. It makes anxiety worse in the long run.

Second of all: It’s pretty simple, just put “No Alcohol Allowed/No Alcohol Please.” I don’t think anyone will take offense to that. Or “There will be alcohol.” I see that on most party invites/facebook events.

realsocialskills said:

Oh dear, I just realized it could look like I was endorsing that comment. I was actually not paying attention to that part of it because I don’t understand uses of alcohol well enough to comment on any of them.

(And since I don’t understand, I’m probably not going to be having a discussion here on uses of alcohol any time soon - I’m not qualified to moderate it and I don’t want to have a lot of things I don’t understand on my blog.)

Getting back to the issue of alerting people. I think it’s easier to say that there won’t be alcohol than that there will be. The problem with saying that there will be alcohol is that it can sound like it’s a drunken party even when what you really mean is that it’s a dinner and some people might have a beer or glass of wine or two.

I’m not sure what to do about that.

lady-brain said:

Going to be honest, that person can actually fuck off with “First of all, please do not ever ever use alcohol as a way to handle your anxiety”!! Like, not their place to ever say that to anybody, ever. Here’s a social skill lesson: if you think you are allowed to just decide what other people can and cannot use for anxiety/dysphoria/etc and feel the right to voice your opinion- you’re wrong! That’s concern trolling and that’s a shitty thing to do and it’s not anybody else’s business what other people need to do to cope. That person literally said to me, a sober alcoholic who’s been through the whole “being an alcoholic” thing, “you did a thing and I have decided the thing is wrong to me so I’m judging you on it” and if they think that’s at all an appropriate thing to say to me they are not a nice person and I don’t have to accept their opinion at all.

As for telling people there will be alcohol- literally just say, “by the way, we’re going to be having drinks, but we’re providing!” or “we’re going to be having drinks, feel free to bring something you like” or “everyone’s invited to bring their favourite wine” or “we’re going to have some casual drinks on the deck” or “we’re going to have a wine and cheese thing on Thursday” or “we’re going out for drinks at the bar afterwards” or any number of ways to say “there will be alcohol”. Damn, just say “there will be alcohol”. If you’re more afraid of sounding like an alcoholic than helping an actual alcoholic with her boundaries, maybe you aren’t mature enough to be drinking anyways.

realsocialskills said:

You are absolutely right about that comment; it was horrid concern trolling. I don’t know what I was thinking reblogging that. I’m sorry. I will be more careful in the future.

Your suggestions for how to politely warn people about alcohol are good.

My concern about “There will be alcohol” isn’t that it makes the host look like an alcoholic; it’s that it can be taken as an indication that drunkenness is welcome and that it would be ok to bring and consume large amounts of hard drinks. When people have that impression, it can mess up a gathering really badly really quickly.

That said, I agree with you that saying “there will be alcohol” is much better than saying nothing, especially if you know it might be a problem for one of the people you’re inviting.