In the past year I’ve taken up the game of pool. It started as a pastime, progressed to a hobby, and has now inconveniently lodged itself into my head as an obsession. I find myself craving the crack of the break if I haven’t racked a game in the past 72 hours.
The joke is: I’m not even that good, despite playing at least twice a week for the past year. I’m still mediocre at best (I do realize this might stem from the fact that I typically play while drinking a beer or two, but let’s look past that, shall we?).
So, why the obsession?
Because of the play.
There is no practical purpose to me playing pool. Instead, I am participating in something that is purely enjoyable to me, with no productive consequence — unless I were to get better at the game, which is proving to be such a slow process one could barely consider it a consequence at all.
Despite lack of progress, my mind craves the meditative bliss that playing pool provides.
Adulthood comes with demented forms of play. Most adult forms of “play” or “recreation” have a hidden goal. From self-care Sundays, to reading The New York Times, to attending a spin or barre class, our play has morphed into “play-with-an-ulterior-motive.” Whether it’s better skin, a higher butt or to be primed with a few smart and zingy articles for you to smugly reference the next time you find yourself swimming in the thick malaise of cocktail conversation.
I suppose sex for pleasure is the ultimate adult form of play — but that comes with a shit ton of emotional baggage, no?
Remember when the recess bell would ring and you would sprint full tilt towards the playground to do nothing but play? I think that exuberance for doing nothing of consequence is currently missing in a lot of adult lives.
This month on DORÉ we’re discussing all things slow living. Among many things, slow living puts play first. It’s the last month of summer and we want it to count and to feel as long and luxurious as a summer dinner where the candle wax drips onto the table, but nobody flinches to fix it.
Garance and I chatted via FaceTime last week, during which I asked how her summer was going. She enthusiastically replied, “I’m having the best summer doing nothing!”
Amen. We want more of nothing. Because it’s in that nothingness where you’ll surprisingly find a lot of answers to questions about yourself you didn’t even know you needed to ask.
This past week, I discovered another benefit to pool.
I spent a few days traveling in Detroit by myself, wandering the city by day and dive bars by night. By the end of each day I couldn’t bear to listen to another podcast or read another word from my book. I needed an in-person-real-life conversation with prolonged eye contact and belly laughs.
Easiest way to a conversation? Find a bar with a pool table. Voila. I immediately had a rag-tag set of drinking buddies and conversationalists for the night.
These were my vacation friends. You know who’s great at making vacation friends? Kids. Because they haven’t forgotten how to play.
Remember when you were nine years old and your parents pawned you off to the lifeguard on duty so they could enjoy their mai tai and Dan Brown novel in peace? Next thing you know, you’re in a handstand competition with other kids you’ve never met but feel an instant kinship with.
Vacation friends occur when everyone in situation is simply there to play.
So let’s all do a little more slow living this month, and play.