Enough Fun!

When I was a pre-teen, like most kids, I wanted to have fun. This meant movies, sleepovers, or parties at friend’s houses. But I had to get permission from my mother first, who was always pretty cool about it unless it was too many consecutive nights in a row. As follows (in Heblish):

“Mom, can Ilana sleep over tonight?”


“Why not?”

“She slept over last night.”

“But I want her to. Why not?” Waah!

“Because. Enough fun.”

The word for “Enough” in Hebrew is “Maspeek,” so “Maspeek Fun!” became the ingrained maxim, along with, “Tell me, how much fun can a person have?”

Lots, it turns out.

So with my fun having been moderated, mostly during high school, where a strict religious education enforced the rules of “being good” I made sure to make up for it when I grew up. And by grew-up, I don’t mean matured. It’s more like I grew-down. When I separated from my ex-husband at 34 years old and moved back to New York, I had fun with a vengeance.

I was single and free in New York City, unmoored by a relationship for the first time in my adult life (I had been with my ex since college). I woke up and went to sleep when I felt like it, blow dried my hair at full volume without worrying about waking anyone up, traveled, shopped, dated, ate and drank as I pleased without having to check in with anyone. I was living the twenties I had lost, at maximum volume; tasting and trying on the experiences I had missed out on, a kind of Twenties bootcamp. Some people might call this having fun, a blast. I liked to call it “cultivating independence.”

But like my mother wisely warned, fun has its shelf life. I work in sales, and when I started that job almost five years ago, sales was tantamount to going out, wining and dining – with the emphasis on wine. The earnings I brought in for my company, and into my own pocket, were directly linked to how many people I got to know (drank with) in the advertising industry. And it worked. I not only made a lot of connections and helped boost my company’s earnings, I also made some life long friends in the process. But as most urbanites know, especially you New Yorkers, this “process” revolves around drinking, not mountain climbing. “Meet for a drink?” is a question more common than, “How you doin?” in this city, but especially in my industry. And the parties flowing with free alcohol are a constant, and considered “part of the job.” Drinking became synonymous with fun, without my noticing its effect.


Until recently.

As a recently married woman in her early 40’s with the desire to have a family, it’s time, maybe even overdue, to break some habits – and that includes the drinking one. I’m not going to sit here, a fragrant mug of tea in hand, and say that it’s been easy. It’s hard, it’s inconvenient, but mostly, it’s not what you’d call fun. It’s not fun to meet a friend at a wine bar for a club soda with lime (the added flair of lime is pointless, by the way). It’s not fun to meet for a tea after work. It’s not fun to hold court with clients at a hip Soho bistro and drink a virgin-mojito where instead of a buzz you leave with mint leaves stuck in your teeth.

But what I’ve discovered in all this is the importance of “the big picture” over the small immediate one. Drinking is fun when you’re doing it, but the after effects are not. The after effects of having not had wine the night before are: 1) A good night’s sleep.  2) An increase in morning productivity.  3) More cozy evening time with my husband.  4) Cooking for myself and my husband (reheating leftovers my sister or mother gave me counts).  5) Excellent TV binge watching (omg, “The Fall” is brilliant).  6) Maintaining all of my virtual and telephone relationships.  7) Less anxiety over small problems, and more confidence when facing the big ones. 8) No psychosomatic fears that every ache and kvetch signals the onset of a terminal illness, and 9) An uptick in sales. I was worried that reducing my external facing time with clients, a proven pre-cursor to financial success, would hamper my productivity and output, but to my pleasant surprise, it’s the opposite. Maybe all the fun-seeds I planted in my first few years are continuing to sprout, maybe the universe is assuring me that it’s ok, or maybe it was never about the extreme socializing at all.

But it’s not really about drinking, or having fun, but rather what those behaviors can sometimes be a manifestation of. Escape. Escape from feeling; escape from paying attention to the twists of discomfort in your gut where something feels off. Escaping from the fear of having to confront life’s obstacles and challenges naked, without the mask for protection, like we did when we were kids. When we were kids on the first day of school, our teachers or parents shooed us into the playground: “Go play! Go make friends!” We were shy, perhaps we were scared, but we did it. And then later when we discovered alcohol, pot, or what have you, we realized, “Oh, this is so much easier!” Mostly, those masks enable us to escape the scariest realization of all, the looming inevitability of growing up.

So in a way, I’ve had some growing pains. I’m graduating, finally, to the necessary next step. Of preparing myself to be a mother. Of nesting and making a home that is warm, stable, and safe for my husband and me. Preparing not just our home in a physical sense by looking for a larger apartment, but preparing ourselves – emotionally and mentally.

And you know what? I’m having a blast.









11 replies
  1. Balancing Jane
    Balancing Jane says:

    The idea of “enough fun” is an interesting one. I think you’re spot on about the moment of fun while drinking and the lack of fun in the after effects as well as how we can use fun to escape. But I don’t know that you’re giving up fun when you give up the drinking. Binge watching a good TV show is stil fun, just a different kind. And when you wanted your friend to stay the night multiple nights in a row as a kid, you weren’t hiding from friendship, you were just experiencing that type of intense friendship that usually only happens when you’re younger.

    Maybe it’s not that we can get “enough” fun, but that we need to vary up the type of fun we’re having.

    • cougel
      cougel says:

      Vary up the fun, indeed. And learning how to do so. Great point. Perhaps that in itself is part of the pain in growing pains! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Michele
    Michele says:

    An inspiring post. I love this idea of redefining “fun” because I am someone for whom the downside of drinking always outweighs the upside, yet, here in NYC, it can be hard to be the one who’s passing on the wine. Love reading your blog!

  3. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I think it’s so interesting that “enough fun” became part of your vernacular growing up. If networking and socializing are part of your job, (and it is mine as well) the lines become blurred– especially when having a few drinks with people cuts through time and space and creates bonds that might not form if you were having a cup of tea. Of course, if we have that job in the first place, we are social people and can create bonds naturally, but drinking inserts a certain kind of “glue”–people are vulnerable and confident (more attractive!) at the same time and it just cuts through the barriers faster. It also creates hangovers and puking and regret (even when the night went beautifully it seems) so it’s a double edged sword. You sound like you are thoughtfully and carefully finding a balance in a terrain that is difficult for everyone to navigate. Great post. Very relatable.

  4. Mike Lobikis
    Mike Lobikis says:

    “Maybe all the fun-seeds I planted in my first few years are continuing to sprout.”

    I think you nailed it right here.

    Also, I think the industry has become a bit more “adult,” for better or worse, since ~2009. The ROI for clients is so trackable now, and the excess has been reeled in a bit, resulting in a (slightly) more conservative industry.

    Or maybe I’m just not out partying enough to realize that this isn’t true at all?

    • cougel
      cougel says:

      Funny, Mike. Well whatever it is – true or not – it makes me feel better, So thanks 🙂 And great to hear from you and thank you for reading.

  5. Antonia
    Antonia says:

    Life is truly such an incredible journey. And anyone reading this post above – do yourself a favor and do click on the “Twenties Bootcamp” link.
    “I actually don’t think lessons crystallize until they’re called into effect, when you’re faced with a dilemma that requires an emergency visit with your gut.”
    Sounds like the lessons above are being called… and I do so very much love the wisdom they are bringing.

  6. YLB
    YLB says:

    As usual a beautiful mix of humor with a deep and poignant reality check! You are a writer blessed with the gifts of wit, creativity, and brilliant messages

  7. Nanners
    Nanners says:

    I can very much relate. The ad industry drinking socializing excess feels to me like it’s maybe uncomfortably shifting, maybe trying to grow up… As are we, ha, and having a family certainly is helping me find what that means!


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