When you finish a return with Turbo Tax, you are offered the option of completing a questionnaire about the experience. This has historically been pretty dry, but for 2014, somebody got creative.
“Thinking about preparing and filing your taxes, how would you rate your overall experience with TurboTax?” The answer continuum ran from “Not Impressive” to “Awesome.” Yes, you read that correctly. Awesome.
Another question wanted to know at what point in the process something “delightful” happened. Delightful? My answer, of course, was “Never.” It’s tax preparation software, not a hot fudge sundae.
But I got to thinking about the way people perceive things, and how often we are asked to believe that something is really fun when in fact it is tedious drudgery.
And how we are indoctrinated from an early age, forming all sorts of hidden memories that surface when we become parents ourselves. At which point, we continue the dastardly chain by pawning off all manner of chores on our children when they are too young to know any better.
“Let’s shovel snow!” “Let’s see how many dandelions we can pull!” “Let’s scrub-a-dub-dub the bathroom!”
It’s faux fun, and it’s scary how easily you can buy into it.
For the record, my own list of faux fun is topped by exercise and housework.
I have always believed exercise to be the devil’s handiwork, though I do grudgingly complete minimal amounts of it and have actually paid to belong to a gym. It was a women-only gym that was bought out by a big glitzy place with huge plasma TVs playing sports, frequented by buff young hardbodies strutting their stuff. I took a refund on the rest of my membership in—had to fight for it, actually, as I recall—in the late lamented ladies gym, and never looked back.
Exercise is often touted as a way to experience endorphins, and for those lucky enough to have achieved that nirvana, I congratulate you. But since I personally have only encountered endorphins on the printed page, I have to agree with the friend who says exercise is only fun when you’re through.
As for housework, do I really need to elaborate?
I recently watched some housework-related related YouTube commercial videos from my childhood. In these commercials, housewives in crisp shirtwaists and perky aprons positively glistened with enthusiasm as they discovered new miracle cleansers. They emulated orgasm with bleach-and-toxin-riddled laundry detergent, sold in boxes the size of Rhode Island. And I don’t even want to talk about what happened once Mr. Clean came on the scene.
I am descended from a long line of indifferent housekeepers and if anything, my standards have grown higher as I age. Also my standards took a significant jump when my daughter become engaged to the son of a health inspector.
But that does not mean that I consider housework fun, or that I ever will.
I asked some friends about their experiences with faux fun, and got fascinating responses.
Reunions. Baby showers. Visiting relatives you barely know or don’t like. Tupperware, Amway, Pampered Chef—those awkward gatherings where you are expected to arrive with a checkbook and to feign enthusiasm for arcane kitchen paraphernalia.
Then somebody mentioned New Year’s Eve. This struck me as odd until I stopped to think about it. Because both my parents had worked in the Emergency Room on multiple New Year’s Eves, they never left the house on December 31. Which would have been fine, except that I had some kind of Stork Club-based notions about what constitutes proper welcoming of a New Year. (Every December when we watch Holiday Inn, I recognize those New Year’s Eve scenes as a prototype of that fantasy, which has never coincided with my actual life.)
I started making canapés at a tender age with oddball bar and hors d’oeuvre paraphernalia that my parents had received as late forties wedding gifts, but I don’t remember a lot of specific New Year’s Eves. One I do recall was the first I spent with the guy who would eventually become my husband, featuring a bottle of sparkling burgundy and his high school fraternity pin. Another was the college year we drove forty miles in eighteen-below weather to a party in the Chicago suburbs where we knew maybe three people.
After that, matters leap pretty directly to the most recent turn of the century when a dear friend hosted a party to welcome a millennium I wish she had lived to see more of. Mostly, however, I have turned into my parents and never go anywhere, celebrating at home when it’s twelve o’clock somewhere.
The friend who mentioned New Year’s Eve noted two exceptions: “One was watching a Twilight Zone marathon in a nice motel on the southern Oregon Coast during a big storm with my husband and wine and snacks. One was a lobster dinner at your house in Chicago.”
Hard to argue with that motel on the Oregon Coast, but who knew that my family’s idiosyncratic holiday celebrations would become somebody else’s memories? Particularly when I didn’t even remember that occasion, other than that it must have been during college.
And then, just like that, another friend trumped her. “I’ll second you New Year’s Eve and raise you Valentine’s Day.”
Faux fun. Who can get enough of it?