I am pretty good at a couple of things, but I am REALLY good at nothing. In fact, I am kind of an expert. No matter how many things there are on my to-do list, I always like to spend at least one day off doing approximately none of them. Sure, I wake up thinking I will get a lot done, that I will get dressed and leave the house after I listen to this record, that this will be a short nap before grocery shopping, that I will be in a better state of mind to clean my room after watching every available episode of Bob’s Burgers on Hulu. But none of this is true. Laziness is my raison d’être. Doing something is cool, but doing nothing is an art.
It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade that I discovered the beautiful world of nothing. My mom finally let me stay home by myself. It was a very exciting development in my life and, except for the two times that some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on the door and I froze with terror (why?!), I felt like I was truly the queen of my castle. I need to point out that this was before everyone had computers, so I had to try a lot harder in order to masterfully do nothing. (You don’t know how good you have it, being able to spend hours on Tumblr looking at pictures of One Direction, amiright?)
I would wake up between 11 AM and noon and eat a giant bowl of cereal while watching Whose Line Is It Anyway?, a British improv show that ran on Comedy Central pretty much all day, before switching to Saturday Night Live marathons all evening. These programs became the background noise for important non-tasks like reading magazines, sketching, and talking on the phone. I would bring all my “supplies” into the living room in the morning so that whenever I wanted to “change activities,” I didn’t need to stand up from the chair to do so. (This made my mom very mad when she came home from work, because everything was a mess.) I would spice things up by watching MTV or VH1–back then they played music videos–and when I talked on the phone with my best friend, it was important that we both watched the same thing so that we could talk about it, of course. Around four, I would get hungry and eat another bowl of cereal or my favorite snack ever, which is a piece of bologna or ham wrapped around a banana. It is important to note that at no point in the course of the day did I change into real clothes. Changing clothes is trying, and this is certainly not a piece about trying.
Then the summer Olympics started, and yeah, the Olympics are fun and whatever, but this particular year–1996, in Atlanta–was magical, because it was the year that the American gymnastics team, dubbed “The Magnificent Seven,” won everything, INCLUDING OUR HEARTS, when Kerri Strug earned the team gold even though she had screwed up her ankle real bad. (Watch the video, it is amazing.) I got to watch it unfold at the same time as everyone else, so I was participating in this WORLD event that was designed to bring us all together. This allowed me to feel like I was being lazy in my house without missing out on life. I was engaging in current events. What I’m saying is, the Olympics are happening this month! Watch them! Watch them at your house, in your pajamas, with an assortment of snacks at your disposal. It is your Earthling duty.
Snacks are essential to doing nothing all day. If you like to cook, that’s OK, because cooking for yourself counts more as “sustenance” than “activity.” During the summer when I was 14, I discovered Great Chefs, which aired on the Discovery Channel between four and five in the afternoon, so by dinnertime, I was ready to experiment in the kitchen. Not that I was cooking the things I saw on TV, because I am not some kind of kitchen savant. It would just make me look in my refrigerator to see what actual foods I could put together. This is how I acquired my no-fail fish-cooking skills (add a shit-ton of butter, some garlic, and maybe a lemon if you have one). I also recommend that you keep the kitchen stocked with ice cream, at least two different kinds of cereal (one of them blatantly unhealthy), cookies, cheese (string cheese if you want to minimize your effort), soda, and milk (for the cookies and the cereal). For special occasions, get one of those Sara Lee chocolate layer cakes that you find in the refrigerated section in the grocery store, and a special occasion is anything you want it to be, because it’s summer and you’re the boss of you.
In the midst of not doing anything, you can always do something you love, which shouldn’t really count. I mean stuff like reading your collection of comic books and old magazines from beginning to end, or watching an entire television series (I recommend X-Files). For instance, I recorded all my favorite music videos and live musical performances and then had to painstakingly update my records, which were loose pages of ruled binder paper stapled together detailing everything that was on each VHS tape. (OK, not that you would ever do this today, but I am just giving you A GLIMPSE INTO THE PAST!)
This is also a good time to start a variety of art projects, like making your own clothes, collaging, zines, etc. You might be thinking, wait, that’s doing SOMETHING, and you’d be right, except you are not going to be very diligent about doing this. You’ll roll out of bed at whatever hour and watch TV, and then take a long bath (because you’ve cut down bathing to twice a week), and then you’ll make yourself a sandwich while experimenting with a variety of toppings (mayo and ranch dressing, YES!), and then you’ll watch more TV, and then your parents will come home and be like, “What did you do?,” and you’ll say, “You know, stuff,” and then your parents go to sleep and you make yourself a midnight snack (ice cream), and THEN you start working on your art project, and you do this until, like, 3 AM, when you go to bed. But there’ll be other nights when you’re out with your friends or there’s a really good movie on TV or you have a crush that needs your undivided online attention, so by the end of the summer, your project probably won’t be done but, like, you could’ve finished it if you wanted to, you know?
I don’t get lazy summer days anymore. Now that I’m a grownup with a job, summer is just a time when I feel hotter as opposed to a time of freedom and fun. BUT I still get to enjoy my laziness one day a week and when I get home from work and when, say, I have to turn in a piece for Rookie but accidentally fall into a Wikipedia hole (sorry, editors). The thing is, and you knew this was coming: indulging in nothing can be fun, but don’t let The Nothing take over your life! The best thing about doing nothing is doing it after you’ve spent a lot of time doing everything that needs to be done, because the truth is that after a few of my doing-nothing days, I started feeling a little guilty and blue, and that’s no good. Although this helps light a fire under your butt, so it all works out, and thus is the magic of summer. You’ve worked SO hard all year, doing homework, writing papers, and putting up with other people’s rules, and now you finally get a chance to just do you. Lazy summer days are all about being your own Destiny’s Child and catering to you, ’cause you sure as hell deserve it. ♦