On Playing Hooky
The secret joy of walking on the mild side
I’ve always been entranced by the idea of playing hooky, and yet I admit that my natural temperament makes it almost impossible for me to enjoy the full hooky experience.
I’m a rule-follower and people-pleaser, always self-editing my behavior in advance of any perceived infraction.
I am my own warden.
My one and only experience skipping a class in high school proceeded – and ended – in typical fashion, when on a beautiful spring day I decided to skip my sixth-period class and instead took myself out onto the field hockey field to play. Already accepted into college and savoring my imagined special status as a well-known goody-two-shoes, I went as crazy as I was capable of going — which was not very far.
(Oh Young Amy — you have so very much to learn…)
Staying well within the school grounds and in full view of anyone looking out our bank of plate glass windows, I gamboled in the sun.
Our brand-new principal (who didn’t know me) saw me and pulled the vice-principal to the window in order to identify the scofflaw on the field. (I know this story because both men told me later — repeatedly, and over the course of many years.)
“Oh – that’s Amy,” the vice-principal said. “If she’s out there, then that’s where she is supposed to be.” The principal, ignorant of me but experienced in the universal behavior of teenagers on beautiful spring days, offered his colleague a $5 bet.
When I was nabbed, I was forced to watch the two men theatrically pull out their wallets to settle the bet.
The bright anthem of hooky, the movie Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, has always filled me with discomfort and actual anxiety. Young people leaving school and embarking on a path of fun and destruction in the name of freedom gives me hives to this day.
As adulthood descended and my personal responsibilities grew, I repressed any desire to be truant – even for an afternoon. “What if I get caught?” is a question I’ve worried over many times, never recognizing how very low the stakes are.
Now, as a self-employed adult, I play hooky quite often, and I view my own quite tepid experiences as somehow healthy expressions of abandon.
Last week I skipped a board meeting to go ice skating. In the winter I love to ice skate on local rinks and ponds, and I keep a pair of skates in the back of my car to take advantage of any opportunities.
(Sometimes, I bring my little partner-in-crime…)
On this particular day, as I approached the rink, I had a sudden change of heart and snuck off to the movies instead, doubling down by playing hooky from playing hooky. I went to the local Indy cinema to see “Empire of Light,” a film set in the 1980s about a movie theater on the coast of England.
I purchased a tub of popcorn and a massive soda and sat all alone in the otherwise empty theater. No one knew who I was, nobody knew where I was, and I was happily and briefly liberated from the long list of obligations I happily accept as my fate in this world.
One line uttered by the beleaguered main character (a woman beset by her own obligations) struck me:
“No one’s going to give you the life you want. You have to go out and get it.”
I suppose that a woman at my age and stage has to feel somewhat oppressed to wring so much happiness from moments of truancy as unassuming as mine are. But even so, my walks on the mild side provide me with a sense of freedom and flat-out joy that lasts long after I’ve returned to my little world.
RJ SAVAGE’S Junk Food: Stuff I Consume to Feel Better
Ferris Bueller’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
“If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Such is the oft-quoted guiding principle for life, according to Ferris Bueller. He’s not wrong, but his perspective—a privileged white male in the Chicago suburbs—could use a dash of reflection. Ferris cajoles his friends into hijinks that alter their lives and then he runs home, just in time for dinner, and to deliver his cheerful warning that, “Life moves pretty fast.”
For anyone who hasn’t seen the definitive playing-hooky movie: Our man Ferris uses a series of ruses and pranks to enjoin his hot girlfriend, Sloan, and his anxious friend, Cameron, in a romp-heavy day out in downtown Chicago. Cameron especially seems to need… something. He’s anxious and depressed, and riddled with rich boy daddy issues. [The actor, Alan Ruck, continues his privileged pathos in his latest turn as hapless eldest Roy-child, Connor, in HBO’s “Succession.”] So, Ferris shakes things up by badgering Cameron to take a field trip from his cocoon via Grand Theft Auto.
Perhaps it’s that I’ve softened in the past ten years or so. Perhaps it’s that the appeal of showy wealth has dulled. Perhaps it’s society’s more active conversation surrounding mental health. Whatever the “reason,” my reassessment of this seminal teen film is not altogether kind as, by the end, I’m left feeling concerned for Cameron’s safety. Like, for real; what do we think is going to happen when Cameron’s mean, materialistic father gets home and sees his prized sports car grimacing from the bottom of a gorge? Ferris had already driven Cameron to the mental brink multiple times that day in his effort to get him to lighten up. And for what?
It seems I’ve officially reached fuddy-duddy status by being more concerned with the impact than the impulse in these coming-of-age touchstones.
Don’t get me wrong; I support playing hooky, but not of the scorched earth variety.
I can’t help but consider how blithely Bueller sailed through the day’s events without a lick of consideration that a day off implies there will be a day back. You know, accountability. “Life moves pretty fast…” Yeah, well not if you trash the Ferrari.
[Railey Jane Savage is the author of A Century of Swindles. Find more of her essays, books, art, and cats at raileyjane.com.]
LAURA LIKES: (Where my friend Laura recommends great stuff)
“One thing among many I have learned from the movies is that if you're going to play hooky, you really need a quality bathrobe.
Take a sartorial tip from the King of Hooky-Playing, Ferris Bueller:
or the patron saint of chill, Jeff Lebowski:
or the Queen of Doing as You Please, When You Please, Ms. Mame Dennis.
“The point is, whether you're making a fashion statement or just getting comfortable, there's nothing better than your favorite bathrobe for lounging, and maybe it's time to consider yours. Maybe it just needs a wash. Maybe you need to re-attach the belt loops. Maybe you need a new one. Maybe you would never dream of abandoning your current cozy friend.
“Brand-new or well-loved, what I'm saying is: embrace the bathrobe. I think it's good to have a set of relax/recharge/rewind clothes, particularly when the weather's cold. It sends what might be a subconscious signal to your ever-busy mind: now is not the time for that thing that's been bugging you. Now is not the time for panic. Now...is the time for a bathrobe and something warm to drink. Snuggle in. Trust me, you look cute.”
[Laura Lorson lives in Kansas. You can find her on social media @prairielaura]
EMILY MASON’S Targeted Upsell: What the Internet Wants Me to Buy
In light of some recent comments from my wonderful, caring, tells-it-like-it-is boss —specifically the one where she said “I’m worried that if you don’t schedule some time off soon you will go insane”— I’m taking a week off work!
As I contemplate what I will do with all my free time, I of course have been heaped with suggestions from the internets. So, with that in mind, allow me to introduce you to the NuDerma High Frequency Skin Therapy Set!
(Look at these beautiful people, sticking things on their faces! They’re keeping it fresh. Keeping it NU.)
This tool comes with four attachable wands to treat your skin! With… light!
And not just any light, either…
It’s powered by Neon!
You know, Neon? The stuff from the signs?
The gas that’s lethal in large quantities?
Yes, you should totally put that near your face!
Take the day off and play with Neon! Sorta like in school when you broke old thermometers to fiddle with the Mercury?
That was FINE! The teacher only SORT OF yelled at you for almost dying!
Why Am I Seeing This?
I looked up “fun self-care” on Instagram. I mean, I was just thinking of getting a blowout…
Did They Sell Me?
Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha. Ha.
No, of course not. I cannot wait to tell you why.
If I look past the whole “gas wand next to my face” thing, there is still one inescapable fact: For all of its claimed benefits, I scoured the NuDerma website trying to figure out what, exactly, this thing is for.
The answer? It seems to be a cure-all for everything from under-eye bags, hair loss, chronic acne, skin dullness…
The list goes on for a while.
I don’t know, maybe I’m a cynic, but I have a hard time believing that this glorified sci-fi prop is actually as miraculous as it claims to be:
(Captain, readings indicate that your acne is clearing up.)
I think I’ll just …go get a manicure.”
[Emily Mason lives, works, and scours the Internet from her home in Chicago]
Do you have a hooky-playing experience you’d like to share?
Did it involve skipping school to hang out at the local public library? If so, you can sit by me.
Thank you so much for reading! If you like what we’re doing — please shoot us a “heart” and/or a comment below. It means a lot.
I hope you have a wonderful week — and if you have the opportunity to skip out — DO IT!
One of my greatest joys is to watch movies alone, ideally the first matinee, and eat my popcorn and drink my Pepsi like it's a tiny communion.
When I play hooky, I go to a big antique mall and browse for hours on end. Then I go get a decadent pastry.