I missed the memo about boredom.

It happened.  After a weekend cooped up at home due to illness, my nearly three-year old son pronounced that he was bored.  In fewer than 36 months, he had seen it all, done it all, and had exhausted his imagination.  He was bored. 

After torturing my own parents with similar pronouncements throughout my childhood, I finally got the memo about boredom in French class.  In French, the verb “ennuyer,” which means “to bore” is reflexive.  In French, you have to say, “Je m’ennuie” which means “I bore myself.”  Boredom isn’t a passive state of being, it’s something you’re actively doing to yourself.  If you’re bored, it’s your fault.  Oh, snap! 

I remember dutifully practicing the conjugation of the verb…I bore myself, you bore yourself, they bore themselves…and I thought to myself that it’s pretty embarrassing to be a bored French person.  If you have to say “I bore myself” then you have to acknowledge that you’re boring. 

From that day in French class, I began thinking about boredom differently and it was actually pretty empowering.  I began thinking of boredom as a character flaw that could be corrected with the right kind action and the right kind of attitude.   It also meant that I didn’t have to wait for something interesting to happen, I could make my own fun. 

Then, a few years later, I was watching a movie wherein some sexy brunette says, “Only stupid people get bored.”  (Salma Hayek? Penelope Cruz?..for the life of me, I cannot correctly recall which movie it was….extra credit to any reader who identifies it!)

Yikes.  So, if you’re bored, you’re not only boring, you’re dumb to boot.  But again, I felt a bit empowered at the suggestion that I could combat boredom with intellect.  Stuck in the airport with nothing good to read? No problem…I’ll just flip through my cranial Rolodex of amusements to keep myself occupied.

Maybe when my son is a little older, I’ll give him a lesson in French grammar and then tell him to go read a book or go outside and play.  Je ne m’ennuie plus.  Memo received.

5 thoughts on “Boredom

  1. C.H. March 8, 2011 / 9:07 pm

    I love the photo! Classic.

    It’s interesting the way language structure can influence our thoughts. Wittgenstein would approve 😉

    N is for Neville who died of ennui. Poor Neville. No one wants to be a Neville. That’s what I tend to think of when I think of boredom. But I’m a big Edward Gorey fan.

    • Jamie Walker Ball March 8, 2011 / 10:14 pm

      Wittgenstein…I like it! Just pulled my copy of “An Incomplete Education” of the bookshelf and under Wittgenstein’s “Personal Gossip” section it says:

      A rich kid who gave away his inheritance because, he said, he didn’t want his friends to like him for his money. Quit philosophy after finishing his first book, spendt a few years teaching grade school in the Alps and contemplating suicide. Built a mansion for his sister which is considered outstanding architecture. Could whistle difficult passages of music from memory. Took up philosophy again and became a cult hero at Cambridge.

      Cool, huh?

      • C.H. March 9, 2011 / 3:45 pm

        Very. It almost makes me feel guilty for knowing the Philosopher’s Drinking Song by heart.


  2. Jay July 18, 2011 / 10:33 pm

    actually that was one of my most memorable quote. She (salma hayek) said that some years back in an interview. Ive kind of adapted to that, and remind myself of the quote from time to time

    “Only stupid people get bored, if your smart enough you will find something in your head to do” it then goes on to say,”life is hard, but in the most hardest and craziest moments if you can find humor in it, then you can get through it”

    • Jamie Walker Ball July 18, 2011 / 11:47 pm

      Thank you Jay! That’s been driving me crazy! For some reason I thought it was a line from “Dogma” but I couldn’t quite place it. Salma Hayek is just all kinds of awesome.

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