I’ve written twice before about Lynda Barry, the inspired writer / artist whom I was privileged to hear speak at the Rhode Island School of Design last spring.



She talked about so much that I could hardly take it all in. I made notes when I got home, and tried to remember everything, because it was all interesting and funny and new.



She talked about the way children play. She described a game her brother used to play: he’d draw random dots on a sheet of paper, very methodically; then he’d eat a bowl of cereal, staring at the sheet of paper; then he’d take a pen and play dive-bomber on the sheet of paper, crossing out dots. The last dot won.



Now that’s play.



But play is not something you can just do. How many times did your parents say: “Why don’t you just go play?” And did you wonder: “What does that mean?”



Play is a state of mind. Go think about Lynda Barry’s brother staring at that sheet of paper, eating his cereal, and consider what’s going on in his mind.



Best story of all: Lynda was in a restaurant, watching a mother and son at a nearby table. Mother was talking on her cellphone. Son, about six years old, was talking to his bacon. “I’m gonna eat you!” he said to his bacon. Then he made the bacon talk: “No no no! Don’t eat me!” This went on for some time. Lynda was spellbound. This was real play.



Until the mother suddenly saw her son playing with his food. “What are you doing?” she snapped at him.



The little boy dropped the bacon as if awakened from a dream. “Nothing,” he said.



Playing. Just playing.



People don’t play enough. Adults don’t play enough.



Partner and I play with our stuffed animals: we make them talk, and argue, and fight, and even make out.



Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?



Believe it or not, it’s quite the reverse. I think it helps keep us both sane.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Play

  1. starproms says:

    Yes I agree – play is very important. Best of all I like to watch my grandson when he is playing with his toys and other things. We can have such fun with objects e.g. I have had a cottage full of boxes recently – 50 in fact – in all different sizes. When one of them is empty, D and I have great fun throwing coaster across the room into the boxes. Little things please little minds, don’t they!

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