What do you like to do for fun?
April 10, 2016 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I started online dating recently and this is the question that I get asked often. Or "what do you do in your spare time?". I actually don't do much. I "think" rather than "do". How to even answer this?

I am an introvert. I enjoy taking long walks by myself, watching movies or just relaxing with a book. I don't do sports, I don't paint, I don't play an instrument.

I work full time in a very demanding job and I just like to switch off in my off time. I get stressed when I have a weekend full of activities ahead. None of that sounds appealing when I say it out loud and my dates get puzzled. I actually really dislike this question. I sometimes get a follow up "but how do you actually fill your spare time? what do you do?".

I have a group of friends where we catch up for drinks couple of times a week. I often have a work function or someone's birthday at least 1-2 times a week. I also travel for work often. I actually don't feel like my life is empty. I look forward to times when I just have a day of nothing so that I can listen to music and just think and relax. I sometimes binge watch random netflix shows. I browse various forums and can lose hours doing it.

I almost feel that if I took up some random hobby, like say, learning Italian, I would have something to say. But surely I don't have to take up a hobby I am not interested in just to say that I have a hobby.

I have been on 3 dates with a guy from online dating. He asked me this question on all 3 dates. I did my best to outline what I said above but he doesn't seem satisfied with the answer. When he asked me again "but what did you doooo all weekend?" (when I had a very blissful quiet one) I actually got annoyed and am having a hard time maintaining an interest in him.

Any tips on how to handle this question where you don't have clearly defined hobbies?
posted by sockiety to Human Relations (28 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Reading is a hobby. Is everyone you meet refusing to accept reading as a hobby, or just this one weird dude?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am an introvert. I enjoy taking long walks by myself, watching movies or just relaxing with a book.

Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Maybe dude is both an extrovert and also very low on empathy...?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:09 AM on April 10, 2016 [22 favorites]

Just speculation, but if you dislike this question you may be giving off an evasive vibe in answering it, as opposed to just being straightforward about enjoying unstructured downtime. It's kind of obnoxious having someone repeatedly press you like this guy seems to have done, but you might want to think about tone more than content in answering this question. If you're okay with how you spend your free time, make sure you're communicating that in both what you say and how you say it. Be straightforward and own your answer to the question in a relaxed way instead of stressing about it, and people may respond differently. "I have a really demanding job, so on the weekends I often just enjoy chilling out and catching up on my Netflix queue."

Caveat: you don't want potential dates to think you're not open to making more specific weekend plans with them, but if you're more upfront about this from the get-go while dating many people, hopefully you'll meet someone with a compatible lifestyle who's just as relieved as you to chill out instead of bouncing between 3 different structured activities on Saturday morning.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:11 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you asked someone what they do in their spare time, and they answered "I like to read" I suspect you'd accept that answer.

Equally there's plenty of people who would understand and accept that answer from you. Disappointingly, he isn't one of them.
posted by Lorc at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2016

Your weekends sound just like mine!
I agree with previous answers-- I find that when I sound as though spending my downtime with a book and my cat is exactly what I want to be doing (which it usually is!) then it's usually accepted as such by whoever is asking. If I sound apologetic about it I get pushback. Bottom line is --someone who can't accept that this is how you prefer to relax and recharge probably isn't going to be a comfortable fit.
posted by bookmammal at 10:21 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

My feeling is it's not so important what you do as how you talk about it. It's certainly easier to tell an interesting story if you've filled the weekend with a list of specific activities, and sometimes having a defined "hobby" is easier for other people to grasp. However, any of the things you mentioned could open up a great conversation. (E.g. went on a walk? Where did you go, what did you see, do you usually stick to the same routes or explore a different area every time?)
That said, it's also totally understandable that after a busy workweek you prefer to wind down at home. I agree with other commenters that a big part of this may be a compatibility issue.
posted by staraling at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2016

I used to do online dating (prior to and how I met ProfMiasma), so I have to guess that if you're getting this question often it's because people interested in you want to learn more about you -- so they're seeking for something to follow-up on. Not everyone is good at that.

I know when I was looking at profiles, i was looking for something I could follow-up on specifically.

So if this is something you get in a message response or even on dates, I'd try to go from the general to a very specific example.

I have a group of friends where we catch up for drinks couple of times a week.

"Well, I hung out with my friend X on Tuesday", then throw something in specific about the place you went and what you liked about it, or its history, or a specific topic you chatted about, or an event that is coming up in their life. Whatever it is that can be explored further

I also travel for work often.

"Well, I did just come back from Y for a work function" -- Was that place interesting or boring? Was it a place you always wanted to go? Did you have something happen at the airport?

I sometimes binge watch random netflix shows.

What did you just finish? What'd you like about it? What's on your list? What might you watch next? What's been your favorite show? Why?

I browse various forums and can lose hours doing it

What'd you discover recently? What'd you find out? Why did that interest you? How do you find them?
posted by miasma at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2016 [10 favorites]

I would just answer the question honestly, it's best to be yourself. Your date might be trying to figure out an activity to do with you and that's why he keeps asking. You could be like "I love taking long walks, there's a really nice path I could show you", or "I like movies about X, want to watch Blahblah with me?"

I would also just generally say "Right now my work takes up a lot of my energy so when I get the chance I spend time with friends, read about X and Y, listen to music like Z, watch movies." If he's into you he'll want to know what you like to read, what music you like, what movies you like, so just throw an example or descriptor in to give him something to run with.
posted by lafemma at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wonder if this person is trying to figure out what the two of you might do together if you continue going out. Where he might fit in your life. If that's the case, it might be helpful to answer "when I'm alone I like to do X; when I'm with my sweetie I like to do Y," to help him imagine the two of you as a couple. This is just a theory, YMMV.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:30 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm prone to quoting Office Space: "I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be."

The other folks here are pretty much right. Some people need to have a ton of outside things going on at all times or they feel empty and unfulfilled. Other people don't like a ton of activity and stress in their off-time and think that people in the first group are nuts. Neither group is really right or wrong, it's just... people are different.

I'm more on your side of things. I spend large chunks of my day and night doing software development, which is pretty mentally taxing (at least for me.) The idea of spending a weekend where I'm *not* under any mental pressure and where I have some time to just relax is bliss. Listening to a good album takes minimal mental energy (and the parts of my brain it does use aren't the ones I use for software!)

But you know... there are totally some people who look at me like I've grown a second head when I say that I had a great weekend because I was able to sit on my couch and take in a couple new albums that I'd been looking forward to all week. And when they talk about how great their weekend was because they went trail biking in the middle of some remote backwater and got dirty and almost went off the side of a cliff and found a snake in their backpack and wasn't it awesome? Yeah, I have the same puzzled expression they had for me.

To each their own. Don't sweat it. You're you.
posted by -1 at 10:32 AM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

I work with guys in upping their online dating game, and my first instinct is that he's genuinely curious and looking for a conversation starter that will allow him to get to know you better. Heck, he might even hear something he LIKES and ask you if you'd like to do it together.
Be open, be honest, have a sense of humor about it, no worries.

Just don't say Netflix and Chill :)**

**Until you're ready for that, of course.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:37 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

You and I sound very alike, introversion wise. I talked with my therapist about how much I hate the "what are your plans/what did you do this weekend?" question, and she said much the same thing as deludingmyself: if the answer is "nothing" or "I read in a park all day and otherwise didn't leave the house", it's all in the tone. Enthusiastic replies that make it clear that I LOVE doing nothing makes it hard for the other person to judge me. I used to make all sorts of excuses for my lame weekends until I realized that it doesn't matter if other people think they're lame, it matters that I love having downtime.

FWIW, while your tone may convey to this guy that there's more to your answer, he sounds like he also has trouble relating to introverts. This has been such a challenge in my dating life, but it has improved this I stopped leaving the door open for them to enrich my life by trying to get me to be social as much as they are—someone that accepts the differences between us is the only person I go on a second date with.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

You sound like you're ashamed of how you spend your time. No reason to be. I'd simply say, "I read, met up with my friends, shopped and caught up on my TV. It's pure bliss!"

You can talk about these things in conversation, to let you'd dates into your life. If you say, "nothing", it seems like you don't want to share.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2016

I'd simply say, "I read, met up with my friends, shopped and caught up on my TV. It's pure bliss!"

Yeah I do what you do on weekends for the most part. I can spend days not talking to anyone and I like it. However, I already have a partner (who does the same things, in separate location, sometimes we connect and do nothing together). I think these questions serve a few purposes, not all of them obvious/intentional

- getting information about you, what sort of person you are and what you enjoy, what your passions are
- literally figuring out where you are likely to be and how you pass the minutes of your life
- learning more about other people in your life if the answer is "Do things with others"
- determining good fit "Does she like to do what I do?"
- determining mood "When I ask her about her life is she positive/negative/neutral?"
- determining possible overlaps for activities "What could we do together?"
- just having a conversation "What can we talk about RIGHT NOW?"

It sounds like you may be in a situation where you're a bad fit for this person but instead of that being more clear, it's coming out in this weird way. Like if he doesn't see reading and walking and seeing friends as "activities" then he's got a narrow definition of those things and/or just isn't a good fit for you. No harm no foul really.

That said, I agree with others who say that if you dislike these questions you may be indicating that in ways that are obvious but which may make your answers seem evasive or otherwise non-responsive and some people view this as a weird challenge to figure it all out.
posted by jessamyn at 10:55 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

FYI, a majority of people whose profiles make them sound like they're constantly on the go are playing it up. They've actually only gone rock climbing twice, went to Paris for a single week as part of a college course, and went to one "introduction to pottery" class. Sort of tangential, but I'm just mentioning this if you're starting to find that sort of thing intimidating. From what I've seen, most people spend their weekends doing laundry, zoning out on TV or internet, and doing something kinda boring with friends one evening.
posted by metasarah at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2016 [9 favorites]

Sometimes that question — "what do you do in your spare time" — is a way to ask what you're passionate about or what excites you. Many folks end up dividing their lives that way — work for the money, extra time for things they love — and ask the question with the assumption that you do, too.

So you could redirect the conversation that way, if you'd like.

But if I were you I'd take a cue from my improv classes: call out the unusual thing. If he asks you again, call him on it. "You've asked me that on every one of our dates and I've answered. What answers are you looking for?" I think this will take you down the better path.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

"What do you like to do?"
"Wow, that's an interesting question. Right now, I work full time in a very demanding job and I just like to switch off in my off time. But I think I'd really like to try (name of thing you'd do if you had infinite time and money). Have you ever wanted to do that?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:20 AM on April 10, 2016

Turn around how you think about this question. Instead of trying to answer it with spin to keep him interested, use it as a device to screen out people who don't get you on a basic level. There are plenty of guys out there who would be just as perplexed or alienated by an overly animated, peppy sell on reading or being alone on a downtime weekend. You're looking for someone who gets your emotional tone -- a basic criteria for compatibility.
posted by flourpot at 11:43 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here's the thing- just about everyone has something that they hate about online profiles. When I started online dating a decade ago, I didn't have a "profession" or college degree, and being in a city that is full of colleges and universities I found that many people put those two things in their profile as non-negotiables. I would get really worked up about it. My friend who was in her 40s found that she got many more responses when she made herself in her 30s, and I have been on many a date where a guy is clearly not close to 6 feet tall. I am not saying that you should lie on your profile to make yourself something you are not. My friend ended up telling people her real age, and those guys had lied about things other than their height. I think everything you listed is totally fine to do in your spare time or as "hobbies", and I think most people with demanding jobs are not doing half of what they say they are doing on their profiles. I think you should write this guy off and move on- he clearly isn't your type if he needs to keep himself busy all the time. I know so many people who met great matches via online dating (I have had two long term relationships with guys I met online), I wouldn't waste my time going on a fourth date with someone who keeps asking the same question.
posted by momochan at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2016

Three things:

1) You do have hobbies and things you enjoy doing in your spare time: I enjoy taking long walks by myself, watching movies or just relaxing with a book...I have a group of friends where we catch up for drinks couple of times a week. I often have a work function or someone's birthday at least 1-2 times a week. I also travel for work often...I look forward to times when I just have a day of nothing so that I can listen to music and just think and relax. I sometimes binge watch random netflix shows. I browse various forums.... Maybe this is just the introvert in me but your spare time activities sound like they're fulfilling and a good balance of alone time and social time!

2) In my opinion, you don't come across as being apologetic or unenthusiastic about how you spend your spare time in this AskMe question. So, unless you are coming across very differently in how you communicate with your dates/potential dates, I'd say it's not your tone that's causing the problem.

3) People who just! can't! understand! how you'd find your spare time activities to be adequate are most likely not a good match for you, both because they enjoy spending their time in vastly different ways AND their powers of empathy are so poor that they don't understand how YOU could enjoy YOUR preferred hobbies.

Good luck--I hope you are able to find someone who understands you better and doesn't make you feel like a freak for your perfectly reasonable preferences.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:10 PM on April 10, 2016

I work full time in a very demanding job and I just like to switch off in my off time. I get stressed when I have a weekend full of activities ahead. None of that sounds appealing when I say it out loud and my dates get puzzled.
You've presented two very different answers and I can't figure out which one you actually offer up in response to "What do you do in your spare time?" One actually answers the question and the other sounds evasive and defensive.

"What do you do for fun?"
"I enjoy taking long walks by myself, watching movies or just relaxing with a book."

That allows for follow-ups. Where do you walk? What kind of movies do you like? What book are you reading right now? It literally doesn't make sense for a follow-up question to this reply to be, "But what do you dooooooo?"

Compare to:

"What do you do for fun?"
"I work full time in a very demanding job and I just like to switch off in my off time. I get stressed when I have a weekend full of activities ahead."

There's nothing to follow up on here. Your date is puzzled because it is a weird answer to the question. It's not like you sit and stare at a wall for 48 hours until your alarm goes off on Monday. You're actually doing stuff. You're reading, exercising, and watching movies. If you want to stress that you prefer quiet weekends, you could amend your reply.

"My job is pretty demanding, so I like to unwind quietly on the weekends. Last weekend I went for a walk in [Walking Location] and then ate lunch and finished reading [Book Title Here]."
posted by xyzzy at 12:17 PM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

I was a Dating Maniac when I was out there....I asked the most forward, pointed questions in the first hour. I answered any and all questions with naked honesty. I wouldn't have hesitated to answer the question: What do you do in your spare time? with "I think a lot." or "I shave my legs." The right guy would get it. I had no fear that they wouldn't like my answers. I was much more concerned about my liking theirs. Just be honest. Be confident in the things you like. There is nothing wrong with reading, music and movies as the answer to the spare time question.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 1:18 PM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

To be honest I think it’s a stupid question in the first place, I fully get where you’re coming from and I think you’re perfectly entitled to be annoyed especially at someone insisting so obnoxiously about it.

If you’re talking to someone you’re interested in and like, and they come up with the question in a non-annoying way, just joke about not having some super specific plan or hobby or activity that you religiously do every weekend, or say it like you said here, "I had a blissfully quiet weekend", that sounds very nice and if it was me on the other end I’d instantly get what you were talking about and say something like "oh I love those blissfully quiet weekends".

After all, you’re looking for someone who is on the same page, so just tell it like it is, jokingly or not - " I just like to switch off in my off time. I get stressed when I have a weekend full of activities ahead" is a perfectly valid and perfectly descriptive answer to "what do you do when you’re not working". Be just as clear about that preference as you’ve been here, and you will find there are people with those same preferences out there. Good luck!
posted by bitteschoen at 1:30 PM on April 10, 2016

You might find this Previous Ask helpful.

I have had folks tell me that my kind of fun cannot be fun. My ex used to say I never did anything fun. Well, you don't get to decide what I think is fun. I do.

So, I would be inclined to either stop seeing this guy or go "Um, I answered that already. It is time for you to come up with a new question."
posted by Michele in California at 3:50 PM on April 10, 2016

"I am learning Italian" would definitely work on a date because then they can say something like, "Oh are you Italian, Have you been to Italy, Do you like pasta, Do you speak any Romance languages already, Italian sounds so beautiful, did you see that Italian movie, my friend's dad speaks Italian and he says..."
It's specific, so it reminds the other person of specific ideas, and that helps the conversation jump forward easily.

If other people seem confused by your (totally pleasant, totally valid) hobbies, it might be because your answers lean a little vague, so they don't really know how to reply... you could try adding more specificity to your descriptions.

I'd suggest adding in some combination of a detail, an opinion or a life theory about whatever you did, and the other person will probably be better able to grab on and move forward.

"I like walking" becomes "It was drizzling and I love rainy weather, so I went for a really long walk downtown. I feel like people who like rain and people who hate rain are fundamentally different- sunny people are optimists but rainlovers are realists."

"I like to read" becomes "I'm on Book 4 of Game of Thrones, and one of the themes is "what makes a good ruler", which is reminding me of the US elections."

"I like movies" becomes "I watched {movie}, which I loved because {director} has such a unique worldview, or because it made me really want to visit {country}, or because {action movies get my blood pounding} or whatever."

Also given your irritation, this guy might not be the one so maybe don't bother with him? (haha just kidding, not kidding)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:17 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is not a stupid or inappropriate question to ask. Especially for a first date situation where you don't know anything about the other person and are just trying to get the lay of the land. Are you interested in anything? Anything at all? What does your soul yearn for? Do you absolutely love pizza? What about TV shows? This guy is just trying to get something out of you. You don't need to have some officially sanctioned hobby prepared, but if your response to "what did you do all weekend" is "oh, nothing [stare into drink]" then I think you're going to have some rough dates.
posted by deathpanels at 8:06 PM on April 10, 2016

Tell them what you're thinking about. Thinking is work. I'm thinking (and reading) about a lot of different concepts, sometimes in prep for writing and sometimes not. It's a legit thing.
posted by Mistress at 4:56 AM on April 11, 2016

I really hate this question too (and similar open-ended ones). It might help to remember that most of the time (IMO) people are asking this because they're desperately trying to make small-talk with a total stranger, without knowing much about them. Some people have just run out of other things to say and will be happy with literally any response that keeps conversation going. But most people are asking to figure out whether you have stuff in common.

So you want to focus on answering the underlying questions, not the literal question. Talk about what makes you happy (family, friends, pets, travel, etc), how much you go out (i.e. whether you're more of a partier or a homebody or an outdoorsy type), and especially any hobbies (if any) that you could imagine sharing with a partner someday. Don't worry about whether your hobbies are "exciting" or not. But at the same time....everyone likes to watch TV sometimes, so that doesn't really tell your date anything unless it's an unusually huge part of your life. Telling them something like "I've always wanted to learn Italian because I like XYZ related things or it would help me go to XYZ places or get XYZ jobs" is way more informative, even if it's not literally a thing you do now for fun.

Back when I was online dating (almost the only time people have ever been awkward enough to ask this question), I tried to reply some combination of:

A) "it depends", and usually elaborated with example weekends ranging from extreme sloth to extreme activity....because I like to laze around a lot of weekends, but also get really bored if that's all I do every weekend. Like most people I guess, but some people are more on one end or the other.

B) listing off a few examples of things I've tried in the past and enjoyed. Surely you've tried some hobbies at some point, even if you didn't like them enough to stick with them? I mean, don't falsely imply that you're still doing it, but listing and especially describing what you liked about past hobbies tells your date something about you, which is the goal of the question. e.g. for me I often talked about martial arts and soccer, which I loved and did for years but don't do anymore for various reasons (again, another opportunity for conversation if it's appropriate).

C) listing off a few things I've always wanted to try but haven't gotten around to yet. On my last date, one of these I mentioned was rock climbing. Now he's my boyfriend and we climb together (...occasionally. In between many, many weekends of basically netflix, ha)
posted by randomnity at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2016

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