If you're of a certain generation -- mine -- you're likely familiar with TGIF, ABC's Friday night programming that aired between 1988 and 2000. In its heyday, ABC was airing popular shows like Boy Meets World, Step By Step, Family Matters and Muppets Tonight, all of which provided the middle-school equivalent of water cooler talk for the following school week. In junior high, my Friday nights were synonymous with casual family dinners, the occasional sleepover/pizza party, and then gluing myself to the TV for a ritualistic dose of sitcom merriment. I got popcorn and soda pop, made myself a pillow fort, and my sister and I would hunker down to watch mindless American television.
It was great.
Weekends are chocolate fudge brownies after a liver-and-onions workweek. They're a massage after a trip to the gym, a cold shower on a hot day. They're a necessity -- after working with people all week long, downtime is a restorative and soothing balm. Some social scientists say the difference between introverts and extroverts isn't gauged by how shy or outgoing a person is. Instead, it's all about where one draws their energy from. If you feel more alive after spending time with people -- be it friends, work colleagues, family members or strangers -- you are an extrovert, and you are likely going to fill your weekends up with social engagements and parties. If you find yourself needing some serious alone time at the end of the workweek, you fit into the "introvert" category. Don't fret! Think of your alone time as recharging your batteries so that you can continue your enjoyable habit of being interesting and awesome in social situations. Weekends are a prime time to get some downtime for us introverts, and for the rest of you, they're a happy 50-hour break from wearing office-appropriate shoes.
When I was a kid, Saturday mornings meant waking up at the crack of dawn to watch Thunderbirds reruns on TV; for my parents, Saturdays meant getting out the vacuum cleaner, dusting the living room, and raking the lawn. My dad often made lunch for his kids, including ichiban noodles with banana peppers that I remember as being terrifyingly hot (they're hilariously mild -- these days, I eat them straight from the jar). Sometimes my parents would crank up the stereo as they cleaned, and with the drone of the vacuum and the clanking of pots and pans, it was impossible to sleep in. When I was in high school, I resented the early-morning clatter, but now that I'm older, I want to make sure every weekend moment is used well.
One of my favourite things about my grown-up weekends is the chance to spend some time in the kitchen. My parents usually fired up the grill and opened a bottle of wine on Friday nights; Sunday mornings are now pancake-and-bacon time at my house. During the week, we tend to rush through meals, but on weekends, I like to spend a little bit more time with my food. Bake those fresh muffins, slice up that cantaloupe, get the expensive sausages, and really let loose. For others, the best way to relax is getting outside -- the Saturday afternoon glut of fathers and kids on the local ice skating rink, or the family car ride to the beach, are weekend staples. I also enjoy getting together with friends for a drink or three, or browsing through bookstores or clothing shops. Doing something a little different is the watchword for weekends -- as an added bonus, it brings us closer to our loved ones.
The big asterisk here is that I'm not a parent. Once you add kids into this equation, weekends inevitably get more hectic. There are Saturday morning classes to arrange, sleepovers to supervise, households to tidy. I think of my parents and their weekly cleaning ritual, and know that if they didn't have three kids and three kids' worth of toys, books, school papers and clothes confettied all over the house, they could probably have eaten caviar and gotten couples massages on their Sunday mornings. But, instead, they had kids, and kids make messes and then wander off to make other, different messes. And then they need a ride to karate lessons.
I treat the workweek like chore central: I go to the grocery store, I hit the doctor's office, I return all the emails, and I water my plants. It's the droning life-maintenance checkmarks that need to be ticked off. Keeping work out of my weekends allows me to feel more flexible, so the things I end up doing on Saturdays and Sundays are just for pleasure and fun. Getting in some solo downtime, hugging with my boyfriend while we browse for comic books, and eating a plateful of homemade nachos chased with a cold beer? Why, that's just Saturday night.