September 18th, 2020


Missing out doesn't bother me anymore

Gina Barreca

By Gina Barreca The Hartford Courant/(TNS)

Published Oct. 29, 2018

Missing out doesn't bother me anymore

I almost missed out on having FOMO, which is the "Fear Of Missing Out."

It took me years to figure out what FOMO meant even though I'd seen it used on Facebook and other social media, initially by the very young and then, increasingly, by people old enough to have had their gallbladders removed and their knees replaced.

Until I saw FOMO validated by my age group, I'd ignored the acronym. I rather cynically assumed that the first letter did not refer to the word "fear" and, realizing that the last thing I needed was to learn another way to say, " … and the horse you rode in on," I simply skipped over it.

As I get older, I'm happier to skip over things, especially new things I don't understand the instant I encounter them. I'll confess: I've always skipped over Russian names in Tolstoy and the sciencey parts of science fiction. But now I'm skipping over rather ordinary tasks, such as learning the names of friends' grandchildren. (I call them "Aiden," "Liam" and "Olivia" until I'm corrected.) I skip entire updates on my Mac (Seriously, Apple, Mojave? You really want me to enter the desert?). And I skip the salad course unless cheddar, feta or gorgonzola are involved, which could be what people's grandchildren will be named in the round coming up next year for all I know.

When I finally understood that FOMO meant Fear Of Missing Out, it didn't actually surprise me. I just didn't know that there was a four letter expression for it. Most of us have always had a fear of remaining on the sidelines when others are called up to participate, or sitting in the audience when others are called to audition, or being left alone with the potato chips once the band starts to play.

It gets easier as you get older, but it doesn't disappear. A friend who is a few years older than I am just told me about feeling bad because he can't find somebody with whom to play pickleball.

I thought he was talking dirty, or at least metaphorically, but it turns out there is a racket game called pickleball. I'd missed out on this, too. Pickleball is now, apparently, quite a popular (albeit minor) sport, especially in planned age restricted villages — otherwise known as retirement communities — and in some junior high gym classes. It's a cross between badminton, tennis and table tennis.

Until two weeks ago, I had been fully confident that pickles had nothing to do with sports. I was convinced that they were the green bits I picked off my hamburger and gave to my husband in a silent ritual of marital intimacy that has remained unremarked since the first time I asked Michael during our early courtship, "Do you want these?" whereupon he smiled and slipped them into his bun. That's all the pickle gaming I've needed.

Having thoughtfully considered whether I suffer from a fear of missing out, I've decided what I suffer from is a Fear Of Being Included (FOBI). You could say I have a FOBI-a if you like to say that kind of thing, which I hope you don't.

For example, I don't want to be asked to volunteer for anything anymore. Being asked to volunteer is a contradiction in terms, anyhow: If somebody entreats, bullies or blackmails you into volunteering, it's not as if you're actually choosing freely to donate your efforts. We once agreed to do a charity fundraiser at our house. Once. After that we wrote checks to get out of volunteering. If it hadn't worked, we would have moved and changed our names to Liam and Olivia.

As for other people's parties, I have less FOMO as every year goes by. I no longer wish to be included on every guest list, although I am increasingly grateful to be in the company of true friends. As I've grown older, I look less for the spotlight and search more for illumination. If I missed out on something today, either it won't matter tomorrow or it'll still be there tomorrow. Or else I'll skip it. That'll be fine, too.


Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant

Gina Barreca is a columnist for The Hartford Courant.