The subject (SG) is my close friend from high school in Washington, D.C. who now attends college in Cambridge, MA. I asked her when we were on Facetime whether she had any dites, proverbs, or expressions she wanted to share, and she volunteered this joking expression our friends use when we’re together.
Note: The initials SG denote the informant, while A refers to me, the interviewer.
TEXT: “Have fun, stay safe!”
SG: Okay. So basically, whenever one of us leaves the room, we all say “have fun, stay safe!” Like, regardless of where they’re going. Even if they’re going to the bathroom or, like, getting something from the next room.
A: How did it start? Do you remember?
SG: Uh, well, at first it was something Y [another one of our friends] would say. Like, she’d always say that, completely in earnest, and we always used to make fun of her because, like, what’s going to happen to us on the way to the bathroom? [laughs] Or like, does she think we’ll get jumped … in the hallway? going to class? [laughs] And so then we started doing it too, like, imitating her, to the extreme. Like, if one of us would get up to put something in the garbage … do you remember? We’d all yell “have fun, stay safe!”
A: [laughs]. Yeah. Um, so why do you, or I guess we, still say it now? Why do you think we still use it?
SG: Well, I guess over time, it kind of just became force of habit. Like, it stopped being a joke so much and it was just something we said. And now I feel like I kind of have to say it, you know? Otherwise … I don’t know. We’ll have bad luck or something. You know?
I thought this particular inside joke was really interesting when viewed in context of female friendships and a larger women’s folklore. The expression doesn’t really have much deeper meaning on its own, but it is a version of a common parting expression used among most women, which is “call me when you get home/get there,” or, more commonly today, “text me.” These phrases specifically allude to the danger that women disproportionately face when traveling alone, especially at night, but looking after one another’s safety is a chief part of female friendships; women are encouraged to travel in groups, often protect their friends from predatory men, and in recent years, are more likely to have each other’s locations shared on their smartphones. Phrases like these reinforce gender solidarity and a general feeling of sisterhood and community, but also somewhat unfairly place the burden of being safe on women, when the danger they are supposed to protect themselves from is almost always due to external factors and, most often, men themselves. For me, hearing “have fun, stay safe” has always been both a joke and a gentle reminder of the community that cares about my safety.