The “To Don’t” List

A couple of years ago, Liz (a friend of mine) and I, while out for drinks celebrating my birthday, started talking about “To Do Lists”. Not “to do” like: “Pick up dry cleaning” or “Pay bills”. More like: Things we felt we HAD to accomplish before we shuffled off this mortal coil. We got so into it, that we wrote them all down on a sheet of loose-leaf (which I still have, and which I am looking at right now.)

After this enlightening exercise, Liz mentioned that there were some things that she felt she never had to do. These were decidedly random, and also – things that a lot of people would LOVE to do. But Liz was saying No to these things. She never felt she had to go into outer space, she never felt that she had to go to a desert country in the Middle East, she also never felt that she had to waterski. She had made it this far in her life without waterskiing, or competing in an equestrian event, or ski diving … and she could check those off her list.

So we came up with another idea: creating a “To Don’t” List, comprised of things which we never felt like we HAD to do. There is sometimes anxiety surrounding “To Do” lists, an urgency, an anxiety … Before I die I MUST see the Great Wall of China!! Etc. We felt that compiling lengthy lists of things we felt we NEVER HAD TO DO could be empowering. And it was. It was also hilarious.

Obviously, much controversy arose. I would mention something I felt like I never had to do, and Liz would freak out, saying, “Oh, but it’s so FUN! You’re missing out!!”

Too bad! I still don’t EVER have to do it. There’s a freedom in that. There’s a freedom in saying ‘NO’ to something other people may find irresistible.

That is the whole point of the To Don’t List. It is completely personal.

As a matter of fact, there were a couple of things on my “To Do” list which showed up on Liz’s “To Don’t” list. And vice versa.

This is the nature of humanity.

One woman’s dream come true is another woman’s utter shrieking nightmare.

I will list here, for you, the “To Don’t lists” of both Liz and myself. Hopefully it will spark up some rather amusing conversation in the comments.

Are there things you feel you NEVER have to (or want to) do? Remember, most of these things are usually considered fun and amazing by other members of the population – It is just that you, of your own free will, have decided you don’t ever have to experience such pleasures. You are fine without them.

(Oh, and by the way: Grammar nags? I know there is no such thing as “To Don’t” and it’s not correct, grammatically. It just is a catchy phrase and Liz and I enjoyed it.)

Liz’s To-Don’t List
Make an outfit from scratch
Places I never need to visit: Iran, Iraq
Compete in an equestrian event
Go into outer space
Ski dive
Be CEO of a company
Work on Wall Street
See a ghost
Do a Triathalon (Interestingly enough: Since compiling her To Don’t List, Liz has now done the New York Marathon two years in a row – not a Triathalon though!)

My To Don’t List
Teach myself complicated recipes
I don’t need to go to Mexico
I don’t have to go to Disneyworld
Read the works of Agatha Christie (I KNOW, I KNOW – I KNOW she’s great – but life is so short, and there’s so much to read, and I am crossing her off my To Do list)
Sew an outfit or make a scrapbook or do anything craft-like
Go fishing
Become proficient in Power Point
Traipse through a wild jungle

Please comment. Add your own. I’m sure I’ll think of more. It has the potential to be an endless list.

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55 Responses to The “To Don’t” List

  1. Laura says:

    Downhill skiing..I see no purpose in strapping a few sticks to my feet, and go zooming down a hill. I am a clutz, and this is just a bad, bad idea.

    Waterskiing..same reason, except on water. Another bad, bad idea.

    Skydiving..the desire to jump out of a plane has eluded me.

    Bungee jumping..I hate heights, and strapping myself to a rubber band and leaping off a bridge just seems wrong.

  2. Emily says:

    “To Don’t List”:

    Catch herpes.
    Own a cat.
    Star in a p*rn film.
    Swim in River Volga.
    Travel to any country where I am not permitted to drive a car or appear in public without a male escort.
    Acquire a taste for sauerkraut.
    Stay in bad relationship after good sex gets old.
    Argue politics with narrow-minded meatheads on the internet.
    Watch a John Waters film.
    Use restrooms at Al’s Bar in Downtown L.A. (“Home of the Eternal Puddles” – dude, what are those things?).
    Use restrooms at Canter’s (so filthy that watshing your hands actually makes you feel dirtier).
    Wait more than three days for a guy to call without writing him off forever.
    Give money to public television.

  3. red says:

    “Wait more than three days for a guy to call without writing him off forever”


    Also: swim in the River Volga. Beautiful!!

    Your list has sparked me to think of more to put on mine.

    Liz: I am terrified of heights and yet – for some bizarre reason – I feel this huge urge to sky dive. I don’t know WHY!!

  4. Liz says:

    Ahhhh…..Sheila…loving that you posted our “to don’t” lists to inspire others to playfully take stock of those “activities” they never HAVE to do….my own list has and will continue to change as I make my way in the world, like this latest proclamation: I don’t ever have to eat anything I don’t want to….

  5. BSTommy says:

    To don’t:

    Go up any mountain higher than I can drive.

    Eat Chitlins.

    Hold a snake.

    Study Spores, molds or fungus.

    Get Religion.

    Clean out the fridge (too far gone…see the one about spores, molds and fungus)

    Worry about carbs.

    Get offended by sports talk radio.

    Do Algebra. Ever again.

  6. Ron says:

    Things I never need to do:

    Go to any place in the world where the biggest danger is more serious than having my wallet stolen.

    Eat organ meats

    read a “romance novel”

    Ride a motorcycle

    Buy a gun

  7. Laura says:

    I forgot some

    Eat any of the following: tongue, liver, tripe, sweetbreads, head cheese
    Give up alcohol (the exception being during pregnancy)
    Have a tarantula as a ‘pet’
    Be in one of those shark cages in the ocean (not that it was likely to happen)
    Endure natural childbirth (I’m a wuss for pain)

  8. red says:

    GOOD ones, everyone. Excellent! Laura – the “shark cage” one made me laugh. I know!! When my friend Liz wrote down “see a ghost” on her original list, I was howling – like: what?? She said, “I know I probably never will see one, but if they exist – I never want to see one.”

    Thought of some more:

    I never need to eat coconut or apple sauce.
    I never need to own a Kenny Loggins album.
    I never need to read anything written by Nicholas Sparks. (Once was enough.)
    I never need to “get over” my fear of “s”s
    I never need to learn how to play the tuba

  9. red says:

    Ooops, I type too fast. Or – I think too fast. Or something.

    I meant to write: “I never need to own a Kenny G. album”, not “Loggins”. But that’s okay.

    I don’t need to own a Kenny Loggins album either.

  10. Edw. says:

    What have you got against Mexico? It’s a totally amazing country. I’ve backpacked all across South America only to find that our neighbor, Mexico, has as much if not more to offer in terms of history, food, art, architecture, etc.

    Don’t be fooled by how close it is or by the border towns (though I confess to loving the border towns as well.)

  11. Val Prieto says:

    I dont need to know everything about a piece of music Im enjoying. It doesnt matter who wrote it, sings it, plays in it and recorded it. Just let me hear it.

    I dont want to jump out of an airplane ever again. Once was enough and it was only because i was too macho to let my ex-girlfriend do it alone while I waited safely on the ground. If my wife wants to skydive now, ill bring a cooler and a barbeque and wait for her on the ground.

    I never want to bungee jump. Rubber bands are office supplies.

    I dont ever need to see a Danny Glover or Oliver Stone film again. Let Fidel watch them instead.

    I dont want to grow to be a burden for anyone. Cook my remains and throw a major party.

  12. red says:


    Hellloooo? Did you read my explanation of the purpose of the To Don’t List? These are things which are loved by many other people, but you, for whatever reason, do not feel the need to partake.

    I have nothing against Mexico.

    I have plenty of other places that I feel I MUST see – and Mexico is not one of them.

    A lot of people had your exact response, to be fair – but that’s the whole point.

    You may NEVER need to go to Ireland, for example. I would say, “Man, you are INSANE! Ireland is amazing! What have you got against it?”

  13. Emily says:

    Okay, red…first it was Disneyworld, then it was Disneyland. So which one is it?

  14. red says:

    Emily –

    Would you believe I have no idea? Which one is where? I’m a big fat loser. I am so not interested in going to either one, and my parents never took us there as kids – I just … I don’t know. Disneyland or world … I ain’t going.

    I have a Great America relatively near my town – I’m a fanatic for roller coasters, love them – so I go out there a couple times a summer and get my fix.

    But me no need no Disneylandworld.

  15. Laura says:

    I’ll take Six Flags over Disney any day. My parents took us to Disneyworld (Florida) when we were younger a few times, I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed Six Flags. Right now last I heard, admission is $50 a piece for Disneyworld (probably Disneyland also), so for a family of 4 that’s $200 (suppose it’s a wee bit less for kids under a certain age), plus the gouge the hell out of you for merchandise and food. Not worth it to see a bunch of stupid robotic dolls sing “It’s a Small World”.

  16. Emily says:

    Yep, Disneyland out here is now $48.00 per person. It’s a little bit less for children, but only by a few bucks. It’s actually a great place if you go off-season, when there are not 50 squillion sweaty, pushy, irritated tourists with mouse ears on in a pissy mood because they had to stand in line for three hours for a two-minute ride on Space Mountain.

    After the Wall came down and my step-mother’s relatives were allowed to visit from East Germany, I took them there on a quiet weekday afternoon, when we didn’t have to stand in line forever. You should have seen the faces on these people. They were like little kids. Never in their whole lives had they imagined that a place like that existed.

  17. red says:

    Em – Wow. Magic Kingdom, indeed. That’s amazing.

  18. Dan says:

    1. own a pet cat or snake
    2. should I ever marry I do not need, under any circumstances, to participate in hideous customs like bouquet throwing, cake-in-face smushing, or that hideous garter thing…
    3…nor will there be ANY chicken-dancing, electric sliding or boogalooing, macarenaing, hustling or old time rok n’ rolling.
    4. I do not need to visit Africa or any other locale that requires me to receive a huge amount of vaccinations, innoculations and other shots for rare and painful diseases that should simply be avoided.
    5. I do not need to see Titanic. Or Blue Man Group. Or Cats.
    6. I do not need to do karaoke. Ever. The public should be spared this spectacle.

  19. Dave says:

    I hope I never (again!):
    Fall for false praise.
    Suck up to a client by:
    1. Gushing over a baby I really don’t even see.
    2. Copying another artist’s work.
    3. Getting effusive over a banal room or object.
    4. Pretending to notice weight loss.
    5. Saying the word “marvelous” to describe a fabric, wallpaper, sofa, etc.
    Hurt an artist.
    Miss the wisdom of my kids.
    Read Clancey. See a Kinkaid.
    Say “amen” “blessed” “trusting” etc. to trigger
    Christian approval. (This sells in the South.)
    Play with a woman just to see if I could.
    Say a cruel word to my wife.
    Patronize my wife or kids.
    Settle for safety when I could have authenticity.
    Settle for religion when I could have spirit.
    Settle for sex when I could have love.
    Settle for approval when I could have self respect.
    Settle for being nice when I should be good.
    Settle for self service, self absorbtion, self satisfaction, when I could have intimacy.
    Settle for a little God who looks like me, than a great one beyond imagining (or containing).
    Miss a chance to affirm someone around me.
    Miss a chance to be more than expected.
    Miss a chance to see the greatness of those around me. And tell them.

  20. red says:

    /mortifying tangent about karaoke
    I hosted a karaoke party once with my friend Ann Marie, in a house in the suburbs of Chicago. All of these semi-conservative shy people, in their own house – and we were hired to get the party going, basically.

    But unfortunately, these people were happy to sit back and let us sing song after song after song. It was their own damn party!! They were paying us! And nobody would sing.

    I remember Ann Marie saying into the microphone, after singing her 3rd Linda Ronstadt hit or whatever: “Uh … anyone ELSE want to sing??”

    Even though she and I were the hired help, we snuck cocktails from the table in the den.

    But we got paid 50 bucks each.
    /end mortifying tangent about karaoke

  21. Dan says:

    Well hey.. at least you got cocktails.

    Though that particular scneario sounds like the penance I’ll likely undergo in the afterlife.

    ‘Ok now Dan – Hit Me Baby One More Time- take 33 – from the top.’

  22. red says:

    Hit Me Baby One More Time…bwahahaha

  23. Bill McCabe says:

    Hmm…life experiences I’d like to avoid:

    Find out what it’s like to root for the Yankees
    Sing Karaoke
    Watch something on Lifetime
    Understand the root causes of Bin Laden’s anger
    Catch an STD
    Needing to get a prescription for viagra filled
    Go to prison
    See my country defeated and humbled
    Experience life under Sharia
    Visit France, except as a member of an invading army.
    Bring shame onto myself or my family
    Take Al Franken seriously

  24. red says:

    Bill, no: not “Things I’d like to avoid”!! Ha! I’m laughing over here. My list would be totally freakin’ different if THAT were the intention. Jeez!

    I would like to avoid getting gangrene
    I would like to avoid being a POW

    No, the point of this list is: Things you feel you never HAVE to do, although other people may think they are great great fun.

  25. Bill McCabe says:

    Fine, fine. Things I don’t feel any particular need to ever do:

    Visit France
    Attend an Arena Football game
    Watch a musical
    Buy a sub-compact car
    Hang-glide (though I would like to skydive)
    Give up anything for Lent
    Participate in “Turn of the TV week”, “The Great American Smokeout” or any other faddish crap.
    Praise George Lucas
    Purchase a rap album
    Watch professional wrestling
    Get The Rock’s autograph

  26. red says:

    You just had to put that little dig in there in the end, didn’t you.

    Other than that – well done.

    I don’t think I ever need to hang-glide either. Although it looks spectacular – I think I really might freak out. Suspended over the empty air like that.

  27. red says:

    I’d actually LOVE to live under Sharia, Bill. What on earth is the matter with you?

  28. Bill McCabe says:

    Yes, I couldn’t resist. And if you ask me, you wearing a burqa would be a crime.

  29. red says:

    The burqa is around my soul.

  30. Emily says:

    Good one, Bill. I was going to put “Ring Liv Tyler’s door bell and run away”, but I’ve already given the Red crap for that one, so I didn’t think it would be very nice to pile it higher.

  31. red says:

    I could barely get out that last comment without guffawing

  32. red says:

    Oh speaking of the Liv Tyler thing:

    I wanted to point out my own hypocrisy. In the infamous post about me whoring myself for the Rock’s autograph, I made some blase comment about how New Yorkers, for the most part, leave celebs alone because we see them so much.

    This is, on the whole true, but I should have added:

    “except when we ring on their doorbells and run away into the night like a coven of banshees.”

  33. Emily says:

    It’s okay, Sheila. We’ll just put it down to temporary insanity induced by LOTR hysteria that was present at the time.

  34. red says:

    One last story, which I think relates:

    Back in college, we all were hanging out in various states of wild inebriation. One of our friends – the class clown – was up in front of us, basically entertaining us – and he was out of control – and we all were laughing so hard we couldn’t speak – and yet he kept just making a fool out of himself to keep us laughing-

    and then, all at once, we all fell silent for one brief moment (you know how that sometimes happens?) and in that pause, my friend Liz exclaimed, tears rolling down her face, “Oh, I’m so glad that’s not me!”

    You can all be glad you were not me during my autograph-from-the-rock moment.

    However: it is a damn good story.

  35. red says:

    “LOTR hysteria that was present at the time”

    Jeez. Ain’t it the God’s honest truth!!

  36. Rick says:

    I’d like to avoid:

    Running from bulls
    Chewing tabacco
    Perfom pilates
    Attend horticulture events
    Attend RV and Boat shows
    See a Celine Dion concert
    Watch Keanu Reeves act

  37. MikeR says:

    Here goes:

    * Attend Disneyland/World/Epcot or any other corner of the Disney empire. I’ve had a life-long antipathy for all things Disney – I’ve always felt that Disney represents the very worst of American culture. How I’d love to see Bugs Bunny get the chance to kick that damn mouse’s ass…

    * Attend a Super Bowl – many of the same negatives as Disney, at an even steeper price.

    * Appear in a motion picture, as an extra or otherwise – I’m a big movie fan, but I’m perfectly content to stay on this side of the silver screen.

    * Climb Mount Everest – It’s always seemed to me that the best way to avoid dying on the side of a remote, frozen peak is to avoid going there in the first place. Little hiking trips in the desert southwest are plenty of adventure for me.

    * Own a Lexus – There are expensive cars I would like to own, but they run more along the lines of a ’55 T-Bird than a new luxury car.

    * Become so old and decrepit that the sight of a beautiful woman fails to move me. This one doesn’t quite fit the category, since few people aim for this as a goal. Still, an awful lot of folks do end up in that position. I would hope to avoid being one of them – these lines from a Georgia Satellites song pretty well sum up my feelings on the issue:
    “I don’t wanna leave before my time is done
    don’t wanna stick around when my race is run
    I don’t wanna go before they call my dance
    don’t wanna die asking for another chance.”

  38. Alex says:

    I’m stealing another one of your posts and putting it on my site, darling. In the meantime, here’s a brief list, and call me.


    Cheat on my taxes and get away with it.


    Dance like I did when I was in my twenties.

    Look like I did when I was in my twenties. (I look great for over 40)

    Have someone call me nasty names while we’re having sex. (Raunchy…..sure. Don’t call me a whore, that turns me right off)

    Watch a football game.

    Listen to Yanni.

    Thanks Sheila, I feel cleansed somehow.

  39. timmy says:

    Ok, a little late to the party, but thought I’d add my own.

    Buy a Metallica album
    Learn to like fish
    Have to explain why I like sushi, but not fish.
    Sit through another “Why can’t I fall for a nice guy?” speech (Answer: Because you don’t want to).
    Live in the Eastern Time Zone
    Run a marathon (There are better uses for those hours, and I like my thighs and nipples unchaffed).
    Be convinced by a “tastes like chicken” argument.
    Wear a tie to make a living.
    Have to reject something just because it has mass appeal.
    And finally: like the word “blog”!

  40. wheels says:

    I don’t ever need to:

    Get tattooed or pierced.
    Attend Outward Bound.
    Attend EST.
    Bungee jump/hang glide/skydive.
    Go into a Halloween haunted house attraction.
    Undergo plastic surgery.
    Read “important literature.”

  41. Eric says:

    I don’t ever need (or want to do) to:

    Live in New York Shitty. Unfortunately, due to my misfortune I live in Manhattan. Oh well…

  42. Rob says:

    I don’t ever need to read another novel by Tom Clancy, Anne Rice, John Grisham, or Charles Dickens.

    I don’t ever need to visit a casino. I never have.

    I don’t ever need to overindulge in M&M Peanuts again.

  43. red says:

    Okay, I just read through all of these additions and I just have to say:

    You are all spectacular. I love it. I LOVE IT.

    “attend a horticultural event” – I mean, that is classic. Love it.

    Thanks so much, everyone, for participating.

  44. Laura says:

    -Be on a reality show (although I admit to watching a few)
    -When I have kids, and they are involved in sports, be one of those parents screaming at the officials, belittling the other kids, and in general making an ass of myself.
    -Go to Mardi Gras
    -Go to jail
    -Try lutefisk
    -Get divorced
    -Ever watch the Wiggles again (once was enough)
    -Take family and friends for granted
    -Be a poor role model for my future kids, or in anyway screw up as a parent (too badly)
    -Get any more speeding tickets

  45. Theresa says:

    -meet the president
    -paricipate in anything that ends “athon”
    -be on a reality tv show (or watch one)
    -develop a taste for sushi or caviar- I’ll stick with organ meats
    -wear a vera wang
    -have a baby
    -take a cruise
    -hike the appalachian trail

  46. red says:


    Funny, I don’t ever need to take a cruise either!

    And there are people who think cruises are MUSTS on their To Do list.

    To each his own!

  47. Ron says:

    more of my “To Don’t”s:

    try coke or heroin

    pierce any part of my body other than an ear(too late for the ear)

    dye my hair

    get a toupee or do a “combover” or anything else to cover up the fact that I’m going bald

    go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I LOVE Nawlins, but the idea of being there during Mardis Gras just sounds nuts.

    Go to any “spring break” place. Nobody past the age of 21 should be partying with college kids at Daytona Beach/South Padre/Wherever the latest spring break place to be is

    go to an NBA game.

  48. Mitchell says:

    I dont have a to-don’t list…although a little story about the nature of what appeals to us and what doesn’t.
    I was waorking at a store in Wrigleyville..literally one city block from Wrigley Field..the home of the Chicago Cubs and the drunken,hostile,urinating masses known as their fans.(Biased..i know..but live in the ‘hood for a while..u’ll know what i mean)… the store a man came in practically dressed as a Cubs billboard…hat,jersey jacket..water bottle…i smugly(i can be a real asshole sometimes) told him that i was proud that i lived in Chicago for 10 years and never set foot inside the famous field…he blinked with hurt,indignaton and pity and said simply..”That’so sad”. I understood at that moment how much people love their “stuff” integral to our joy these specific activities or passions are. I asked him,simply if he”…owned and listened to Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall on a regular basis?” He looked at me utterly bemused and little uncomfortable(in a “hey i’m not gay” way)…and said..”uh …NO”…I calmly and with generosity said …”That’s so sad”. He totally understood..we shook hands and agreed to disagree about our “stuff”.

  49. red says:

    Mitchell, you are my favorite smug asshole on the planet.

  50. red says:

    “Can you recite the entire movie of What’s Up, Doc start to finish?”

    “Uh … no, I cannot.”

    “That’s so sad.”

  51. say WHAT?

    waterskiing (as vile and loud and environmentaly degrading a sport as it is), is a wonderful, and wonderfully challenging experience, and preceious few athletic experiences compare to laying down a hard, deep turn on a salom ski in smooth, clear water. the acceleration across the wake after a solid turn, when you are pulled at near 40 MPH, and you go from a dead stop to near 60 MPH in a blink is sooooooooooo worthwhile. lemme take you to lake powell, and you just might change your mind on the skiing.

    and mexico? no need to go mexico? mexico has the best beaches and some of the best canyons, mountains, jungles, and culture in the western hemisphere. what’s a little case of the runs for all of that.

    traipsing through wild jungles? girl. you have no idea what you are missing. ever seen the moon rise over the andes? or seen a monkey up close? actually, monkeys pretty much suck.

    you and i really need to hang out more often.

  52. red says:

    I could deal with the monkeys. It’s the big ol’ insects I absolutely could never deal with. i never want to see bugs like that. I would have no fun.

    Also – this is the whole point of the To Don’t list, my friend: “Remember, most of these things are usually considered fun and amazing by other members of the population – It is just that you, of your own free will, have decided you don’t ever have to experience such pleasures. You are fine without them”

    I bet if you listed out stuff you never felt the need to do, I might freak out as well.

    “WHAT? You never feel the need to read Joyce’s Ulysses?? What are you OUT OF YOUR MIND????”

  53. red says:

    Oh, and … I’m not as militant about the water-skiing as I am about the jungle.

    I am sure I would not REFUSE to go water-skiing if the opportunity arose. It’s just that I feel no burning need to do so.

  54. Theresa says:

    Pestilence arrives by boat.

    Not that I have bitter memories of living in a cruise destination city…

  55. mitchell says:

    my story was intended to reveal my smugness and to illustrate that we can love something sooooooo
    much(i.e. What’s Up Doc?..actually a deal breaker in the realtionship sense)…and some one else couldn’t care less…baseball? Judy at Carnegie Hall?…so much to choose from. Mexico sounds great..but not really burning to do it..Greece? yes…i never have to see a puppet show or a Restoration comedy…but i’ll watch any bad teen movie taht comes along the pike..different strokes