Trigger warning: Profanity. A lot. Mostly the F word. Prepare yourself.
One of the most wonderful things about getting older is — each year — giving fewer and fewer fucks about things that don’t deserve them. I’ve pondered this each year, relieved — as each birthday arrived — at all the many additional things I didn’t give a fuck about. Then my dear brother recommended an excellent and hilarious book that spoke directly to this phenomenon: “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide)” by Sarah Knight.
Knight correctly notes that there are three categories of people who don’t give any fucks: babies; assholes; and the enlightened (that is people who have bought and read her book). I would add, of course, old people. But she’s right and of course I have a graph to prove it.
The author is right that babies don’t give a fuck at least about things that don’t deserve it. But think I didn’t give much of a fuck until junior high school when I and every other 13-year-old started to give a fuck about EVERY FUCKING THING. For me, starting college started the long process of giving less of a fuck. It involved plenty of academic fuck-giving, but fundamentally I was surrounded by Nerds Like Me and there was a lot less to stress about in the other-people department. I then spent three years traveling — mostly in Taiwan — and giving very few fucks because I was surrounded by people for whom my weirdness factor started around 95%, so I did not give a fuck if my marginal weirdness was marginally higher or lower on any given day. Also the food was amazing. Law school of course brought a major increase in fuck-giving, but I think it’s been on a gradual downward trend since then.
As with most self help books (or so I hear), Knight gives you self-improvement homework: to make lists of the things you give a fuck about, and then determine whether each one is deserving of the fucks you devote to it. I’m working on that list, but also — therapeutically — created the list of Things I Have Already Succeeded In Not Giving A Fuck About:
- Knowing about, drinking, or liking wine.
- Knowing about or listening to classical music or opera. The music genes were distributed very unevenly in our family, and appear to have skipped me completely.
- Camping, hiking, swimming, exercising, or being outdoorsy.
- Staying home on Friday or Saturday night — indeed, this is now at the top of my list of Things I Love To Do.
- Most clothing choices — especially any pressure to achieve variety in my wardrobe.
- Whether the forks, knives, and spoons are on the right or left because Emily Post says so possibly based on a configuration designed to discourage dinner guests from stabbing each other in the middle ages (and some modern family dinners). I can’t tell left from right, everyone gets the utensils they need, and I don’t give a fuck!
- Eating dinner unfashionably early, say, at 5:00, and sometimes bracket-creeping that back to 4:00, 3:00, or even 2:00 at which point we just call it “second lunch” or just “lunch” since “second breakfast” happened around 10:00.
- Having gray hair. The dyeing process requires you to sit still and make conversation with someone you barely know on topics you don’t care about for HOURS, and then a week later to start giving a fuck about — but not actually doing anything about — your roots.
- Whether I have selected the fastest driving route from one place to another. Try it: you cannot imagine how liberating it is to choose a route and never think about whether the traffic might have been just a little faster on the alternate route.
- What most of the world thinks of me, which of course does not stop me from giving over brainspace to the opinions of totally random and/or toxic people or perseverating about something I said several decades ago. Still working on that.
So to anyone stressing about a milestone birthday, I say: it gets better — you give less and less of a fuck with each passing year, and it’s glorious.