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.
I love this. Especially as I was recently chastised for using what was called “the f word.” (To which I replied, “My personal lexicon includes the verb ‘to fuck,’ used in the present participle as a meaningless intensive’ [a phrase I picked up from some dictionary].) But alas, I waste far too much time giving a fuck when it’s not my turn to give a fuck (to quote The Wire–a show about which some of us give a fuck and others of us don’t, and either position is fine). It turns out I give a fuck about wine and the outdoors, but not about opera, beer, or sports. Other than being glad that David enjoys drinking and hiking with me, I’m not sure why I’d be invested in other people’s preferences along those lines. I double don’t-give-a-fuck about make-up. When I choose driving routes, I have a strong preference for curvy roads with minimal traffic control–not because I like to go fast, just because I like driving on curvy roads–but don’t give a fuck about distance- or time-minimizing. Happy birthday, Amy! In honor of you, I’m going to try really hard not to give a fuck about things at work over which I have no fucking control. (Things I do give a fuck about–this blog–along with giving me little glimpses into your life, I’ve learned a lot from it.)
If you are being chastised for using the F word, you’re hanging with the wrong people. I had forgotten that Wire quote! I totally and righteously give a fuck about the Wire. “I got the shotgun; you got the briefcase. It’s all in the game, man.”
Great to hear from you!
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