A popular narrative of both sickness and getting older is that you reach a point where you start to understand what’s important. You lose patience for the unimportant, and start to pay more attention to what you want. That you “run out of F***s to give.”
I have long awaited this change. But here I stand, 52 years old, a cancer survivor, pushed into menopause by cancer medication. Even with all of those changes, I still have plenty of F***s to give. So many that I’m not even writing out the word F***s. I still care about what people think. I still obsess over unimportant interactions online and in real life. I still have trouble expressing what I want.
A childhood of being told that everything I wanted, from ketchup to Barbie dolls to any potential job I mentioned, was wrong or bad, has left me unable to name almost anything I want. Once, in my 20s, I was driving back from something or other with a couple of co-workers. When we passed a Baskin Robbins I suggested we stop for ice cream. I said I thought I’d get a milkshake. My co-worker, innocently said “Really, that’s what you want?” It was enough to paralyze me, to make me wonder if there was something wrong with the milkshake I chose. We stopped and I wound up not getting anything, telling my co-workers I’d changed my mind.
A year ago, as part of a 360 review at work a career coach asked me what I wanted in my career and I burst into tears. I am not in the habit of thinking about what I want. Since having children I have moved from job to job, freelance to part-time, waiting for someone to offer me a job as opposed to applying for a job. I call it my “deis ex machina” theory of job searching, and in my defense it has worked really well. I was recently offered, and accepted, a full-time job I love. To avoid the indecision that comes with thinking about what I want, I make decisions quickly. At restaurants, I scan menus for the first thing I can eat and might like, and then order that. I bought my wedding dress in two hours. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I refused to get a second opinion on my options because I knew doing so would make me unable to choose an option.
I do not know what I want, and so I simply choose something. I tell my children regularly, “you have three meals a day, they don’t all have to be your favorite.” I live by this idea, but have lately started to wonder whether that means you never get your favorite?
But today, I got a quick view of what having no “F***s to give” might feel like. I signed up for a free yoga class in the park. The class was billed as “yoga sculpt.” I was told it would be yoga, then weight training, then cooling down with yoga. I had my suspicions as soon as the instructor announced that the “intention she was setting” was “to power through, because I’m like really sore from my run yesterday, but we just gotta do it.” I lasted through ten minutes of sit ups and toe taps and planks and fitness trainer type yelling of “come on” and “you can do it.” The thought came very clearly to me, “I can do it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be here.”
So I rolled up my yoga mat and left. I walked over to the Indian coffee shop and got a latte with cardamon. I ran an errand I had to run, I came home.
I didn’t finish my yoga class and I honestly don’t give a fuck.
Marta, so inspiring to read about you rolling up your mat. I’m waiting to feel out of fucks. I hear it should be happening any minute now (I’m 48) – wondering what I can do to speed it along… thanks for your essay.
I got in trouble in high school with my friends for just bailing when I was not interested. I learned that it wasn’t going to get fun later. They weren’t going to make a decision and pick a movie, restaurant, game. So I would bounce. I didn’t tell them I was leaving. I just left. “Please tell us that you are leaving. We promise that we won’t try to talk to out of it” turned out to be untrue. I walked out of a movie that my girlfriend’s mom had picked because it was too awful. “You embarrassed my mom.” Fuck off. I didn’t tell her she couldn’t watch the movie.
The missing fuck here is the “Fuck off” genre of Fuck. I’m getting a fucking milkshake, not smoking your pot and not listening the the Grateful Dead. I’m not wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants. I’m wearing these clothes. I’m not eating meat. I am eating all of this pizza that’s why I ordered it.
It’s certainly possible that I got away with this because I was born with testicles, If I have actually gotten away with it, as this behavior has cost me jobs and friendships, given me diabetes and 100 extra pounds.
I want to stay married so I have a lawn now, but there’s no way I’m going to care about it.
Love to you. You are the best.