I was thirty years old and in the middle of Legal Writing II when the last remaining fuck I had to give left my body. It flew out the tenth floor library window, unhindered by glass, and was never seen again. I was trying to give a fuck, at the time, about the process of looking up caselaw in physical texts; a thing that is actually malpractice. (It’s malpractice because you cannot tell by looking at the reporter in which a case was published whether it has since been superseded or modified or…)
“You’re really calm about this. How are you so calm?” my twenty-two-year-old classmate asked.
“One. I’m ten goddamn years older than you are. Two. This doesn’t actually matter.” And with that, the fuck left forever. I actually felt it go, felt my shoulders straighten and my neck unkink from its cramped, stressed angle.
“Look,” I told her. “We’re going to do this. And we’re not even being graded on it. And then we’re going to walk back down to the classroom and a Westlaw representative will be waiting there to tell us how to do it on computers like you’re going to do the rest of your functional career. So no, I’m not stressed out about this. Any stress here is entirely artificial. It’s a game.”
In the two and a half years I had left in school, I never stopped trying to give a fuck about things. And the thing I discovered was that when you have well and truly given your last fuck, you can still care. You can still care deeply about many things. You just can’t actually give a new fuck about a thing, which means you have to re-allocate the fucks you have in order to give any.
Cupcakes not done for the work birthday party? Well, I could give a fuck about that I guess. But I’d have to reallocate an existing fuck. What fuck don’t I need to be giving? Oh, right. The fuck about whether I’m wearing brown shoes with black pants. That fuck seems entirely irrelevant. Let’s use it for these cupcakes.
It might be a mid-life crisis, you guys. Or it might be the best thing to ever happen to you.
Let’s do an exercise together. I bet you give a fuck about a lot of things. I used to give many fucks about myriad things. That’s because when you’re a kid or a teen or whatever, the fucks seem infinite. So you give fucks about whether you’re wearing Guess jeans or an Esprit – or hypercolor – sweatshirt. You give fucks about Whitesnake and David Bowie and Sean Yseult (whose name you probably don’t know but who was the bassist for White Zombie and later for The Cramps and I gave every fuck I had to give about her for quite some time). You give fucks about Teletubbies and Pokemon and whether Robin-who-plays-the-guitar-before-theatre-and-always-wears-oversized-jeans-rolled-up notices you.
But the thing you don’t know as a kid is that there are a finite number of fucks you can give, and that eventually that last one is gonna take off. So if you ran out of fucks today, what would you care about? What’s worth caring about?
The fuck I gave about ever owning a BMW is currently allocated to Black Lives Matter and I’m pretty sure the Beemer doesn’t miss it. The fuck I gave about the failure of trickle-down economics flirted briefly with Bernie Sanders this year and moved on. I still give a whole lot of fucks about what’s on my noodles (butter and parmesan only, just like when I was ten) and none about the difference between an IPA and a stout. I give a fuck about whether your feminism is intersectional and how far I am from the curb when I parallel park. None about my singing voice (solid, steady, uninspiring) and an awful lot about whether I’m talking too much, but only after the fact. Some about how fat I am and none about how fat you are; more about my Oly lifting form than about my handwriting. Lots about dogs and not so many about preverbal humans, although I’m willing to allocate some fucks to your kid if they’re cool. A few, shameful, fucks about how poorly my ex is aging. None about making space for the dominant paradigm.
Go back through all the fucks you’ve given over the years, I dare you. See which things were worth it, and which new ideas might be a better use of the fucks you have to give. Or don’t; I don’t really give a fuck.