Giving a Fuck

I was a mouthy, outspoken teenager at school, mostly to mask my insecurity. It was quite fun to get sent to time out from maths class for aiming a water pistol at Miss Hailstone, to almost get caught for smoking halfa ciggie in the flax bushes at Mona Vale, talking back to the relief teachers, etc.

But then someone commented that their father didn’t like me. I mean, really, who cares if someone’s folks didn’t like you? It probably made one more popular anyway. But the thought of someone not approving of me seemed awful, somehow. Why didn’t they like me? What did I say? What did I do?

Something I struggle with, and have since I can remember: I am terrified, terrified, of offending people. This was never more evident than when organising our wedding. I fretted about who we would manage to offend / annoy / inconvenience by not inviting them / having it in Melbourne / having it on a long weekend / having it in the city. Obviously, and rationally I knew this, this is a complete load of bollocks, and not only because most people we know are nice people and are honoured to come to our wedding, and those we have not invited have been fine about it (as far as I know). Still, I worried.

So, when I saw this article: I read it with interest and then took myself to amazon to read the theory in its entirety.

Essentially, the book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck advances the theory that you only have a limited amount of fucks to give about stuff in your life at any one time, and you can’t be expected to give a fuck about everything. The basic idea is most people spend an inordinate amount of time on things that they don’t actually care about, and saying yes to things before they really think about it, so to be included in things and not to offend anyone, thus ensuring that people like them.

This is one of the best books I have read this year. Seriously. I’ll put my hand up now and say, in my 20s particularly, I had the motto of ‘say yes to everything’. This was meant to be a life affirming action, where I squeezed all the fun out of life I could. In reality, a good portion of it involved going to parties I didn’t want to go to, going to gigs on weeknights I was not interested in, leaving a hole in my bank balance and my sleep budget. So I ended up hungover and poor, all in the name of ‘fun’ and making sure I was included.

Why do we care so much what people think? Why does the approval of others matter so much? I have spent hours, no, DAYS out of my life, my TIME, giving a fuck about things i really shouldn’t give a fuck about, or that I cannot ever control. Especially what people think of me. I have always worried far too much about this, to my utter detriment.I have a friend who really DGAF what people think of her, and she is blessed with plenty of friends and is a happy well-adjusted person. Her motto? ‘I don’t really see why I have to explain myself.’  I offered, ‘um, well, because some people might be uncomfortable with xx decision’. ‘Well, the comfort levels of others isn’t really my problem’ Wow! So cool. See where I am going with this?

And thanks to this book, by writer Sarah Knight, I am working on it. For example:

1. Snide remark from friend? (Said friend infamous for snide passive remarks). Past approach: Stew on this for days, burning a hole in your stomach, before doing precisely nothing but being pissed off in next interaction.

Future: Either call her on it at the time ‘oi! not cool!’ or even better, say to yourself “who cares” and put it down to that person and their manner as utterly nothing to do with you.

2. Contributing $200 towards a non-close friend’s hens that included cocktail making and man-date?
Past: Immediately said yes, contributed money you did not have, then resented the whole thing.
Future: Refuse graciously and in a timely fashion, text hen and advise you can’t wait to catch up personally, just unable to attend this particular event.

3. Going along to rugby with the guys when you are tired and dying for couch on a Friday night.

Past: go along, drink too much, out of fear of being told you are ‘boring’ or ‘suburban’
Future: a firm but polite, ‘sorry can’t come, can we catch up another night?’

Aforementioned friend has this down pat, as a matter of course. ‘You don’t have to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself’, she says.
You don’t want to stay out for evening? go home.
You don’t want to put in for leaving present for annoying workmate who you don’t know very well? Politely decline.

The fact is no-one cares, and if anyone does, they are a dickhead.

There are limits to this, obviously. There ARE things you do give a fuck about, thus you can spend you limited fuck budget on. Example: close friend’s baby’s 1st birthday – absolutely important. This is someone you love’s child, and that child is important. You don’t have to buy them castle grey skull or whatever, just attend and give child a nice cuddle and have a nice drinky.

So, things I do actually give a fuck about!:
– My friend’s thesis
– Abortion reform
– US candidacy (WTF really)
– Water shortages
– My veggie garden
– My doggies
– My family

Then the things I am no longer giving a fuck about:
– People we can’t invite to wedding. Including BBF’s cousin’s new boyfriend Jake from Brunswick: sorry, no room.
– Bitch relations comments towards me – the old trout can keep being a bat, it’s nothing to do with me.
– Essendon drug scandal (honestly, who CARES)
– Peta Credlin and Tony Abbot bullshit – why is this still news?
– A friend’s constant drama with work / men / life when she has little intention of taking action.

See? It’s working. And today, BBF is off to work reunion at the pub, which I considered going to. Then I realised, he doesn’t give a fuck, nor do I. I could go, but really, I won’t be missed, and there’s a movie I want to see and it’s my Sunday.

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This Is Not a Wedding Blog, Ok?*

This might sound a little silly, but the one thing that gives me more worry than anything else wedding wise is not balancing my peanut butter addiction with fitting into my wedding dress; but the guest list.

The fucking, sodding guest list.

In the past, my dream wedding was to have a small registry office affair and then head to the pub for drinks. What this dream didn’t factor in was falling in love with a man who had a larger circle of friends than myself and a large family; who liked tradition and wanted people to help us celebrate. He argued (quite rightly) that our mothers would love to be included; as would our close friends, and I agreed we would probably regret not having a bash.

After we got engaged we spoke to the Ns, newly married. Gorgeous, sociable, and highly pragmatic people, they were cut and dried about their wedding guest list which they kept to a demure number; less than 100. ‘If we hadn’t caught up with that person in a year, we didn’t invite them. Simple as that. You can’t invite everyone’, says Mrs N.

For us, the crux of the matter was that we met at the ages of 32 and 36; at such a time as we had friendship groups firmly established (mine runs to several countries). The Ns had, in fairness, been together for 10 years, and in those 10 years their friendship groups may have merged a little, as often happens. But for us, things were just slightly trickier. This, coupled with my fear of upsetting or offending any friends we have, makes for some worry.

I don’t have a big family, most of them are in NZ or the UK; but BBF’s family is comprised of many close uncles, aunts and cousins. And then there are the friends of my parents and my in-laws – people I couldn’t imagine getting married without. I got even more worried when the initial guest list, including every friend we would like at our nuptials, came to something in region of 160. Far too many to fit into venue, or indeed, pay for.

So it emerged that we were going to need to do a bit of slashing and burning. Clearly, I ran to sis for support (sister, the poor darling, also has a formal title on event day, and she is very very good at placating my frazzled nerves.)

‘Bridge, people really don’t care. And if they do (and therefore make your wedding about them) then they really are…kind of an asshole. If a friend of yours who you had a beer with say, once every 2-3 months, was getting married – would you expect an invitation? Don’t take this the wrong way, but people don’t care that much about other peoples’ weddings. And we all understand these days that when you invite someone you are paying $100+ for them to eat and get pissed and that is a whole heap of money’.

Another friend, B, offered a similar opinion. ‘You cannot invite everyone. You can’t. Fact. You would if you could, but it’s unrealistic. Unfortunately it means creating a rank of people, it’s not personal against particular people it’s just prioritising who you are in contact with OR more close with.

Take, (couple we know), they are your friends, you have a great time when you are together, but you simply can’t include them. Their manners are such that they would wish you the very best for your special day and not at all begrudge you for having no invite. And that is how everyone should be.’

BBF and I had some discussions. And came up with the following to assist in our decision making:
1. Co-workers – BBF and I each have one on either side that we regularly socialise with outside the office, and that’s it;
2. Children – blanket ‘no’ on this apart from very small ones that will need to be with mums (it’s an adult venue, not an English country church wedding, and just no.)
3. Teenagers – we have one, the bestman’s daughter, who is superb;
4. Plus ones (unless we know them) – blanket ‘no’, to keep numbers manageable (and when I was single I never got a plus one either)

See? We can be pragmatic after all. We now have a guest list that is more manageable, and even assuming we will have a few RSVP regrets, we will have a lovely group of people to celebrate the day with.

So, my advice to anyone having similar pre-wedding anxiety? It is probably worth remembering you get married at a certain time on your life and at that particular time you are close friends / whatever with whomever. At the end of the day, it’s a celebration of two people. And all that shit. I’m sure guilt will abate in time.

There’s only one person I am worried about – not that I would cull her. B, who offered in the postscript to her email above: ‘But if you cull me, watch your back.’

*just this post.