The In-One-Ear-And-Out-The-Other Gene

dejected-croppedMy mother has a saying. It’s usually imparted in song form, when I’m mid-breakdown about some thunderstorm that has rained out my Grace parade. It goes a little something like  “In one ear and out the other, listen to your mother and not your father.” Admittedly, as I approach thirty, “father” is more often replaced with “the internet” or “moronic asscakes.” No matter what changes in the last stanza, the gist is the same:

Grace, stop giving any fucks. 

My mother is the queen of not giving any fucks. She is meme Julie Andrews, twirling empty-handed of fucks, while on a peaceful, flower-bedecked mountaintop. People can chatter in her ear all day long about how they disagree with her or think she’s doing something wrong, but if she wants something badly enough, she goes after it anyway. She rolls her eyes, does what she believes in, and keeps moving on. No grudges are held; no plans are changed. Criticism is filtered, analyzed, and tossed as needed.

I did not inherit this gene. Let’s break down my response to criticism, shall we?

Grace: Good news, universe! I have finally found my true passion in life, training Bichon Frises for competitive water polo!

Father: But, Grace, is there any money in that? Sure, it pays the bills, but don’t you want to be Surgeon General? You know, when you’re Surgeon General, you can train swimming fluff balls on the side. Mature people call that a hobby, not a job.
The Internet: You? You do know that, in order to be a true Bichon Water Polo trainer, you need 18 years of experience and a degree from Oxford in Canine Watersports, right? Amateur.
Moronic Asscakes: Ha! Chubby bitch! Go eat some cake, instead.


Which, of course, quickly progresses to this…

My initial reaction to strong criticism is, and has always been, boat loads of tears and buckets of ice cream. My emotions are directly linked to my tear ducts anyway, as Professor McGregor will tell you. The man has started fast-forwarding through SportsCenter’s daily human interest story, for fear of his wife becoming a puddle of feelings. Someone tells me I’m not good enough or that I’ve done something wrong? Grab a boat, Noah, a gully washer looms.

Usually, the tears are quickly replaced by righteous indignation. How dare they tell me I am a bad bowler! I shall reap vengeance upon them with my bowling badassery! Now, what are these holes for? The valid criticism I can handle. After the anger, comes the light of knowing that there’s a kernel of truth there. But the pure doubt in my ability or loathing for my person? That shit lingers. I can talk a good talk and act like the shade has gone in one ear and out the other, but it hasn’t. It lodges in there, insidious and sticky, telling me that I’m not good enough. It whispers that these things are pipe dreams, not practical, achievable goals.

However, part of being an adult is receiving criticism, both valid and not. Functional adulthood involves not going to pieces every time someone thinks you’re lame. In my chosen career, specifically, critics hide behind every damn bush. There are really only two options here. Either my skin thickens up or Professor McGregor and I will need to buy a horse farm in Montana, so far into the mountains that it doesn’t have reliable internet. There, we will live off the land, periodically have our neighbors over for raccoon stew, and avoid the outside world altogether. Considering my addiction to civilization and the dear professor’s aversion to rodent cuisine, we’re probably better off with the first option.

I must learn how not to give any fucks. I must hum my mother’s jaunty little tune. Teach me your ways, those without fucks.

20 thoughts on “The In-One-Ear-And-Out-The-Other Gene

  1. Reading this is like reading a transcript of my conversations with myself lately. I always thought that by the time I was thirty, I’d be so self-assured that people’s opinions wouldn’t sway me. Now I’m here, I tend to end up doing what I want anyway, but instead of no f*cks given, it’s all tears, navel gazing and rapid and alarming consumption of ice-cream, cakes and chocolate. That sh*t has to stop though, I can’t fit into my clothes!!

    When you work out the zero f*cks given technique, I beg you to give me a lesson!

    • It’s funny how thirty is that magic “adult” age for so many of us, isn’t it? Hopefully, we discover this secret by the time forty rolls around. I’ve started buying gelato, because it’s oh-so-slightly healthier, in the meantime.

  2. I was born with this same gene! I’ve been trying to get science to recognize it, but they usually say no so I just go home and cry while I eat ice cream. Thanks a lot science!

  3. I tend to follow another meme (Give ALL THE FUCKS!), so I feel you, darling. What I usually do is list things I *have* to feel good about to silence the “you suck” conga line in my head. (i.e. “Vivs, if you really were a grotesque blob, how do you explain Count Fromaggio being attracted to you? If you really were THE WORST WRITER EVER, why’d your school’s lit journal publish your submission?”) But not giving the fucks in the first place? I honestly wish I knew.

  4. I’m not totally immune, but I’m learning! When people try to talk me out of things, I tell myself that they just don’t belong to my tribe of people, and they’re mostly talking to themselves – which is why they’re generally pretty miserable. When people try to tell me it’ll take too long, I shake my head and say I don’t care… And I remind myself that if I choose not to do it because of the training, I’ll continue on THEIR path to misery. I don’t know if these people are actually miserable, but it’s easy to imagine they are. I find that most people who go off and do their own thing in society support me and my dreams, no matter how crazy they are. And they also seem a lot happier and successful.

  5. You and I are basically spirit sisters here. I break into tears pretty easily. Commercials….emotional stories…. My bf has a tendency to look over at me when there are emotional bits during movies or shows or the news… or in conversation, because he thinks I’m super cute when I well up. I must figure out the “give no fucks ways”….

  6. Grace, (mary) wished I knew which one. More becausse I feel like I am stocking you. I understand you write books and would enjoy a good read! I love you sewing blog!! Love the realness of this onel!! All I can say is use your outlets. being 50 I did not do enough of that in my younger years. Watch out world I might really tell you what I think of your silly comments. Do we not teach people to think before they speak? My husband is my greatest sounding board enjoy yours.

  7. Hey you’re blogging here again! That’s great! And I missed it! That not so much.

    My automatic first response to the giving-of-fucks question is this fantastic post about the Fuck-Off Fairy:

    She will come. Maybe not on the night of your 30th birthday (she was a little behind for me) but she will come.

    I think the best no-fucks advice I ever got was to remember that when someone criticizes, they’re telling you something about themselves. This doesn’t mean it’s not valid, but ultimately, what they are telling you is what they want and value. Someone who says a book doesn’t have enough car chases is really just telling you that they like car chases.

    I’m also going to praise Carol Dweck’s work to the skies. Look her up.

    I’m happy to share more via email–I work in a field where the giving of fucks is pretty well fatal and people who give fucks burn out at a ridiculous pace, but it’s not stuff I can share online, even for someone as terribly bad at online anonymity as I am.

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