Giving Zero Fucks


I’m a huge nonfiction junkie and a couple months ago I read a book called “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande. Gawande is a doctor who has written a few best sellers, and this one was a story told from his professional and personal perspective of aging and managed health care in our country. The author speaks of aging in a way that made a lot of sense to me.

In the life cycle, we start by growing and expanding rapidly. Like quickly sprouting plants, our early lives are all about the exterior environment, opening ourselves up to new sensations and experiences, learning as much as possible, soaking in the world, meeting people. It’s not until we reach our 20s and 30s that this slows down, and we start to recalibrate our priorities. We start to look inward more often, we start to become more thoughtful of our future goals and plans, we start to become more protective of our time as we strive for our future. Those who are chronically ill or very old drastically and quickly trim their circle to spend time with those who mean the most; but it’s not a sudden change unless circumstances force that—generally, as we become older, we start to become more selfish with our time and our resources. It’s kind of inevitable, and this winnowing of the world is one that shapes all the decisions we make.

So, there’s this interesting intersection of time, resources, and giving of fucks, that we approach when we find new hobbies, new communities, and new endeavors as adults. For instance, maybe when I was younger, and first started pole in my mid-20s, the perception of pole as sexy, as racy, was interesting and titillating to me. I did it to get in shape, to have a hobby, to get in touch with myself. But, at this time- I cared more about what others thought. I had a bit of pride at the scarlet letter on my chest that no one in my muggle life could see. And when I revealed to others- selectively chosen, at strategic moments-that I was a pole dancer, it was more about informing their picture of me and filling in blanks. Helping them to see who I was by showing them what I did. I was exotic, I was edgy, I was passionate, I was sexy, I was strong, I was different. I built a part of my identity from the way that others perceived pole dance, and it helped me to find confidence within myself. The way others saw me helped me to see myself—or maybe more accurately, the self that I knew I wanted to be.

I also spent a lot of effort to involve myself in this new group of people. I taught all the time, I loved meeting new people, I wanted to travel everywhere to teach workshops, I wanted to host showcases and events so that people could meet one another and we could be a huge happy family of pole dancers. Injustices, drama, all these things would happen in our community and I would feel them deeply. I was involved. I wanted to learn and do all the things and truly I didn’t have a focus or a refined sense of self as a dancer. I loved every minute of it and I had truly found a passion that was all-encompassing. Most of my friends were fellow pole dancers, with the crew expanding with every class that I took as I was constantly meeting new people. Most of my weekends were spent socializing in pole-related activities, going to competitions, classes, or having drinks or dinners with pole friends.

Time has passed. I’ve grown up a bit. Not that much- not as much as I know I can- but enough to see things a little differently. And the pole community has grown up too. Where once I felt we were a single large organism with the same brain, it’s clear that now our community is truly made up of a diversity of people that is astounding, and that maybe pole dancing is the only substantial thing that we have in common. And where once I was all about casting out a wide net and seeing who jumped in, now I’m much more selective and less open about the new pole dancers I meet, the new connections I make, the efforts I put in. I am careful about the lines that I draw, I am more protective of the boundaries of my personal life and I share much less about myself on social media than I once did. I know better what it is that I love about pole and my movement specifically and I focus more on those things. I hold pole dancing slightly separately from the rest of the things I do; it’s no longer my whole life but a hugely satisfying piece of it. I care a lot less about other’s perceptions because I am firmer in who I am and what my identity is. I know more clearly what I am looking for in pole dancing, and what I have found in it. I don’t need someone to look at me and know that I’m a pole dancer; I can feel confident and sexy no matter what I am wearing. I have a happy life, already, and limited time and energy to spend. And at times, there are just not any fucks for me to give anymore.

There is nothing inherently wrong with caring what other people think. I do care, deeply, about what some of the people in my life think and feel; but these are the people who know me the best, care for me the most, and understand the core of who I am. I’ve stopped caring, almost entirely, about what people who do not know me think-not because I am callous or cold, but because now that I’m older, I know that those who made these kinds of judgments are generally not people who you want around you. I know, now that I’m older, that those who think they know you or can judge you generally do so on very, very little information. As someone who used to make a tremendous amount of snap judgments when I was younger (and I am still working on this), I also know that making judgments about other people is not a happy or beautiful habit to have. Sure, people probably look at me and think things. They maybe think, “Who is this ‘Aerial’ Amy? She spends most of her time rolling around on the floor [this is entirely valid]. Also, she doesn’t do anything hard, ever. She isn’t that good at pole. And she’s been poling for how long?” But here’s the really great thing. I didn’t start pole dancing to impress these Judgey McJudgersons. So why should I care now about what they think?

As a pole dancer, and as a human being, the evolution of who I am has changed and taken many twisting turns and jags. It’s not a straight line, it’s a curving twisting line that crosses over itself many times, revisits the same points, moves backwards. Sometimes it feels like I’m just running in a spiral over and over. But I’m always moving forward, and the one thing that I don’t have the energy to carry with me anymore is the concern of where I stand in pole dance compared to others. I know I can’t be fantastic at everything, but I am happy with the limited things I have chosen to give my focus to. We all have the moments of self-doubt, of seeing beautiful movement and wishing we could just put on another person’s skill and ability, like a cool and pretty shirt. But there isn’t enough time, really, to spend any more of it comparing yourself to others, or giving fucks about things that are meaningless. These things don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. As you start to feel things winnow down, you start to feel yourself take stock and re-evaluate things that once mattered.

One day, you wake up and realize—you have no fucks to give. And then, you’re free.