I’ve always been told that, in life, the less fucks you give, the better. We are guided by the Principle of Least Interest, as if I have some objective choice in the matter. In this scenario, it’s like I hold a giant basket of fucks, and I can choose to give them out or not. I can keep all the fucks for myself. No fucks here. None to give. Fresh out of fucks. Out of stock. You can try Sears.
I have tried this. I’ve tried to be the one who cares less or the one who doesn’t care at all. Look at me, delicately not caring as I smoke my Virginia Slims and do whatever it is aloof people do when they’re busy being painfully detached from the world. You see, I can’t even picture one thing that the Person Who Doesn’t Give Fucks does. I picture them with a bowtie and a red bicycle, surrounded by a colorful cast of human sidekicks and talking inanimate objects that transform from furniture into friends.
I have just described Pee-Wee Herman. Clearly I know not what it is to give no fucks.
Some people would say I feel too much. I say, “Too much? What is that?” No, but seriously. I am The Person Who Feels Everything, surely one of the most Sisyphean of all fates. It’s pushing an emotional boulder up the mountain of your past relationships, only to have it roll down on you. It’s being the person who feels enough for three relationships, who could hold a feelings summit, who could hand out feelings on the street like a flier for discounted sub sandwiches and still have some emotions left at the end of the day.
If life is like giving out fucks, it’s like this: an average person has 25 emotions. They can only afford to distribute so many of them before they have no emotions left and they end up a hollow person painting pictures of dogs like the vacant remains of George W. Bush. I have 100 emotions. I can afford to lend a solid 75 of those to other people and still have 25 left for myself, the sum total of our Average Feeler.
Is it great to feel things? Yes. I love feelings. You don’t get through Six Feet Under without loving feelings. But sometimes, you want to be able to make it through a laundry detergent commercial without being weirdly moved. “She works so hard as a wife and a mother, even though no one sees the time and effort she puts in. But now that she got that nasty pasta stain out, she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. This is magic.”
Personally, I’m not a big crier. I’m a leaker. I will very slowly lose precipitation, as if I’m trying to pour fluid down the drain without making a sound. When I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I slowly leaked feelings for three hours — and leaked some more when I got home. I’d been holding it ever since the 15-minute mark. The Series Finale of Friday Night Lights? Okay, I sobbed. I lost my goddamn motherf*cking mind with emotions, but I’m only human, y’all. If you cut me with the clattering chainsaw of catharsis that is FNL, do I not bleed?
Being in a relationship with The Person Who Feels Everything can be difficult, because each party often sees their emotional process as being correct — or is shamed for not feeling the way the other person feels. Big Feelers have a bad habit of slipping into martyrdom, purposefully taking on others’ emotions and problems; this helps them ignore or avoid dealing with their own feelings. It’s not that they don’t still feel things. They just sublimate their emotions, feeling vicariously through someone else’s drama. This drama will then become THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER and you’ll wonder why they care so much. Oh, right.
And for the non-feeler, they quietly believe themselves to be deficient, a Grinch incapable of giving what this person needs. Why can’t their heart be so big? Why are they so selfish? We romanticize the aloof person, but they don’t have it better. They just have it differently.
I think our insistence on Not Giving Fucks as a society tends to shortchange us emotionally, implying that a universal norm of emotions is best. We’re all so busy caring about not caring — but aren’t we all caring in our own ways? I don’t know when becoming a thoughtless sociopath became the “in” thing, but it’s not a standard you should hold yourself to. You should have feelings, in whatever way you choose to feel or express them, even if that’s not at all.
Everyone feels, just not all of us let others see that and some of us don’t feel as often or as intensely. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be the same as everyone else. Who knew, right?
Even when I feel like I can’t possibly care anymore or I can’t with life today, I wouldn’t change my ability to give too many fucks or accidentally find the brutal humanity and naked emotion in a Herbal Essences ad, as if it were narrated by Werner Herzog. I think we need people around us who can balance us out and help us be more blaze and world weary when we need to be and affirm our positivity and optimism if we need the energy boost. It’s not about using them as a sole conductor for our emotions (or lack thereof), but a necessary outlet, the charge that brings our feelings to light. It’s about the perfect complement, the negative to your positive.
Life is about finding balance between push and pull, up and down, your highs and lows — in order to find peace. The Buddhists say that happiness isn’t about staying on all the time or being a human upper; it’s about finding that perfect center in the middle of the storm of emotion. We find that in each other.