No One Gives a Shit About Their Families
In an excerpt from her new book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck," out today, author Sarah Knight goes deep on why you don't have to like your family full of hysterical, conservative crybabies.
Screenshot via YouTube
As it turns out, we all share many of the same opinions when it comes to things we don't give a fuck about with regard to our families. I know this because I conducted an anonymous survey asking people to name something about their families that features high on their No-Fucks-Given list, and even I was shocked at how many overlapping responses cascaded in. (I told you family was a fucking minefield.)
So let's play our own version of everyone's favorite game show where moms make uncomfortable, vaguely lewd on-air banter with Steve Harvey... FAMILY FEUD!
The question in my survey was "Name something about your family that you don't give a fuck about." Read on for the top six results, from least to most popular.
6) The fact that we share a bloodline as though that pertains to something you are trying to convince me to do
About five minutes ago, I declared that it makes no sense whatsoever to give a fuck about anyone or anything just because of your genetic link to that person or thing. With the exception of your own offspring, who you kind of owe since you brought them into this world—at least until they're old enough to fend for themselves—you are simply not obligated to give these fucks. You might think you are. But you are not. And a lot of you seem to know that already, so maybe there's hope for you after all.
5) Mandated togetherness/"liking" of all family members
Each of us is a pretty, pretty snowflake. No two exactly the same. Even identical twins! (It's true; look it up.) So how in the name of Gemini can we all be expected to like one another all the time and want to hang out constantly? Family members who enforce unwanted togetherness among siblings or cousins or grandchildren who don't like one another are giving a fuck about all the wrong things.
4) Group photos
I wasn't expecting this to rank so high, but, boy oh boy, do people hate taking group photos with family. The point, it seems to me, is that very few of you give a fuck about the photo itself. You'll see it on Facebook tomorrow, click an obligatory "Like" and then forget about it. We no longer live in a world where people spend quality time on Friday night swilling gin martinis and poring over family photo albums. (Did anyone ever live in that world?) The inherent disregard for the photo is compounded by—as many responders indicated—the fact of the photo being taken "last minute" (nobody likes a sneak attack) or by "being forced to dress alike" (nobody wants to look like a member of an Australian shampoo dynasty*). Again, this is a numbers game; if a good chunk of family members don't want to pose for the formal group photo, they ALL need to man up and decide not to give a fuck. Majority rules!
3) Ancient history
Sibling rivalries, grudges, petty arguments, and DRAMA!!! populated the survey like "famous" potato salad recipes at a family reunion. It's pretty clear that nobody gives a fuck about who said what, whose fault it was, or which one of us Mom likes better. (Hi, Tom! Thanks for reading my book.)
2) Outdated holiday or other family traditions
As families grow and relatives die off, so should some traditions. And yet, many of us seem to be locked into a Groundhog Day–style malaise when it comes to annual events and outdated rituals related to holidays, vacations, and other family gatherings. Thanksgiving might as well be renamed "Fucksgiving." Religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Hanukkah are double the dogma, double the fucks. That rustic cabin your dad has rented every Labor Day since 1986? Thirty years later, it's now so dilapidated that you'd be better off skipping the vacation and spending the weekend with your own kids in the ER getting tetanus shots. In the same way that "just because we're related doesn't mean I have to give a fuck about X," just because this is how your family has always done something doesn't mean this is how you have to do it until the end of time. A respectful difference of opinion delivered with a little honesty and politeness could do wonders for you here. Or, if all else fails, a personal policy against rustic cabins.
Finally... drumroll, please... the number-one response to "Name something about your family that you don't give a fuck about."
Well, it was a tie.
1) Religious and political differences
That these two ideological quagmires were put forth over and over and over again by the survey participants means they each merit a good old-fashioned "not sorry" breakdown.
Let's start with religion. It'll be like an exorcism. A fucksorcism, if you will.
Am I my brother's keeper?
This is a classic case of getting back to our roots, and to that very first element of the NotSorry Method: deciding not to give a fuck about what other people think. Your religious views affect you and only you—same goes for your aunt Jennifer in all her Southern Baptist glory, glory, hallelujahs. She has her opinions, you have yours. If you are honest and polite about your difference of opinion and you request that religion no longer be a topic of discussion among family, you are not being an asshole. You are being reasonable, and if anyone gets his or her feelings hurt, it's not your fault.
Let me give that the "Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting" treatment: It's not your fault. It's not your fault.
IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
So the next time Aunt Jennifer makes a not-so-subtle reference to your proclivity for living in sin with your girlfriend, just wipe the eggs Benedict off your chin and say, "I respect your opinion, Auntie J, but I would prefer not to have a conversation about our religious differences here at Mimi and Paw-Paw's sixtieth-wedding-anniversary brunch."
How honest and polite was that? You are so not the asshole here.
Just try it. You might be surprised at how well it goes over. Or at least at how totally caught off guard she is and therefore unable to respond with more than a nervous titter and the raising of one overplucked eyebrow.
The power of honesty cannot be overrated. I can't tell you how many more fucks you wind up giving when you try to beat around the bush. God, even that expression sounds exhausting.
The thing is, I'm guessing you haven't even tried this method before because you got so caught up in the obligation/shame/guilt spiral that you felt paralyzed. Weak. Willing to spend twenty precious minutes being passive-aggressively harangued over your religious beliefs
(or lack of them) to avoid what you perceive as an even more difficult confrontation.
Wouldn't it feel good to just say what you mean and mean what you say? Just... do unto others as you would have them do unto you? I mean, it's right there in the Bible.
Vote no on giving a fuck!
Here I'm going to offer a personal story to illustrate just how much I believe in the NotSorry Method and how it has worked for me. Names have been changed to protect the identities of certain family members, but the circumstances are, I assure you, 100 percent real. Those involved might read this book someday and recognize themselves, but they need feel no shame. NotSorry is about living your best life—and they don't want to be on the other end of my political grandstanding any more than I do on theirs.
Unlike an election, everybody wins!
One evening, my husband and I were enjoying a lovely dinner with two family members when the topic of our nation's then-president—and the veracity and completeness of his birth certificate—surfaced over a plate of delicious fried seafood. Allegations were leveled, opinions were expressed, and before it could turn into a long-form debate, I looked each family member right in the eye and said, "Dick, Jane, I love you, but we are not having this conversation." Then I turned to my husband—who shares my political views but who wants to talk about them an awful lot more than I think is necessary—and said, "I mean it."
There wasn't even a hint of hurt feelings. We changed the subject, had some laughs, licked the last of the tartar sauce from our fingers, and trundled off into the night.
THAT is how a family dinner should be. And it can be, if you budget your fucks accordingly.
But what if it all ends in tears???
What I've been trying to get across by drilling my method into you and emphasizing the importance of being honest and polite is that when NotSorry is practiced in good faith, tears are statistically unlikely to occur. There's always a chance things could go badly, sure, but there's a much greater chance that you could be entering into a whole new phase of decreased conflict and mutual respect among your family members.
And if your family is full of hysterical crybabies, then do you really want them to keep inviting you over?
Excerpted from The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, by Sarah Knight. Available now.