My mom used to get a kick out of telling me I’d love my hair when I was older because she knew vindication was certain. Meanwhile, I knew it wasn’t, because there was little I loved more than my flat-iron and little I wanted more than to be a straight-haired adult. “I’m telling you,” she’d say, “one day you’ll come back and say, ‘Mom, you were so right!'” Those comments drove me nuts.
Well, as most moms are when it comes to debates with 13-year-olds, she was right. The thought of giving myself stick straight hair now, at 28, gives me emotional hives — not just because it’s not in fashion (miss you, Avril) but because not sweating for 45 minutes every morning near a beauty tool is an utter pleasure.
Silky hair is merely one thing I don’t give a shit about anymore, but there are many others: needing to be happy, having “a crew,” being understood, reading the classics, looking as conventionally attractive as possible, feeling certain. The list is only growing, and every addition, every release of a concern that previously held me hostage, feels like a personal triumph. Like another stone laid on a path worth following.
I asked a whole bunch of women to tell me about something they used to care about, big or small, that no longer bothers them in the slightest. The result is the below list, which will warm your heart and socks faster than a well-scored commercial, and will last longer, too. Read on, then join us in our DGAF celebration by adding yours.
“I used to care A LOT about whether people thought I was smart. I tried super hard to control my messaging and give people what I thought they wanted from me intellectually. In some ways, it was awesome, because it forced me out of the comfort zone and of the boundaries of my mind, but in other ways it was really exhausting and tested how concrete my sense of self and identity was. I would wonder whether the thing I was saying or thinking was my truth, or just a thing that I felt the receiving end of my conversation would want to hear. At the crux of my wanting other people to THINK I am smart was my not thinking it at all. The need for validation! That was a cool, sobering and confronting thing to learn.”
“Growing up I always felt like a people-pleaser. It mattered if people liked me. Aging changed my life priorities. As I grew up, I realized that people in my circle did not understand the me I was becoming, so I stopped trying to explain and later stopped caring. I have this Dr. Seuss quote on a pillow as a reminder: ‘Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind, don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind.’ My character defines who I am and will always be. I have to love me first.”
“My grades! And my educational background. They really embarrassed me! Did you ever see a report card with rows of F’s? I did, loads of ’em. Also, I’m not (yet) a college graduate and that was pretty shameful for me to admit for many years. I now know that there are many paths to knowledge and ways to get an education and I enjoy learning so much. I feel confident knowing I learn differently and seek it out in a different way.”
“I used to care about managing people’s [negative] feelings. I didn’t want them to feel hurt or upset – especially toward me. What I’ve come to realize is that they either didn’t notice or didn’t care that I was ‘protecting’ them or ‘helping.’ Some got hurt anyway because I wasn’t being truthful with my feelings. The truth really does come out eventually, so it’s better to live a genuine life. People may not like what you have to say but if it comes from your true-self, they will respect it.”
“I don’t worry about trying to be a ‘fake’ friend. I am no longer in it for the popularity. If I enjoy your company, I will hang out with you. If I don’t enjoy your company, I am no longer wasting my time trying to impress or make you happy. So my close friends are now closer, and I have more time for me and what I want to do.”
“I used to care very deeply about maintaining the purity of my hair. I have a natural unique red color and was always told to never dye it EVER by family and friends when I was younger. Then in 2011, I got really obsessed with colorful hair (pinks, blues, purples) and finally said, “Fuck it.” Ever since, I’ve dyed my tips and the under layer of my hair blond, pink, teal (which turned out kinda green… but whatevs), and many variations of purple.
I even said fuck the salon and started doing it myself, bleach and color. It’s not always perfect, but I love it and it lets me be playful and expressive in ways I was never able to be before. I still don’t touch my roots because I do want to preserve my natural color, but adding playful touches of color is no longer out of the question.”
“Conveniently for me, the older I get, the less I care about the age of my friends. I have come to realize that the connections humans make are truly timeless. Growing up, I was nervous of older or more sophisticated women. Then, as I became a mom, I was nervous of the moms who seemed to be old pros at this gig and had no time for a newbie. Not sure if time has softened or hardened me (you pick), but lately, I simply don’t care! I am so happy making my own decisions. This confidence has brought me MANY new amazing friends. I used to feel that I was ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ for that group… but really, if I can party like I am 30, and reflect like I am 60? I think I’m on the right track.”
“I used to care a lot about writing and producing a TV series. I can’t say that I don’t care about the project but…life is short. Now I’m enjoying writing poems about hummingbirds and spending time with friends and family.”
“When my three kids were little, I cared so much about what to feed them, how to dress them, what music they should listen to, what they should play with. I read Parents magazine, organized theme birthday parties for each of them every year, made sure they went to the right schools and had the right swim class, music class and skating lessons. Now that they are in their twenties, that information just whizzes by me and I don’t pay any attention.”
“Well, if you must know, when I was a kid, everything had to match. If the blue stripe in my blouse didn’t match my slacks, I wouldn’t wear it, and I would search for the one that did. Now, if it’s off, I don’t care, nobody’s looking anyway!”
“When I turned 30 I FINALLY realized what I am, and more importantly what I’m not. I am a curly haired, curvy gal; the sexiest, prettiest thing I can do is start to embrace that, live in my god-given shell and stop trying to lose those last five pounds or tame my mane. Stripping yourself of those meaningless and unnatural energies allows you to channel them somewhere else in a more productive, happy, curly, curvy way.”
“I just don’t give a fuck anymore about what anyone thinks about me or what I do. My wrinkly, non-Botoxed face, how I connect better overall with cats than people and, most of all, that I would rather work out all day by myself than hang out with friends. Whatever. I’m finally at peace with my introversion!
“I used to have regrets about things that I had said, had done or didn’t do. Funny how they have all rectified themselves. People who I felt I had wronged them turned out to not be worth the time of day. And I found that other things I had done, fairly minor on the cosmic scale, were actually just that.
I’ve found a way to forgive myself for not doing the things I wished I would have done. We are all bound by our own constraints and sometimes we just can’t get beyond that. In the end, I don’t have a lot of regrets….just like that Sinatra song: “Regrets…I’ve had a few, but then again…too few to mention.”
Also, my thighs. When I was young, I thought my thighs were so fat (they weren’t). I used to lament my fat thighs…what a waste of time and self-esteem….please pass the potato chips.”
Photo by Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images.