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Cindy Talks: The F_ _ _ You Fifties

Sometimes we just have to say it to “get it.” Our “What’s Next?” Cindy sums it up

Maturity is the process of moving from dependence on environment to dependence on self.
–Fritz Perls, Gestalt Psychologist

The “Fuck you Fifties” — a phrase coined by Suzanne Braun Levine* — describes the defiance many of us are feeling and acting on at this juncture in our lives. Little acts of rebellion — usually involving saying “No” — enable us to whittle away at long held roles we no longer want to play.

I paused for a minute to consider if this was appropriate material for a post. Then it struck me that the very reason I flinched is the reason I should do it. So fuck it! Here we go….

My hesitation stems from the fact that defiance doesn’t come so naturally to me. Like many of us, I’m much more at home in the roles of good daughter, good wife, good employee. Always the good girl trying to meet the expectations of others. Will they like me? Approve of me? Need me? In Fritz Perl’s words, “I have been dependent on my environment.” For far too long.

But enter the second half of life… fatigue with the old roles; appreciation that life is shorter; emerging feistiness. The time has arrived to say “Fuck it. No.” To be more provocative. As Levine says: “to speak up, speak out, speak our minds.”

So, I am working on saying “No” to roles that no longer work for me. Like the doting working mom, for instance. I said “No,” I won’t run home guiltily from work every week night to play Donna Reed and make dinner for my almost-adult family. (Half the time they‘re out with school or social obligations, and I’m home alone with the table set, feeling like a twit…) Instead, I schedule and try to have dinner once a week with a great woman friend or contact. (If dinner at home that night is takeout, so be it…)

To become comfortable with saying No, here’s an important point. There’s a distinction betweens “roles” and “relationships.” Saying “fuck you” to roles you no longer choose to play doesn’t mean saying “fuck you” to the underlying relationships. It may require redefining some relationships and investing time to explore if and how the relationships can work with new rules of engagement. But it doesn’t mean we are telling people in our lives to fuck off (although a little of that may be okay, too!).

If Perls is right and this stage of our lives is meant to be about increasing dependence on self, then saying “No” is an important first step. As old roles fall away, we free up bandwidth for a new, authentic voice to emerge. If we listen to this new voice, I’m pretty sure we get closer to answering the What’s Next? question. This is what Levine means by the “Fuck You Fifties,” and as you may have guessed — I’m in!

*I have referenced Suzanne Braun Levine’s book, Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, in a prior post.

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4 Comments
Denise says: March 9th, 2008 at 6:52 pm

My boys are a little older than yours, but still living at home. The way I don’t feel put upon (the Donna Reed syndrome) is by establishing a new rule. Once a week each of them plans, buys and cooks dinner. Sometimes they need more prodding to plan and buy than I would like, but mostly it works. The subtext here was that I wanted them to learn some basic skills so they could be independent without take-out. It seems that sometimes we’re always eating the same chicken or hamburgers, but sometimes they have enough time to plan something really nice (mostly on weekends). By initiating this plan, I can keep the “f___ you” out of my vocabulary (most of the time). I think we’ve gotten to the age where we can ask for what we want, rather than expect our loved ones to read our minds.

cindy says: March 13th, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Denise – Thanks for sharing your dinner rule – a very innovative technique for almost grown children. And I agree, we ARE at the stage in life where we can ask for what we want. In fact, I am growing to appreciate that it is more often my own flawed assumption that I can’t/shouldn’t ask that holds me back and not that others are unwilling to respond when asked….

Sidney says: March 15th, 2008 at 9:39 am

If you think that the 50s are liberating, wait til you get to the 60s! A lot of the people that you wanted to please/impress are gone~ literally!! The need to please and impress is by this stage in total atrophy. You absolutely realize that you are your own person. Most likely you will CHOOSE to be kind and loving to family and friends, but it is indeed a choice. And you will weed out people who have been using you, rather than accompanying you and enhancing your life. You accept with some ease that life is not a forever gift, and you decide your priorities, and you make your mark on the world, by reading to a child, planting a flower, smiling at a sad looking stranger……. anything you choose!
The best is yet to come……….. really!

Harriett says: March 17th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Sidney,
Your post was so inspiring and positive. I’m so glad you come to snoety!

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