This morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Kid, face it, you are probably not going to ever speak French.” I could have said I’m probably not going to speak Chinese or Italian, and that would have been equally true. But not speaking French has weightier significance to me.
I took French in high school, and I took some classes at the Alliance Francaise in my 20s. I have dozens of books on learning French. I pictured myself sitting in cafes — alongside a big poodle, of course — sipping coffee in my jeans, Chanel jacket, chic flats, and my scarf tied just so. In my vision, this country-clueless Cinderella would be her own fairy godmother and erase every trace of my sad, American trying-too-hardery. Au revoir camel toe! Adieu high-heel hobble! My savoir faire would take me from fair to fairly good. That was the idea, anyway.
Well, it’s decades later and the only French people who would understand my French are the kind and patient ones, of which there are, sadly, none. I’d call myself an advanced beginner. Last year I thought, this is it. I’ve got the time and the app and allons-y! I’d diligently put in my 20 minutes or more every day, and I enjoyed seeing myself improve. I even understood a lot of what I read in French Vogue. (BTW, if American Vogue makes you feel shitty, French Vogue is even worse.) But some nights when I was getting ready for bed I’d think, “Damn! I didn’t do my French homework today,” and grumpily squeeze in my vingt minutes.
Months went by and I got grumpier and grumpier about my homework. Then one day it dawned on me. Why am I giving myself homework? Do I enjoy it? Not really. Do I have a clear (and rational) goal to keep me going? No. I’d put in all this time trying to learn French, but I wasn’t clear why. It had just always been there, as something I was definitely going to do. I was reluctant to stop having come this far, putting in all this time learning irregular verbs and picturing different poodle sizes.
But then today, I just stopped. I said, “F**k it.” (I may have even said it out loud.) Instead of feeling like a failure…I felt pretty good. I can always go back to it one day, when I’m eager to learn it and there’s more joie de vivre and less work in the homework.
Then I thought about how many of us torture ourselves with “bucket lists” when we could free ourselves with “F**k It lists.” Here are just a few of the things I crossed off my “Definitely Someday” list and gleefully transferred to my “F**k it list.” (And I recommend writing these lists with a pink glitter pen.)
*I will weigh 145 pounds. (Eat nothing but lettuce for the rest of my life? F**k it!)
*I will get a black belt in karate. (With these knees? F**k it!)
*I will get laser hair removal. (Oh, just man up and shave your chin, girl. F**k it!)
*I will learn to cook. (That sound you hear is the universe, laughing hysterically. So yeah, f**k it!)
*I will learn to play my accordion. (It’s so red and shiny, but who am I kidding? F**k it!)
*I will be able to bench press 130 pounds again. (Kid, you haven’t a shred of testosterone any more. Forget it and f**k it!)
*I will buy fresh flowers every week. (I’m not ready to give up on this one yet. But since I’ve bought fresh flowers maybe twice in my life, I’m not going to bet on it or beat myself up about it. So… f**k it!)
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
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