Licensed to “I Don’t Give a Shit”

Bette DavisI’m turning OLD this year. But I’m taking it all quite well, really. There are benefits to aging of course. Social benefits, for example. And one in particular I find quite tantalizing.

Since I’ve always been a tad socially-reckless — over-sharing, stirring the pot, making listeners squirm — what I’m most looking forward to with turning old is my newfound license to I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit (IDGAS). Surely you are already aware there is an entire fleet of IDGAS behaviors that growing old affords, whether it’s IDGAS driving, IDGAS dressing (or undressing), IDGAS civic involvement, IDGAS bodily functions and so forth. For now let’s focus on the latter, specifically the kind that derives from one’s mouth.

As an adoring fan of this particular brand of verbal diarrhea, it’s obvious to me what qualifies as legitimate, age-related IDGAS. But here is some clarification if you’re unsure.

Those comments made by the “helpful” friend who enjoys giving advice on your failed weight loss plan? Not IDGAS. Don’t confuse IDGAS with a personality disorder. Those comments made by internet trolls who rant on online news stories? Not IDGAS. Don’t confuse IDGAS with just being an anonymous asshole.

IDGAS is random, possibly involuntary, and is indiscriminately shared with any nearby human, often in settings that have been properly earmarked as chitchat-free zones (a crowded elevator, the checkout line at Home Depot, your dermatologist’s lobby).

IDGAS is meaningless. Make no mistake, these comments serve no purpose whatsoever. So “This dog doesn’t bite,” or, “The men’s room is down the hall,” or, “Those are cute shoes,” or even, “You cut me off, you fucking asshole,” are all necessary comments that advance public knowledge, provide assistance, advocate in a challenge, or spread general goodwill.

Alternatively, IDGAS comments are not advancing anything of value to the listener. Rather, they are simply the mind’s leftover crumbs that have been allowed to freeflow into the atmosphere because, if you are old, you no longer give a single shit what falls out. That’s the ironic thing about IDGAS. It turns out with IDGAS, you are actually giving a whole lot of shit.

So instead of saying to the stranger in your elevator, “That’s a nice floral shirt,” if you’re of age to practice IDGAS, you might instead say, “Oh, that’s a flower on your shirt. I thought it was a button.” As you get older, the extent of IDGAS goes further. Ten years later, the comment might continue with, “I don’t wear a lot of shirts with buttons.” And further still, “They pull and make gaps. I am large busted.” And finally, “Unlike my sisters, all flat-chested. They wore buttons.” 

I recently attended a church basement funeral lunch that surprisingly offered only a single female bathroom stall. Most of the guests were elderly. In the long line to the restroom, IDGAS was running rampant. “There’s only one toilet? I shouldn’t have eaten the ham salad.” And, “I put pickles in my ham salad. My daughter-in-law, now she puts celery in hers.” And, “Celery doesn’t contain nutrition. I suppose it’s crunchy though.” And, “Yes, I like a little crunch.”

If I accompany my mother to any retail setting where people are paid to listen, behold IDGAS. For example, let’s set it with my mom and a craft store employee who was measuring out the fabric for what would be the curtains in my mom’s new Airstream camper. Obviously, a fertile petri dish for IDGAS. “Polyester tends to fade less. I don’t mind if it fades a bit.” And, “Orange is a bright enough color already. If it were yellow, then I’d worry.” By the time my mom was at, “And when you have a camper, you’re outside most of the day anyway,” the craft store employee looked weary.

And my mom didn’t give a shit.

This is when society triumphs. This is the pure freedom of IDGAS. To be old and empowered with the sense that every insignificant thought that stems from your brain is of value and relevant to share, well, that’s when society wins. The same sort of behavior would cause a younger person to be ridiculed, perhaps institutionalized. But IDGAS is a privilege the old have earned and should rightly enjoy without scorn. Realize that eventually we will all be old and desperately wanting to convey that the movie theater across town feels a lot less drafty than the one we’re presently sitting in.

As my milestone birthday approaches, I’m giddy for the IDGAS I can expel. It is hard to wait my turn, so recently I took it on a test drive. There I was in an office building before lunch and struck by the pungent waft of garlic bread in the hallways. And all at once I felt an unrelenting desire to lob this mundane observation up into the sky to see where it landed. As I entered the 3rd floor restroom, I noted the sets of unidentified feet in the stalls and I decided this was as good of time as any. “Wooo. It smells like garlic bread down the hall,” I hollared out to no one in particular. The stalls remained awkwardly silent. I tiptoed across the tiled floor, now wishing to disappear into the grout. I wasn’t ready. I’m too young. It was a mistake. My stomach knotted.

Then, generously, from the second stall over, I heard, “Someone must’ve ordered Italian.” Pause. “I haven’t tried the new place up the street.” Pause. “And I don’t plan to.” The stall door opened and a 60-something woman emerged. She walked past me to the sink and, to no one in particular, added, “Tomato sauce doesn’t agree with me.”

I smiled. This was it. I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit! And it felt amazing — freeing, limitless, just as I imagined. I was getting old, yes, but the world was not ending. On the contrary, it was just beginning. I have so much to share.

152 thoughts on “Licensed to “I Don’t Give a Shit”

  1. Idgas behaviour really puts a spin on social awkwardness. Kind of like jumping out a plane when you fear heights. . . Like, I’m 33 and I notice myself saying the most random shit more and more, and while the people I’m around often don’t meet me half way, it’s liberating not to keep your thoughts stuffed inside, however runny or crumb-like! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a well written piece and reminded me of many people.
    I was just wondering what you think of those, who become old and feel entitled to say whatever they want to you (not as you described, which implied honesty with civility), but just in a rude, passive aggressive way, just because they are elderly.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a wonderful way of putting in words what it feels like to do not give a shit. Also good to know that one day I will feel that way. I can see it with my father, so indeed he doesn’t give a IDGAS, and very often if not almost all the time embarrassed in public. In occasions I don’t appreciate comment from elderly people such as ‘i see you put on weight particularly around your waist’…but I guess like you say, it just happen, and maybe one day I will do the same. So good for you.


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