A successful author, a woman whose books had deeply influenced me, agreed to meet for coffee at a conference a few years ago. She startled me by asking, “Are your eyelashes getting thinner as you age?”
I had been afraid she’d make me nervous about my writing. Suddenly I was nervous about whether I was using the right mascara.
Not once in my life had I been actively distressed about my eyelashes. Oh sure, I’d slathered them in various kinds of makeup since I was 14, but otherwise my eyelashes were something about which I had never given a — let’s use the word “fig.” I will use “fig” for the remainder of this post, but you should free to substitute whatever expletive suits you best.
There are many things, including the density of my eyelashes, that are now officially on the list of things about which I no longer give a fig. (Boy, I wish I could use a stronger word, but one thing I still worry about is being able to appear in print, so “fig” it is.)
I'm going to stop worrying about things over which I have no control and ones that don't matter. I figure this will free up six to seven hours of my day.
My list of things to overlook includes the following:
1. Whether the discomfort of any outfit overrides its attractiveness.
If it pinches, if I have to tug at it, if I have to pull it down or lift it up — it's out. If I have to wear a foundation garment underneath it or high heels to make it look done, it's gone.
Watch the Six Flags commercial below. Post continues after video.
2. I'm not going to worry about every request for financial support of someone's grand new idea.
I will continue to support the causes I know are established, effective and necessary. The Ms. Foundation, Planned Parenthood, local hospitals and educational foundations can count on me, sure.
But someone's niece who wants to open a cafe where all the unicorns she's drawn since she was 12 will decorate the walls? If she wants to create a "Go Fund Me," that's terrific — but what she really needs to find herself is a good chef to compensate for the decor.
If somebody's nephew needs to get a new set of headshots to jump-start his acting career, he'll need to get a second job. It'll probably be good for him — especially if he doesn't have a first job.
3. I'm not going to worry about whether or not my arms are sufficiently toned.
If my arms can still lift bags of groceries, boxes of books and bottles of wine, they are doing just great.
4. I'm not going to worry about whether my eyebrows are symmetrical.
My friend and assistant Krissy insists, "Your eyebrows are sisters, not twins."
5. I'm no longer going to worry about how people judge my reproductive choices.
If somebody else wants five kids or 12, that's terrific. I don't judge them, and if they believe I'm selfish for not having given birth to a child, that's their worry. It's not mine.
When I asked other friends what they wanted to stop worrying about, their responses deeply not only echoed my own but rang against each other's like wind chimes.
One wants to stop worrying about "friendships." If the word needs to be put in quotation marks, it doesn't deserve your attention.
One needs not to look at the nasty reviews of his work. If he needs to make himself miserable, it would be easier to bang his head on a rock.
Many need to stop worrying about whether their houses are clean "enough" — clean enough for what? If it's clean enough to prepare food safely and if the feet of the guests don't actually stick to the floor, you're fine.
Folks who have retired need to stop worrying whether other people consider them lazy. A day in which you've laughed, had an interesting conversation and decent meal is a day that you haven't wasted.
"The art of being wise," said philosopher William James, "is knowing what to overlook."
I'm going to overlook a great deal in the hope of seeing life more clearly. It'll be easier since my eyelashes are thinning.
Any for those of you who do care about their lashes ...
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website.