To celebrate my 50th birthday earlier this month, I invited the author of the book, "50 Is The New 50," Suzanne Braun Levine, to be a guest on my weekly radio show, "Juggling Act." While she discussed the many benefits associated with embarking on this new decade of female freedom and independence called Second Adulthood, what I recall most from this interview is her chapter entitled, "The F--- U Fifties."
But don't assume for even one moment that the "F--- U Fifties" reflects a self reproaching attack by this birthday girl for reaching that pivotal age gravely considered over the hill. Au contraire, this term is actually meant to be aimed at others, as "Finally," Levine writes, "we feel empowered to tell others to f--- off."
Now, I don't propose that we, as professional journalists, indiscriminately curse at others either verbally or in writing, as did a University of Mississippi student journalist last year who was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and sent to prison. Instead, I am suggesting that, as Erica Jong wrote in "Fear of Fifty," "We need to save ourselves. In our twenties, when success and motherhood are still before us, we could imagine that something would save us from second-classness -- either achievement, marriage or motherhood. Now we know that nothing can save us...The anger of midlife is a ferocious anger."
And, yes, I have certainly felt ferocious. As I now think back on my 30-year career in the media, many times I had wanted to tell a condescending editor, arrogant interviewee or callous coworker to f--- off. This anger only elevated when desperately trying to balance my work and family responsibilities as a new mother 20 years ago, as I tried to explain to too many disbelieving bosses that I had to leave the office early to attend a school play or take care of a sick child. As my appeals continually fell on deaf ears, I would ultimately concede, since as women we are taught early that rather than stand our ground, we should instead know our place, which translates to primarily remaining polite, humble, demure, timid, fearful, cowering, submissive (feel free to insert additional adjectives here).
And this is not surprising since, according to Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of "The Female Brain," "women have much less direct relationship to anger than men." So, she continues, "pushing someone else too far, demanding too much and escalating conflict are all situations that, for most of our lives so far, we would do almost anything to avoid."
But the importance of conflict should not be underestimated, and the need to sometimes curse should be even less so. According to the results of a 2009 research study from the school of psychology at Britain's Keele University, swearing has been found to make people feel instantly better by imparting a "pain lessening effect." And, after all, men must have known about these health benefits for years. Just look at some of the male leaders of our great nation who have used the f-word, without apology. Former Vice President Cheney, for example, said 'f--- off' or 'go f--- yourself' to Democratic Senator Leahy, and current Vice President Joe Biden told another senator to "Gimme a f---ing break!" Neither vice presidents regretted or apologized for using this word and, now, neither will I.
I feel better already.
Lori Sokol, Ph.D., is the Founder of Sokol Media, Inc., publisher of Work Life Matters magazine, and Host of the weekly radio show, "Juggling Act," on 1490AM WGCH. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org