This Is Us

In My Fifties, I’m Finally Learning to Say ‘F*ck You’

How midlife loosened my tongue

Lisa Renee
Human Parts
Published in
10 min readNov 2, 2020

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Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Photo: Gwendal Cottin/Unsplash

When I flipped off the speeding truck, I knew things had changed. Sending a hearty “fuck you” to a stranger was a thing I had almost never considered before, but in the moment, it seemed oddly, perfectly natural. I briefly reconsidered the wisdom of this change when he doubled back. And then I did it again.

Walking on my quiet country road in upstate New York, as I do every day, a jumped-up pickup with a tiny red-hat boy at the wheel came roaring down the road at an unreasonable speed. Frightening, aggressive speed. When he rounded the corner and saw me on the side of the road, he floored it. It scared me, but it also enraged me beyond caring for the fear. Just as he passed, the massive and menacing truck feet from my body, I shot my middle finger high up in the air, thrusting it in his direction with my best angry face and what felt like power. I was shaking, but it felt fabulous, like triumph. Reclaiming my space.

I heard his loud engine slow and stop at the far end of the road. Then it started up again, hurtling back in my direction. He was rounding on me, in his dirty, muscled gray truck. He looked to be younger than any of my kids and smaller than all of us. But he was armored in his noisy vehicle, empowered to terrorize a middle-aged woman out for a walk on her quiet country road. I actually thought, “What would his mother think? Would he treat her this way?” Then I realized, of course he would. He’s mentored by a culture that tells him he is in charge because of his gender and his race, and he can behave any ugly way he’d like. Swagger and bluster, slash and burn. Such a tired, old story.

As he came screaming back in my direction, pumping up his speed at regular intervals in a menacing display of power, I felt a new wave of fear. Terror, even. What was I playing at; who did I think I was? Me, on foot, without weapons save a stream of words and a finger against a rage boy in a big, loud machine. He had the advantage, for sure, though it wasn’t right. It wasn’t respectful or neighborly, and it laid bare the ugly core of our national shame. I felt my anger rising again as this incident felt like a metaphor for so much. He was bearing down on me fast. I was…

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