Have you ever heard someone say “you don’t look like you would listen to that kind of music,” or something to that effect? I have. Many times. I used to think that way too – if a person likes a certain thing, they will probably dress a certain way, act a certain way, style their hair a certain way, and so on. But having gone through many different “phases” throughout my teen years and my current early adult years I’ve realized just how strange that is. This applies to all kinds of things, but I’m going to mostly talk about music here, because music has always been a huge deal to me and my taste in music has undergone more changes than my taste in just about anything else.
When I was in high school, my taste in music dictated the way that I dressed, the way that I talked (subtly), the guys I was attracted to, and the way that I saw (and judged) other people in general. Sometimes it would even dictate what I didn’t like (or would pretend not to like). I never really thought about why that was, it just sort of happened that way and I didn’t question it. I even sort of had this idea in my head that I had to like one genre of music more than any other genre of music – I couldn’t like two or more genres equally. My favorite genre was a huge part of my identity, or rather, how I viewed my own identity. When I was into 60’s and 70’s rock, I dressed sort of like a hippie and became somewhat obsessed with those eras. When I was really into 80’s metal I wore torn-up jeans, lots of bracelets and started wearing eye make-up. When I was into death metal and metalcore I wore those same torn-up jeans and black band t-shirts, and started hating most things that were girly. When I was into indie rock and indie folk, I started wearing artsy-ish t-shirts and became a lot more judgmental and hipster-y (although, I never quite got hipster style down because I wasn’t cool enough). In each of these phases, I would pretend not to like things that would seem “contradictory” to whatever my main genre was at the time. Like, in my death metal/metalcore phase, I would never admit to liking any softer music; when I was in my indie phase, I would never admit to liking something that was on the radio. I would like what I was “supposed” to like and dislike what I wasn’t “supposed” to like. It was exhausting, really.
My first few years after high school, I was still sort of in my indie phase, but I had started to realize that I still kind of liked all the things from my previous phases. I still wanted to listen to a good ol’ Metallica song sometimes. I still liked singing along to Jimi Hendrix and headbanging to War of Ages. But I also really liked listening to Tchaikovsky or chilling out to some ambient tunes by Album Leaf. And, you know, I really liked some of those bands that were on the radio like Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay. And that’s when I started to get a bit confused. How was I supposed to be labeled, then? What was I going to say when people asked what kind of music I liked? How should I be dressing? Sometimes when people would find out that I liked Megadeth and Metallica they would look at me strangely and tell me that they would never have suspected that. That’s when I saw it. I saw the ridiculousness of the notion that you could tell what a person liked by looking at them. Saying that someone doesn’t look like they like a particular band or type of music is almost as weird as saying “You look like you hate tomatoes.” And yes, there are many cases where people do dress in a similar way to others who like the same things as them, but what I’m saying is that it’s all very arbitrary and relative and it can be limiting.
Currently, I am in a place where I don’t even have one favorite genre of music. I have a few genres that I like the most, but I like them equally. I do have a favorite band, though one of the reasons they are my favorite is that they experiment with different sounds and their style varies between albums and I actually don’t even really know what genre to consider them. Because my taste is sort of all over the place, the concept of identifying myself by any one thing that I like just doesn’t make sense. And I’m beginning to wonder why anyone does that. Aren’t we more than any one taste we have? Can’t we like something without having to look or act the part? I find that I enjoy life more and connect with more people if I like all kinds of things and don’t worry so much about trying to “seem” a certain way 🙂