On Liking Things, Pt. 2: Playing the Part

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 🙂

On Liking Things – Pt. 1: Like What You Like

Recently there have been certain things that I’ve been getting into that seem totally cool when I’m by myself, but when I’m around other people, I feel a little embarrassed about it and even feel like maybe I should hide the fact that I like these things. This, of course, is not the first time in my life that I have had this sort of feeling about something and I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who is reading this has also felt this way at some point. It’s like that time when I find a band that I really like and I listen to them over and over and over again while I’m by myself, going about my daily life, but then when I have a friend in my car – listening to the same music that I’ve been practically addicted to for the past few weeks – I hear it differently. I start to listen to the music with their ears. I hear it as I think they will hear it and I notice all the little things about the songs that I assume they will not like. And I don’t know whether to apologize for having such uncool tastes or start laying out my reasons for thinking the band is great. Sometimes it doesn’t even come to that decision because I avoid playing the band altogether and choose a band that I’m pretty sure my friend will think is super cool. Something that will make me seem hip and impressive. And I’m like this with lots of things: movies, books, clothes, makeup, shows, and so on and so forth.

There is always a self-consiousness when I show someone something that I like. Sometimes when I like something that I know most of my peers think is lame, I feel this strange urge to confess to them that I like this thing just to get rid of the dread that they will find out on their own in some unexpected way. That’s my get-it-out-there-as-soon-as-possible-so-we-can-all-just-get-over-it approach. Then there’s the make-sure-everyone-knows-how-much-I-know-that-this-thing-is-lame-but-I’m-going-to-like-it-anyway approach, which is dangerously close to the, currently popular, I-like-this-thing-ironically-I’m-so-cool approach. Like, what is that? Why can’t we just call it what it is? It’s a guilty pleasure. But why are we even feeling guilty about it? What’s with this pressure to only like things that are considered cool by the people around us? It’s especially absurd because a lot of the time, everyone around you has their own set of guilty pleasures and some of them might even be the SAME ones that you are trying to hide from them! It should be okay for us to like what we like and not have to pretend otherwise. Right? And why is “cool” even the goal? Maybe we should be thinking about our likes and dislikes a bit more complexly than that. Can’t I think something is kind of dumb but also kind of see the merits in it and like it just the same? And can’t I dislike something while also appreciating it and understanding why other people like it? I’m learning to respect the preferences of others even when they are so different from my own and it’s actually helping me to respect and relate to other people.

Anyway, I know it’s difficult to just stop feeling a little embarrassed when I like something that my peers think is super lame, and I probably won’t be changing in this respect any time soon. But I am going to make an effort to just like what I like without trying to pretend like I don’t or being super sheepish about it and I think you should too 🙂