20 Minute Free Write. What are your tastes in music, in literature, art, sports, cars, foods, beverages, movies, plants, furniture, houses, politicians, magazines, appliances, friends, television shows? How have your tastes changed as you grow
I realized that you could be judged for and by your taste sometime in sixth grade. At least that’s when I started lying about it, which I think is proof I knew it mattered. Generally the lies were about music. That’s what we talked about around the lunch table. Blink 182? So good! Smashing Pumpkins? THE BEST. Alanis Morissette? My parents TOTALLY let me listen to her. Of course, I didn’t know who the first two were and had only sneaky listened to the last one at a neighbor’s house. The door closed and Jagged Little Pill playing quietly. That and the soundtrack to Dangerous Minds. What did I actually listen to? What did I like? Patty Loveless and Shania Twain and Johnny Cash and Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood and George Strait and the soundtrack to the Secret Garden musical. You know. Parent music.
I’d been pretending to be interested in my friend’s music for most of the year and I just figured pretending was what you contributed to successful relationships. I also thought my pretending was believable.
I can’t remember whether I was eating hot lunch or home lunch that day. My gut tells me it was one of those water hot dogs that had turned faintly green at the seam. But it could have also been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of those dunkaroo cookies - you know the ones you dipped into frosting? Vanilla cookies with confetti frosting, if you were very lucky. Anyways, it’s lunch and the girls are talking about music again and I am trying to be very enthusiastic.
“Hey, Megan. We’ve been meaning to ask you! Do you like the band Rock Skipping?”
“Oh my gosh, I love that band! They’re probably, like, my fifth favorite right now.”
“Really? Because they’re not real. We made them up. We know you’ve been lying.”
SLAM. BAM. SIXTH GRADE, MA’AM. (Also...that was a pretty damn fine fake band name.)
And then, you know, cue the two girls dumping their lunch and walking away laughing while the frizzy haired girl follows - trying to look like she was in on the joke. That was one of the bad lunches. So I am going to assume it was a green hot dog day, not a dunkaroos day.
If I’m being honest here (honesty is something I decided to take up in my late twenties, kind of like smoking), I spent years lying about the books I’d read, the music I liked, the friends I needed, you know...all the little details that give a day and a life and a person dimension. I didn’t lie all the time. It wasn’t pathological. But when I was nervous or wanted to fit in or could feel a conversation drifting away from me, I’d lie so that whoever I was with at the time didn’t feel like walking away. Sixth grade was the only time anyone ever called me out on it...but I don’t think the other people in my life were any less perceptive than those two girls. I just think maybe the people that came later were kinder...or less invested in me...or both.
And then. I don’t know really know why...resignation, maybe? I stopped pretending.
It’s a liberating thing to finally love yourself enough to be honest about what you like. I know it sounds crazy to those that are far more well-adjusted than me (or is it I? I love myself enough to be honest about the fact that I don’t know which one to use here), but being unabashed about your preferences is some radical self-acceptance shit that used to make me marvel. To be able to say, What I like doesn’t define who I am, but even if it did, so the f--- what? It’s like magic...and not the kind that wears off at midnight.
I LIKE the only eight episodes they ever made of Selfie. I LIKE bologna. I LIKE Jane Austen and not just because of her social commentary. Her books make me tingly. I LIKE being tingly. I LIKE bluegrass and early nineties country and Fiona Apple and folk music and blues rock and sometimes show tunes and always Lauryn Hill and on occasion I’ve jammed to Demi Lovato, SO WHAT. I’ve read all those books I used to pretend I’d read and I LIKE some of them and could leave others. I’m not going to pretend anymore...Faulkner doesn’t do it for me and that makes me ashamed and then I remember that every day gets to be a dunkaroo day and I don’t worry about it one little bit. I LIKE white walls and nubby pillows and warm wood. I LIKE folk art and fine art and art so kitschy no one calls it art. I LIKE God and religion and earth-cults and sky-cults and pagan women and scientific men and scientific women and pagan men and dirt covered light and light filled dirt. I LIKE a gas stove, the whoosh sound of a flame under a whistling kettle and eggs frying in butter and an oven with speckled enamel on the inside and children’s fingerprints on the outside. I LIKE lights that dim and dried noodles stored in old olive oil canisters even though I’ve never stored noodles in anything but the box they came in. I LIKE weeds that look like flowers and I LIKE flowers that look like weeds. I’ve left behind politics because I don’t LIKE them but have turned towards people because I do LIKE them. People. I guess I turn away from them, too. I LIKE being alone. I LIKE friends that are smarter than I am, demand that I stretch but not that I save, that let me leave them be and do the same for me. I LIKE friends but know I am not always a good one. I’ve learned that you can have good taste and not LIKE me. I LIKE marriage and men and feeling protected. I LIKE protecting, too. I LIKE room temperature water. I LIKE sad movies and happy tv. I LIKE the rain and the sun and hate the snow, even on a Christmas day with hot tea and high hopes in my hand. I LIKE driving quickly in straight lines and do not LIKE left hand turns. I LIKE text messages and emails and sometimes have to bite on the left side of my cheek to make it through voicemails and phone calls. I LIKE reading to my children, taking them to museums and parks and forests and beaches and city streets and coffee shops with mini slightly warmed hot chocolates. I do not LIKE cooking with them. I LIKE mysteries set in New Orleans and do not LIKE beignets. I have come to LIKE not knowing, because there is room for me there. I LIKE cursing and I LIKE prayer and I LIKE pictures hung all the way to the floor. I LIKE sitting under trees and I LIKE houses that creak. I LIKE wood floors with scratches and doors with dents and door knobs that unlatch in a breeze. I LIKE the idea of a dog and do not LIKE the IDEA of a third child. I LIKE yogurt topped with honey and cut bananas and toasted pecans even though I never remember to toast the pecans. I LIKE talking to people one on one and I’ve decided to LIKE that when I do I can never look them in the eyes. I LIKE speaking to groups because they can’t tell I can’t look at them. I LIKE my toes and my knees and my thighs and the softness of my stomach and the way my arms round and my breasts hang and nipples bloom and my teeth crook and my eyes crinkle and my hair waves and my cheeks curve and my nose points and my ears hear and my head holds and my heart feels. I LIKE myself and I don’t question whether I should anymore because what I LIKE doesn’t define me but then I think, maybe it does and I’m beginning to LIKE that, too.