Friday, June 28, 2013

What We Are

I don't like camping, but I've recently had group of people pressuring me to like camping.  When I told my family about the conversation I had with these people, the response was, "They probably think you're Miss Prissy and Pampered. Next time the subject comes up, tell them that you're not like that. You go hiking, you like being outdoors, you've traveled abroad, you've been on cramped 13-hour plane rides... camping just isn't your thing." I know that my family was trying to help, but this doesn't feel like the right response to me. Why? Because by naming these other things, I'd be trying to change their perception of me, trying to present myself as someone who is flexible and laid-back and just incidentally doesn't like camping. That's not true. I AM high-maintenance. I AM the kind of person who doesn't want to sleep outside on the ground. Whatever impression I gave these people when I said that I don't like camping is probably accurate.

This reminds me of the whole "guilty pleasure" thing. I have never had guilty pleasures - I just like whatever I like. But it always bothers me when other people refer to the music, TV shows, books, etc. they like as guilty  pleasures, because that makes it sound like there's something wrong with it. The majority of songs I listen to and TV shows I watch on a regular are basis are what other people would call guilty pleasures. I guess it might be different if something isn't what you normally do, like you fall in love with a country song when you don't normally like country music. But this is not a simple matter of saying, "I don't normally like blueberry pie, but I really love this blueberry pie." It says, "Liking blueberry pie is bad, so even though I like blueberry pie, I don't want to identify as a person who likes it." And that kind of culture just makes more people feel like it's not okay to do what they like.

I usually take a personal approach when I don't agree with what people are saying. When students complained about people wearing spandex pants to class, my automatic response was, "I've worn spandex pants to class." Even though I don't wear spandex regularly, this is sort of my instinctive answer, when what I really mean to say is, "People can wear what they want to class." And sometimes it backfires, because people find ways to say why my wearing spandex doesn't count: "You don't do it all the time," "You wear a skirt over them," "Yours aren't as clingy."   If I actually wore spandex regularly, I wouldn't want some excuse for why it was okay for me to wear them; I would want it to just be okay. The whole point was that we shouldn't be telling other people what to wear.

If I like something, then I am a person who likes that thing. And if I don't like something, then I'm a person who doesn't like that thing. It doesn't fix the problem for us all to say, "I'm not really like that," every time we do something that's not socially desirable. We should be saying, "I am someone who does this, and that's totally fine."

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