Several years ago, when my friend Gretchen Rubin started her “Happiness Project,” I remember being simultaneously shocked and liberated by her confession that she has “practically no interest in music.”
I was surprised because I’d just assumed music was one of those things everyone loves. I felt liberated because if she could admit to not liking something assumed to be universally likable, then what could I disavow? What socially accepted “good things” do I secretly hate that I could come clean about?
Herein, a list of things that grown-ups are supposed to like that I do not. I will not be silent anymore. And neither should you.
1. You don’t have to like theater.
Whether a community players production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” or a Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera,” going to the theater is expensive and time-consuming and very rarely funny even though everyone over-laughs loudly so the actors don’t feel bad.
Plays are often boring and tedious (who talks like that?), musicals make me feel embarrassed (who breaks into song like that?), and there is no one on earth that is excited to come back to their cramped seat after an intermission.
2. You don’t have to like fish.
Fish is so good for you! It’s full of omega-3s and protein and it’s got no fat and well-prepared, it’s even better than steak! No. Fish is bland and disappointing and you always wish you’d gotten the burger.
People who order fish do so because they are being good. The only really good fish is tuna fish from a can and smoked salmon. The skate wing is only edible because it’s swimming in butter. It’s okay to admit this.
3. You don’t have to like rock concerts.
There was a time when I could pretend that being smack in the middle of a writhing mass of bodies heaving towards the stage at a Pixies show was heaven on earth. Now, I can admit that seeing my all-time favorite band live—whether in a giant arena where Bono is a speck on a stage four miles away, or in a hot nightclub where I have to stand around drinking a weak vodka tonic out of a plastic Dixie cup waiting for Sleater-Kinney to come on at 10 p.m.—sounds like a nightmare. I’d rather watch Jennifer Lopez: Dance Again on HBO in my living room and that, too, is its own kind of peak experience.
4. You don’t have to like red wine.
A room-temperature drink is not a drink. It neither quenches your thirst nor warms you up. Therefore you are either drinking it to get a buzz, in which case white wine or gin are a lot tastier, or you are drinking it so you can taste the “leather and cigar smoke notes,” which is disgusting.
I was a low-rent caterer in college and once while working the bar, I asked a party guest whether he wanted red or white. “Grown-ups drink red wine,” he sniffed, as if I’d offered him Strawberry Quik. I took this to heart and pretended for years there was nothing I loved more than a big, raucous Cabernet. Shame on me. Drinks are not “raucous”—nor are they “mellow”—and red wine gives 90 percent of people a headache before they even get drunk. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, ice cold please. (PS: You do not have to like visiting wineries either.)
5. You don’t have to like other people’s children.
It is a known fact that our own children are adorable and everyone else’s children are irritating and jam-handed and don’t share. They have perpetually runny noses that will get us sick.
I went to a party recently where there was live music. There was also a 3-year-old who needed the party’s full attention while he did a 45-minute tap dance routine to the live music. His parents should have shut him down after minute one, but they were completely clueless to the child’s rapid progression from “darling” to “possessing a lot of stamina for a 3-year-old” to “horror movie dancing baby.” Another thing you do not have to like: other people’s parenting styles.
6. You don’t have to like Johnny Depp.
I, too, love What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Benny & Joon and heck, even Don Juan DeMarco is not without its charms. But Johnny Depp ceased being interesting to me when he stopped trashing hotel rooms and changed his Winona Forever tattoo to read “Wino Forever.” Johnny Depp as acting great—never mind Johnny Depp as sex symbol—I cannot abide.
Pirates of the Caribbean, a movie franchise based on a theme park ride, is not a compelling cinematic experience. Johnny Depp is never not in costume, whether on screen or off, and this is a little bit creepy; a man with a 1993 goatee in purple-tinted glasses and a bolo tie is not sexy. Admit it. You don’t think so either.
7. You don’t have to like weekend getaways.
Going away for the weekend is stressful. You think it’s just the escape from real life you need to recharge, but it’s so much planning for so little time away that it’s really just an admin task. Packing for two days involves a quantity of decision-making so brutal that I need a tranquilizer just to decide on shoes.
Maybe you rent a house where you’re going to make a delicious dinner comprised of all organic foods and drink red wine out of large goblets (see above), but what you end up doing is arriving late Friday night after getting lost, so delirious with fatigue you sleep all day Saturday. Before you know it you’re “getting a jump on traffic” and you’re back on the road at 8 a.m. Sunday. Your weekend was weird and time warpish, not at all restful, and you didn’t even get to do any antiquing. Oh well. At this point, I think we can all admit we do not like antiquing anyway.