Pity for those who suffer

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with two very great friends of mine who had barely spoken to each other. I call them friends for different reasons, and as a result, I was a bit nervous about being around both of them at the same time. What would we talk about? How was I supposed to act? What if I said something one of them wasn’t accustomed to hearing me say? Would they think I was a turncoat? What if they didn’t get along? What would that say about me?

The atmosphere ended up being an odd mish-mash of the time I’d spent with them separately, but I’d mostly been worrying for nothing. There was enough to talk about, and it became clear I hadn’t put enough faith in the abilities of either of my friends to be sociable. We had a pleasant evening, but one moment lodged itself in my memory: when one friend confessed that they didn’t like Radiohead, and the other agreed that they’d never understood what all the fuss was about.

Now, this conversation took place within my earshot. I knew they were both aware that I used to be a pretty big Radiohead fan. As far as they knew, all they had in common was myself and the possibility of making some sport of me. Which was okay in my book; as long as they had something to talk about, I didn’t mind being the butt of a few affectionate jokes. It was kind of nice, really. But, for whatever reason, I felt like I was expected to leap to Radiohead’s defence, so in my offence I ignored the opportunity as well as I could. Christ, I haven’t listened to Radiohead in years. Why should I bother defending them to those two heathens?

This brief exchange kept replaying itself in my mind for some time. This wasn’t something that could be ignored after all. Here there laid a puzzle: two friends of mine that I have immense respect for, united in their dismissal of something I believed in. It couldn’t be ignorance, nor was it spite.


In the end, I came to the conclusion that one had to be a specific type of person at a specific time to really fall in love with Radiohead. I wasn’t a question of taste, but rather of location: emotional, spatial and temporal. My friends simply never occupied those places, and I once did.

You’re probably reading this thinking “of course that’s why they didn’t like Radiohead, people like different things because of different experiences.” And you’d be right. I know it all seems very tautological to you, because you’re smarter than me, and you aren’t as socially unhealthy as I am.

But maybe you’re more like me than you think. Maybe, like me, you get worked up dissecting things other people take for granted. Or perhaps you have someone in your life that you don’t quite understand, someone who seems to get needlessly worked up about the a priori of the world.  I think we explain that side of ourselves rather poorly, so here goes:

I’ve never once fit in.  That’s probably more my fault than anyone else’s, because I’m too focused on what makes me different rather than what makes me the same.  It’s what gives me strength; it’s also what wears me down.

I know what the difference is between liking something because it’s cool or it’s fun or any one of a thousand descriptors that are vague to the point of meaninglessness, and falling in love with something because I think it’s beautiful and inspiring and meaningful. When other people (through no fault of their own) can’t see that beauty or meaning,  it’s yet another thing that makes me feel different.  Like I don’t fit in.  Like I’m Wrong.

Sometimes that frustration expresses itself as defensiveness, and I’m sorry. I’m trying to get over it.

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