Monday, November 11, 2013

What do I know

A million years ago, or some time shortly after the turn off the century, I went to lunch with a friend. Some place that served calzones, which is completely irrelevant to the story, but the kind of detail my brain holds on to. It wasn't really a pivotal, life changing lunch, but the conversation we had that day has stuck with me over the years.
The gist of it can be boiled down to this: some boys struggle with body image issues and some girls struggle with lust. Neither of those sentences should be revolutionary, but I'm telling you that at the time, my friend and I were both astounded. Neither of those statements by themselves was shocking or unbelievable. They sounded perfectly reasonable and understandable, but I don't think I'd ever actually thought them. They'd never crossed my mind to evaluate.
It's not as though I thought that boys cared nothing for their appearances. My friend was (is probably still) a handsome and fashionable dude. With really great hair. Like truly amazing. Thing of beauty I tell you. Anyway, stylish and good looking. He obviously thought about things like having a hairstyle not just a hair cut. He cared what shirt he wore with which pants. Fine. Sure. Makes sense. What never occurred to me was that he might look in the mirror and not like the body he put those clothes on. That particular thought was, in my mind at the time, solely a struggle of women. I didn't think about the fact that he grew up in a world of Abercrombie & Fitch, a world that had definite ideas about what "real men" should look like. I was too busy worrying about my too flat butt, too wide hips, unflat stomach, thighs that touched, and 900 other things that didn't line up with the images I was seeing. Intellectually I knew that dieting and eating disorders weren't just women's things, but I couldn't wrap my brain around the kind of body loathing I was used to from my girl friends affecting a boy. Especially not this stylish and attractive one. Just like he couldn't imagine girls struggling with lust. Now, it's not as if he thought all women were sexless creatures, or even that "good girls" didn't think like that. He'd been around enough to know that we girls oogled as much as any. I think he, like me, just couldn't see past a culture that said boys are the ones who struggle to keep it in their pants. Girls don't have that problem because even if they want sex, they have superior self-control.
This is getting way deeper than I have the brain power to articulate and do justice to. I was getting to a point with all this and I think it's about U2.
No really, stick with me. I'll get there. So, this particular lunch conversation over calzones helped open my eyes to the fact that some basic assumptions I had about life were wrong and needed to be challenged, that I needed to look beyond my own selfish world view and stop asking that everyone's experiences be just like mine, or that their conclusions based on their experience would align with mine. It was a conversation that made me question the way I looked at the world and people. OK, so that's point one.
The U2 thing is like this: Not everyone likes U2. Well, yes that's true but that's not my point. Of course there are people who don't like U2. Nothing has universal appeal, even things I really, really like. There are even people who don't like chocolate. Rather it's more that I have friends who don't like U2. This is a somewhat strange concept to me. Not that U2 is the end all, be all of my life (they're not, but don't tell 16yr old me that), but for a long time I really believed that friends had to have the same interests and preferences or you couldn't really be friends. I thought disagreement on things like music or movies was a grievous fault. So, I knew that there were people in the world who didn't like my favorite band. I didn't expect everyone to love them as much as I did. There was a time when all 6 discs in my stereo were U2 CDs. I could name every band member, their significant other, and give you the names & ages of their offspring. I've since reallocated some of those brain cells, but you understand now the depth of my... devotion to this band. I knew that most people didn't give half as many squats about them as I did, but none of my friends actively disliked them. At worst they passively didn't care. And that was fine.
Then one day, when I was about 30 years old, I found out that my friend Carrie didn't like U2. Not just didn't care, but actively tuned the radio station AWAY from U2 songs. I think I already knew that my best friend Andrew, with whom music was sort of our common language, didn't like the song "Beautiful Day" but he didn't hate all the other U2 songs, so it was OK. But Carrie didn't like ANY U2 songs. This was shocking to me. I wouldn't say that our CD collections were similar, but she always picked good music for dance class and we shared some mix tapes (on CD or jump drive, but whatever, I will probably always call them mix tapes). But she hated my favorite band. What's more surprising: we're still friends! I didn't shun her or run screaming. I think I said "huh" and moved on.
So, the revolutionary thought here is this: you can be friends with people you disagree with. I mean, you probably want to agree the on the BASICS, like human dignity and treating others with respect, but politics, religion, music? You can disagree and still be friends. Not just agree to disagree & tolerate each other politely. Real friends. Who hang out. And invite each other to their parties. And LIKE one another. It took me 30 years to figure that one out.


Anonymous said...

Glad you figured this out, because I actively dislike U2, and I don't want to hide anymore.

No but seriously, I haven't given much mental real estate to the body image and lust things, but you are totally right. Good post, lady.

april said...

This was a great post. I don't often think about those things either, but I do have very good friends that I actively disagree with, and also very good friends with whom there are some topics that are off-limits and I find that to be okay too. Everyone is different, and everyone has different ideas and I find as long as you have your reasons for your ideals, then more power to you.

Elsha said...

Excellent point. I think I first figured this out in college when I made one of my best friends. She and I were vastly different in our political beliefs but still managed to be true friends. Eye opening.

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