Jul 10, 2013

Not So Friendly Persuasion

Dear AAP,
So I've always been really into harder types of music I guess than my friends. While they were all listening to Britney Spears I was listening to Metallica. Well now I'm listening to bands that my friends consider screamo,punk,acid,etc.  They're all just very negative towards my music choices. My music choices vastly vary from many different bands. Some are punk, some are mainstream, some are alternative, and so on. They enjoy insulting my music taste and have began to cast me out for being interested in different artists than they are. This outrages me because one is not determined by their music tastes. I'm just trying to further understand their thinking. I have done nothing wrong. I don't know what to do or how to handle it, do I ditch them and find new friends? -Alternatively Distraught

Dear AD-
You're right: You've done nothing wrong, but admit it: While you were rocking out to Fade To Black, you were judging your friends for the Britney Spears stickers on their notebooks.

Music is a weird and powerful beast. On many levels, it is arguably one of the best things we humans have managed to create for ourselves. Music can cut across cultures, borders and socio-economic realities to bring people together with it's universal language of rhythms and beats. In many ways, lyrics (even the best of them) are secondary to the sonic power of the music itself, when poured directly into our earholes.  On the flipside though, music, is also a way for us to separate and sub-divide into a thousand+ identifiable sub-cultures and can contribute to our most universal and tragic human failing: our hard-wired tendency to form "Us" versus "Them" tribes and conflicts.

When I heard my first punk songs in my late teens, it felt like lightning had split my brain into pieces and fused it back together to form an entirely new whole. The music helped me understand myself in new and different ways. Even more importantly - it made me realize I wasn't the only kid with some strange turmoil in my head. It made me feel less alone, even when I was.

Many of my friends at the time heard those same songs and felt.... nothing. And that, I guess, is the mystery. Certain sounds ring the bell for certain people, and not for others. 

The thing is: Whenever an individual shoots off in a new direction (musical or otherwise) it can be odd, confusing and even scary to the people around him or her. Some will agree and buy in, some will "understand" but not buy in and the rest will see it as a red flag or a threat to the established social order.

If nothing else, throwing the occasional behavioral curve ball can sometimes really let you know where you stand with people and how serious they are about your mutual friendship. Some friendships are almost completely based on geographical convenience and/or having similar likes and dislikes... in fact, most friendships are at least formed/started based on those kinds of things, but hopefully, over time, grow into a deeper regard. 

What I'm saying is that anyone who tells you "If you listen to _________, you can't be my friend." is clearly someone you're better off without. Not because of their musical taste but because of their assumption that THEY are the ones who get to dictate the rules of what is supposed to be a mutual friendship. Real friends don't engage in such power struggles with each other.

But hey, don't be too quick to write your friends off. Some of them might just need some time to get used your changing tastes... and their own. Let's face it: Musical tastes can change A LOT over time. Maybe those eye-rolling friends will catch up with you, or maybe they'll surprise you and fall in love with some strange musical genre that you have never hear of or can't stand... In that situation, would you be understanding and non-judgemental?

Keep an open mind. Know that that "judge-y" stuff works both ways. Don't judge your friends too harshly for not liking what you might now be in to. As I said earlier, your real friends will accept your diverging musical tastes... so you'll have to do the same for them. Your less-than-real friends, well, you're probably better off without them and their disapproval. But remember: people can surprise you.  

Good Luck.