I Don’t Talk About Music

Embarrassment about one’s interests may be common, but that doesn’t make it necessary.


My mother is a music teacher. Growing up, all my exposure to music was through what she listened to, which I don’t think is particularly uncommon. However, my mom’s exaggerated and dramatic sense of humor, combined with her profession and love for music, led to a lot of embarrassment for me. She would sing constantly around the house, specifically songs she knew I found annoying. Being a little kid, who desperately wanted to be seen as mature and cool, I hated when she did this. From the ages of 6 to 12, I pretended to hate all music.

To this day, I don’t really talk about music, or my taste in any media, for that matter. I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not blaming my mom for my media shyness. It’s just that there was a pattern from an early age for me of this weird pointless shame. Eventually, I stopped saying I hated all music. The old anxiety was replaced by a similar, but new one. What if I was listening to the wrong music? Watching the wrong shows? Playing games for little kids? 

There was no basis for these worries, and I can see looking back that it was pretty irrational. Nobody really cares what another person enjoys in their free time, and even if they did, why should I let that bother me? I’m aware of these realities and understand I don’t have anything to worry about, but without fail, the second somebody enters the room, whatever I’m watching, listening, or playing, I pause it. It’s honestly pretty inconvenient, and I wish I didn’t do it. This behavior is deeply ingrained in my daily life, though, and it’s not an easy habit to break. As far as I’m concerned, the only way to break these patterns is to find the root of the problem.

I think it all goes back to emotion. Most of my life, I didn’t want to be seen showing any emotion, and if I was going to show any at all, it definitely wasn’t gonna be a positive one. I didn’t have the words to say this, but I wanted to be seen as serious, and stoic, and overall manly (whatever that meant to an eight year old). It took me a while to figure this out, but I’m just not that guy, and trying to fit that archetype was doing myself a disservice. For over a decade I defined myself through one emotion: anger. It was the only one I wasn’t too self-conscious to show. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely wrong in doing that, because my anger is and was pretty intense, but that really applies to all my emotions. My good moods are as intense as my bad ones. There are very few things I feel neutral about, and that’s always been the case. No matter what it is, I usually either really love it, or really loathe it. It’s just not in my nature to be serious most of the time, and that’s something I needed to come to terms with.

This is all to say, that being seen in public enjoying something was not conducive to being seen as a stoic and serious person. So I just didn’t talk about what I liked. This, in conjunction with my mom’s constant singing and playing of music (which made it categorically not cool), led me to especially not telling people what music I listened to. 

I had been struggling with this for a long time, and it was difficult to maintain certain friendships when I couldn’t talk about most of the stuff I like.  What really pushed me to get over this problem happened in my freshman year, when my mother bought us tickets to a Ben Folds concert. Ben Folds is a musician who is best known for writing songs primarily for the piano, and has released multiple solo albums, along with albums released with his band, Ben Folds Five. She used to play his music when I was really young in the car, and back then I mainly enjoyed it because of the abundance of profanity the songs had in them. She really wanted me to go with her, and so she effectively forced me to start listening to his music to familiarize myself with it. To my horror, I really liked it.

This realization did a number on me. If the music my mom liked was categorically not cool, and I liked it, it wasn’t looking too good for me. Despite this, though, I ended up going to the concert and had a really good time. My mom and I have since gone back to see Ben Folds in concert again, and plan on going a third time this March. By allowing myself to open up to my mother about music, even in this small way, I had taken a big step towards feeling comfortable talking to others about my tastes. I slowly, but surely, have been getting more comfortable admitting to people that I enjoy what I enjoy.

That’s not to say I’m an open book with this sort of stuff now. This is still the most open I’ve been about my tastes in years, and it’s honestly been anxiety inducing. However, when I am faced with a problem, the only way I ever solve it is head on. If there’s a brick wall in front of me, I’m just gonna hit it until it falls instead of walking around. It’s not always the most helpful of behaviors, but it’s what I do. So, the only way I am going to be able to get over my anxiety is to just say it. I really like Ben Folds music. I still play Pokemon games, and I really enjoy them. And “Monsters Inc.” is quite possibly my favorite movie. Saying this, I’m pretty nervous about it. I shouldn’t be, though, because at the end of the day, who really cares?