Hating what others like


People – especially people my age or thereabouts, I think, for a lot of reasons – have a really bad habit of conflating their distaste for something with the value of that thing to other people. It’s not enough for us to not like a genre of music or movie ourselves, but we feel like we have to hate the people who LIKE them and to think they’re crazy for liking it as well. At the same time, we believe that people who don’t like what WE like are crazy too.

For example: I don’t like golf. I played for a couple of years but it never really grabbed me and I never really liked it. I also don’t care for its general milieu in a lot of ways. It’s sensibilities and fashion the whole package which goes with golf and the golfing lifestyle. Fair enough, right? It isn’t written anyplace that I have to like golf or care a lick about it. But for years I’ve allowed my personal opinions about golf to expand into “… and people who like it are dumb too; look at those bad people!”

That is a negative stance to take. It’s dismissive and rude and implicitly (or sometimes explicitly) attacks other people for their own agency and preferences and is just not a decent way to be. Expand that to music and movies and everything else for which people have preferences or the lack thereof and you can see how easily a web of negativity can be woven with respect to, well, everything if we let it.

None of this is to say “hey, we should all accept everything in anyone.” It’s not that broad. I can dislike the policy of a country club or take issue with a land use provision or think that people who wear Tommy Bahama shirts look like douchebags or take issue with some underlying value someone who likes golf harbors. That’s just part of living.

Likewise, it doesn’t work with politics that well, mostly because politics is often a zero sum game. You not liking Ryan Adams or New Hollywood movies of the 1970s is not going to affect me much, but you trying to get the government to keep me from doing something I have a right to do will, and I will not cease to criticize you and fight against you if you would do my values harm. I’m not saying people should surrender their own values out of some misguided “respect” for someone else. I’m saying “he likes X, I don’t, and therefore he is a bad or stupid person” is no way to go through life.

I’ve worked hard in the past year or two to beat that impulse out of me because of its inherent negativity. Habits are habits, however, and I still catch myself making cracks about golfers or whatever. Or fans of this or that artist. I’m better at recognizing when I’m doing that. I’m trying to get better at not doing that in the first instance. I’m not 100% there yet. It’s a process. But it’s a worthy process.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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