Tuesday, 8 January 2013
I Miss Great-Aunt Edwena So Much I Sniffed A Skunk
Some of the funniest things about people's food preferences is how they relate to childhood experiences. When somebody tells me how they really can't stand a certain food, it is frequently followed by one of these two:
1. I just never had it growing up, never acquired a taste for it, and I think you need to grow up eating that sort of thing, don't you?
2. No, I had that forced on me as a kid, had enough of it then, I'm done. No more of that for me.
Is there a happy medium, I wonder, or is it all just excuses? I have a slew of things I didn't experience until my 30s, that I love, and am really glad I discovered. I will admit that the ubiquitous peanuts added to English school dinners is not something I ever did for myself since, but I still enjoy both peanuts and salad, albeit separately. If there is a deep truth to either of these statements, I am forced to ask, does this go beyond food?
That's when I start to see patterns.
I'm constantly told by people that although a given food/smell/song/activity is not really to their tastes, they love it for its nostalgic value.
"Yes, my grandmother always stank of cat piss, so I love it because it reminds me of her!"
"Actually the only reason I wear this hideously ugly hat is that it belonged to my late uncle."
I just don't get it. I really don't.
I've expressed my own lack of interest in these sort of choices a few times over the years, and have shocked people. I've been called names, actually. Instead of this making me shut up it makes me curious. Why some people wish to indulge in something they would otherwise find undesirable, because of pleasant associations and happy memories, and why am I different?
After giving it considerable thought, I don't think I created the association in the first place. I am able to keep two thoughts in my head at once. That I loved a person and have happy memories of them, AND that I have absolutely no desire to repeat things they did/wore/liked/whatever.
It's not that I don't associate things. It is well-known that smells are a powerful thing. My mind can be flooded with happy memories at the smell of seaweed or an odd combination of mustiness and soap powder. But I LIKE these smells.
On the other hand I dislike the smell of a certain soap intensely, despite the fact it first came into my life at a very happy time, and I can easily associate it with happy memories. But I hated it then, and I still do. I would much prefer it if I never smell it again.
Of course it can work both ways. If you had a bad experience, associated things may bring back traumatic memories, and this can be a real problem. The desire to avoid those things makes perfect sense. So would I.
But when we're talking about happy memories, I admit to being baffled as to why you choose to drag nasty things into the equation. Surely it's possible to pull out those memories in a better way? When you want to remember Auntie Glenda, can it not be done with a photo, or the scent of her favourite flowers, rather than listening to Liberace, who you openly admit you don't like?
It's probably me. I'm probably missing something. I usually do.