I’ve always said I don’t get people that don’t like animals. A gentle Golden, a playful cat - what’s not to love? Who could possibly not like pets?
It’s a party line I’ve held tightly to over the years, through the occasional friend who would say, politely but confidently, that pets weren’t their thing. Sometimes they would come to my house and perch, stiff and uncomfortable, on the corner of my couch while Emmett forced his head into their lap and the cat drooled on their purse. Mostly we would meet at their house, me simultaneously marveling at how pristine their floors were while pitying them the lack of a furry companion.
I was convinced that they simply had not met the right animal yet, an idea I would float around on what seemed like reasonable intervals.
I realize now I was wrong.
Last weekend, my husband took me to a three day music festival. He has been a fan of a particular rather obscure band for many years, long before we met, a nostalgic relic of his teenage years. I went along because I wanted to spend time with him, not, as I reminded him, because I liked the band.
I can tell you, politely but confidently, that I do not like the band.
“Can’t we just hang out during the day and then, you know, you go to the show at night?” I asked.
But he persisted that I had simply not given the band enough of a chance over our 11 year marriage. Here, he said, handing me a CD, listen to this one. They’ll be playing it in its entirety on Saturday.
I perched, stiff and uncomfortable, on the couch while I tried to listen to it. It was painful. I made it through one song. I was in fact wrong when I thought they weren’t a good band. They were, I realized, a terrible band. Awful. The more I listened, the more I disliked them.
But my husband seemed really excited about the idea that we would be sharing this experience together, so I went along. I tried, with every fiber of my being, to will myself into liking the band, as he was hoping I would. I wanted to. I wanted to love them and turn into one big happy SuperFan family who could share this festival together like the other families there he eyed enviously. I sat, miserable and unhappy, resenting myself for not being able to enjoy it.
I found myself surrounded by people who adored this band, who loved every warbling note, every overly theatrical gesture and dated lyric. People who couldn’t possibly understand how anyone could not love these guys and want to spend every waking moment singing along. They would never understand me, as I would never understand them.
I get that they love this band. I understand that there are components that touch their hearts. I, simply, do not agree with their enjoyment of the experience. I found myself not touched so much as overwhelmed and mildly repulsed.
My husband was not happy. I feel like I disappointed him mightily in my complete inability to find a single iota of enjoyment in the experience he loves so much. If I could have forced myself through sheer force of will to like this band, it would have happened, but it didn’t. I like them even less now, a reminder of my failed duty as a spouse to properly support their significant other’s interests.
It’s given me, strangely enough, a newfound sympathy for my friends who had to suffer my dog’s undesired snuggles, or the other friend who endured baby after baby placed into her arms when she said she didn’t think she wanted to have kids some day. There will be people in this world who simply do not love the things we hold most dear, and no amount of encouragement on our part will convince them otherwise. And you know what? It’s OK. Really.
Speaking from experience, forcing someone into an encounter with something they’ve already told you they don’t like is a recipe for disaster. And I promise, to all my friends who just don’t like animals- I still love you, and let’s meet at your place next time.
French Bulldogs via Shutterstock