I was on the phone tonight with my friend Mia and at some point in the conversation I made a reference to this Monty Python song that comes from ‘The Life of Brian’.
It was then that Mia told me that she didn’t like Monty Python and didn’t really get British humor. Now, I’m not what you would call a hardcore fan of Monty Python. I like the movies and have enjoyed the solo work of some of the performers over the years but I don’t have all the bits memorized and don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire episode of Flying Circus in my life. So we talked about our exposure to Monty Python and how we reacted to it. In the end, I learned something about her and she learned something more about me. Knowing more about each other makes us better friends, in my opinion. So in the end it was a worthwhile bit of conversation.
The truth is that I don’t expect anyone to like all of the same things that I like. Yet, more often than not when someone tells me that they don’t like something that I have told them that I enjoy, they do so in a way that suggests that they think this revelation might end our friendship or that it might disqualify us from dating. If not enough to end our friendship than to impact it in a negative way.
I think this is because people tend to suspect that a person’s interests shape their personality. I don’t agree with this in the least. I believe a person’s personality is what shapes their interests. I do not like to learn because I read nonfiction, I read nonfiction because I like to learn. I enjoy coming up with solutions to problems and figuring things out and as a result I am fond of mystery novels. Being fond of mystery novels didn’t make me become a problem solver. I know that’s true because despite my problem solving nature I stayed away from mystery novels for a long time, I didn’t start reading them heavily until 2014.
I think the tendency to believe that interests make the personality is why so many people get a little anxious when they have to tell someone that they don’t share a particular interest. I’ve heard a lot of this in my adult life. The fact that it seems to be more common among adults than children is another reason I think the real problem is defining a person’s personality by their interest instead of the other way around.
“I don’t like Star Wars. I have never even seen Star Wars.”
“I don’t like Pro Wrestling.”
“I am not a sports fan.”
“You like that sports team but I like this other sports team.”
“I don’t read that author.”
“I don’t read Science Fiction.”
“I don’t like that kind of food.”
Those are all examples of things I have heard from people over the past few years. In almost all cases those statements are followed by a comment that suggests that they are now worried that my opinion of them has forever been changed in the negative. In some instances I’m sure that it is meant as a joke but I do believe that there is a bit of insecurity in play as well. When the truth is that it really doesn’t matter to me.
Whenever I talk to someone I have an interest in dating, I have a conversation with them about common interests. Even considering all I said above, I do not mean to discount the importance of having some common interests. You should be able to find activities that you enjoy and enjoy doing together. I’ve already written about how Quality Time is so important to me.
However, the fact that I want to spend time with someone does not mean I want to spend all my time with them. If they don’t share an interest of mine then I can keep that one for myself and alone time. I do need alone time every once in awhile it is how I decompress and is often when I do my most critical thinking. Knowing how important alone time is to me means that I would not protest if someone told me that they also needed time to themselves.
If you want to go to a wine tasting while I catch up on my reading or watch a ball game that is perfectly fine with me. You can have fun doing something you like and I can have fun doing something I like. Then later, we can talk to each other about the fun we had.
Yesterday, my uncle was talking to me about his recent tour of a tractor factory. It is highly unlikely that I would have ever gone on a tour of a tractor factory for a number of reasons. Yet, I listened to him tell me all about his tour for two very simple and connected reasons. The first is that it was important to him and the second is that he is important to me. The fact that I probably wouldn’t want to go on the wine tasting does not mean I wouldn’t be all too happy to have you tell me all about it when you returned. I might not understand everything you say but I don’t have to understand to be a good listener. My lack of understanding may mean that I won’t ask a lot of questions because I don’t know what to ask or it could mean I have to ask a ton of questions. It will never mean I wasn’t listening.
I don’t believe I would have fun with someone who liked all the same things that I like. If I met someone who enjoyed all the same food as me, all the same music as me, all the same movies or TV programs as me, the same sports and teams as me, the same books authors and genres as me, traveled to the same places as me and saw the world the same way I did it would definitely make me uncomfortable. At first, we would have good conversations about all the things that we enjoy together. But eventually (and sooner than you might think) all of those things will be talked out and we would just start repeating ourselves. Honestly, I wouldn’t learn anything new from someone who mirrored my likes and dislikes. That person couldn’t suggest a new book or author to me. That person couldn’t explain to me why they enjoy a TV series that I never cared for or get me to try a new recipe that I was unsure about. They could only help me with the things I have already experienced.
I have gone back and forth in this post from talking about friendships to romantic relationships. The fact is that I have the same philosophy in both types of relationship. My best friend loves Star Trek and I am an agnostic when it comes to that show. I love sports and he is largely indifferent or uninterested in them. And yet, the most important part of that statement is that this is my BEST friend.
I am a thoughtful person, I am a good listener and I have a compassionate heart. I am also someone who has anxiety issues, someone who can get a bit paranoid from time to time and has very little patience for stupidity. I have a good sense of humor and I love to make people laugh or feel good about themselves.
I would describe my ideal match as someone who I can talk to, someone from whom I can learn, someone who is honest and loyal and someone who likes to laugh. My ideal match is not required to cheer for the Raiders on Sunday, like Pepperoni and Pineapple Pizza, read James Patterson, watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ or view at least one Star Wars movie a week. They don’t have to know anything about pro wrestling and it is okay if the phrase data analytics sounds like a foreign language to them. Their CD collection doesn’t need to be full of Weird Al and they don’t have to quote Homer Simpson from memory. A person who could do some of that might be fun but ultimately none of that is really what counts.
Author’s Note: For the record, I do like ‘Friends’. I just thought the title was a good one.