Pet Peeves

The Importance of Being Earnest

Ah, sincerity, that tricky little emotion. First coined in the 15th century from the French sincérité, the word has become widely used, sure, but its practise has continued to dwindle. Merriam-Webster defines the word sincerity as being “marked by genuineness” while the Oxford English dictionary explains it as “free from pretence or deceit”. Either way you slice it, there’s not enough of it to go around for my liking.

Oddly enough, it was getting to see Paramore perform last week  that got me thinking about this phenomenon of “playing it cool”. I’ve been turning over and over again in my mind, trying to isolate the mechanism in our strange little human brains which pushes us to hide behind the mask of nonchalance.  I do it myself, even.

When I mention how much I love Paramore or, say, Doctor Who or dystopian YA literature or whatever, I always get a chuckle and a comment of something along the lines of, “LOL, Jenn, you’re a trip!” like there’s something contradictory about the fact that I’m an intelligent person with interests that veer into the (gasp!) mainstream of pop culture. People also feel the need to come back at me with things that they describe as their own “guilty pleasures” as a form of commiseration, as if they feel bad that I’m all alone in this vast wasteland of questionable taste. They’re all like, “Oh, well I secretly like Britney Spears!” or “Don’t even worry about it, I watch Bones!”  and my response to that is generally along the lines of “………..”

Guys, screw that. If you like something, what’s guilty about it? Because you think you’re “too cool” to like things that are widely popular in a way that’s unironic? Because it’s not cool to be earnestly passionate about something that makes you feel? I’m just not sure I get the point. Plus, newsflash: if you think that liking something “ironically” is possible, you are as clueless on the meaning of the word as Alanis Morissette was.

While I don’t share much of anything deep or personal with anyone other than the very few people I’m close with, I also have no problem being honest in saying when something moves me in any way because, well, what have I got to lose otherwise? Do I think that people will respect me more if I seem aloof and like I’m just so over it, “it” being everything in the world? Get out of my face. I don’t think it’s admirable to pretend that you’re too awesome to get excited about stuff. You know what’s awesome? Getting excited!

Even before I went to the Paramore show last week, I was joking with my friends, like, “Oh man, can’t wait to go hang out with all the emo teenagers!” And yeah, there were some real weirdos there, but guess what: there are weirdos everywhere. Hell, I’m one of them, even! I just express it differently, as we all do.  And to be perfectly frank, it felt so good to enter a room full of thousands of strangers and sing a common song, so to speak, at the top of my lungs with every one of them. To jump and put my hands in the air and feel things without being self-conscious, without worrying that someone might think I was strange or goofy or a total mess. Because I am all of those things, but at least I’m honest about it and not afraid of it.

I just don’t see what good it does – in any sense – to pretend to be something you’re not, or to restrict yourself, to cut parts of your own unique self off from the world and, well, yourself, for the sake of saving face, for the sake of seeming worthy of a particular reputation or attention from a specific group of people that you’re trying to impress. Because guess what – if someone doesn’t like you because you’re passionate – whether it’s about Paramore or angora wool or artisan cheese or Matchbox cars – then they lack a very particular understanding of and appreciation for and wonderment about what it means to be a human being, which means they’re probably not all that worth your time.

  • Diana Kimmerle

    WOW! I could not have said it better myself :) You are on to something here!!

  • Claire Coffee

    This is superb! And not just because of the nod to Doctor Who… !!

  • Maeve O’Connell

    Great title!

  • Amy Danielle

    Once in college I had an English teacher ask us to write a paper about a guilty pleasure. We were supposed to include why most people don’t like our guilty pleasures, but what we liked about it… or something. Anyway, I failed that paper because why should I feel guilty about liking anything? I didn’t know whether or not other people thought what I liked was dumb, because I was too busy liking it and not caring about what anyone else thought about it. If it was such a dumb thing to like, then why should I like it? It was the worst paper topic I’d ever been assigned.

    • Jennifer Still

      I definitely felt that pressure when I was younger, especially when I was attending liberal arts college, for those mainstream interests to be presented in an “LOL-worthy” light. Like, can you believe *I* would like *this* when so many REGULAR PEOPLE do? Thank God I got over that – and myself – naturally in time and realised that everything we love is connected, as pseudo zen as that sounds. In the end, Bon Iver is singing about the same things that Katy Perry is, just presenting it in a different way. Just like we all learn differently, we all feel differently, and there’s nothing wrong with either way.

  • Madi Scruggs

    I LOVE this article. I always find myself feeling guilty when I tell people I want to be a novelist of young adult fiction and I want a Harry Potter tatoo and I love making magazine collages (the list goes on and on), and what you said is so true– who cares? I should be proud of my future deathly hallows ink. I’m going to take this to heart. Great article!

  • Laura Randrianarison

    This! Well said.

  • Aislinn O’Reilly

    “if you think that liking something “ironically” is possible, you are as clueless on the meaning of the word as Alanis Morissette was”. Brilliant!

  • Jessica Foley

    I’m in total agreement with everything you just said, but I’d like this comment to focus on the important issue at hand here: how amazing that Alanis Morissette line was. I literally read it and automatically thought, “ZING!”

  • Samantha Ritchie

    Fantastic. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Jill Kushner

    Yup. That.

  • Stephanie Frady

    I’m a Hanson fan, and you would not BELIEVE (or maybe you would!) the comments that I get. But you know what? I effing love them, I have for years, and just because people think they’re still little boys, that’s not going to make me stop!

  • Alexandra

    YES!!! This is perfect.

  • Shelly Stromoski

    I agree with this wholeheartedly, and that is not just because I unironically enjoy Fall Out Boy. Isn’t guilty pleasure still pleasure, after all? If you can’t own it, you don’t bother. Also, I love Dr. Who. So I think you’re neato.

  • Julia Green

    take that “hipsters”!

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