Have you ever had someone tell you that you must read a book or see a movie because it’s so great, only to find that it’s not at all your taste and you can barely stand to get through it?

I’ve been thinking about what a set-up it is to talk about things that are good, great, must-reads, must-sees, etc.  If we talk as though there are things that are good and not good, as though everyone who likes good things will like a particular set of things, then anyone who doesn’t has to be weird or different or otherwise… off.  Imagine what would happen if instead of “it’s really good” we said things like “I really liked this; if you like _____, you might like this.”  You wouldn’t have to have any less enthusiasm about the thing.  In fact, you might actually get to have more because you’ll be forced to actually seek out the folks who have similar taste, and once you find them, you can rave all you want about how great the things you think are great are.  Rather than trying to convince people who don’t share your tastes that these things are great, or pretending with them that you’re going to read each other’s book recommendations when really you’ve been secretly blacklisted by the other as book recommenders and everyone’s just being polite about it.

For kids this can be very confusing, misleading, and alienating.  And not just with books, movies, music.  If you get the message early that there are things that are good and things that aren’t, you have to either feel not quite right when you like things that not everyone around you does or you have to pretend you do and push to the side the ones you really like.  Or worse, you won’t even find your way to the ones that suit you.  If you ask someone, they’re likely to tell you that everyone has different tastes, but we don’t behave in our interactions about many things that that’s the case.  It’s not much wonder that kids spend as much energy as they do trying to like the things their friends seem to.