Self-Acceptance by Tanya Dawn
For as long as it has been casually posed to me, the question, “So, what music do you listen to?” has caused me a great deal of anxiety. Its outward nonchalance gives the impression of a genuine interest in the artists I enjoy, but really, it asks to know who I am. Defining myself with a response has always been difficult.
My elementary school was progressive, and my classmates’ parents had cultivated their kids’ knowledge of Leonard Cohen alongside that of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider. Whatever my parents were playing at the time, I was concerned with other business, such as Hot Wheels and stickers, and did not aspire to the same level of musical sophistication as my classmates. It seemed to me that the Black Eyed Peas were more fun to dance to and therefore better than a group like Arcade Fire, but this was not the general consensus of my 5th grade class, so I kept quiet and nodded along with indie sophistications.
When I was 11, I received a twenty-five dollar gift card to iTunes for Christmas, and felt completely baffled. My inclination towards the pop section filled me with guilt, but I had also developed anxiety around alternative music. Wracked with unease, I flooded my library with indie albums I knew were cool, and suppressed my desire for something gauche and danceable.
It was much easier to gain peer validation as an inauthentic nonconformist than to expose my true inclinations and risk rejection. From then on, I chose to revolve my identity around being different. I spent my babysitting money in thrift shops, I thought up quirks for myself like wearing a penny in each shoe, and, when asked about my musical preference, I could reel off a list of bands whose music tied my stomach into knots.
I gradually fell into record collecting as a way to further my deliberate eccentricity, and when I inherited an abundance of LPs from my father’s youth, I finally found refuge. My peers knew about and could classify his ’70s and ’80s albums as either tasteful or kitschy. The ’60s ones, though, had become obscure enough with age to seem chic regardless of their content. Under this cool guise, I began to feast on pop. Herman’s Hermits and Nancy Sinatra blasted through my speakers and filled me up. At last, I was able to dance to something and effortlessly memorize simple lyrics. “No milk today!” I yelled with Peter Noone, whirling around my empty house. The happiness I felt took some of the shame away from my inclination towards pop music. I still sought validation for my sophisticated taste, but in time, I extended my musical library to the present day.
Letting go of a mask of interesting difference is scary, because it leaves me searching for comfort in my own skin. So far, though, comfort has come with greater ease as I allow myself to be vulnerable. I am now okay agreeing with the majority preference and I try not to place as much weight upon inquiries about my favorite music. I do not define myself as unique when I admit that Beyoncé is my queen, but I do come closer to defining my true self. Accepting my love of pop has also allowed me to view music outside of the binary between mainstream and indie. I’m more and more able to develop an opinion based on my preferences, and not the boxes into which they fit.
By Baxter – 17 years old