I worry that we are all just little collections of likes and dislikes, with detailed lists of each. We carry around these lists of our favorite and least-favorite things close to our chests, waiting to run into someone new and to share them to see if we have any in common. We quote movies and post song lyrics and claim ownership of hometowns– tightening our first around the things that we like, the things that we consume, the things that seemed to build us. It’s all just silly words and melodies and names and images, but it’s everything to us in a way. What we like is what we’re told to talk about, to pursue, and to share.
But it’s so small. Knowing a top 5 list is so miniscule.
Top 5 favorite movies. Top 5 favorite tv shows. Top 5 favorite bands. Top 5 favorite sports teams. Top 5 favorite books. Top 5 favorite sandwiches. Top 5 favorite websites. Top 5 favorite vacation spots. Top 5 favorite top-5-list topics.
It’s perfect when someone else’s 5 is the same as yours– you get a moment of swelling joy in thinking, “Yes! You get it! You understand me!” but that’s so cheap. Liking and disliking, comparing and sharing, it’s all so exhausting and so structured.
Because you can know someone’s favorite tv shows for years but never get the inner workings of their soul.
And I know that sentence doesn’t sound profound at all, but in a society of meticulously-placed tweets and highly-edited information released exclusively, it’s so frustrating to feel real camaraderie anymore. Not just “we-commented-on-the-same-blog-post” friendships, but the kind that cuts deep and knows.
The kind that not only knows that you take two splendas in your coffee, but that you tear up when you see elderly couples holding hands because it makes you feel a longing for a romance that society has told you doesn’t exist anymore.
Or the kind that knows you can’t miss NBC’s Thursday Night comedy lineup, but also that the thought of your direction in life is terrifying.
After almost 22 years, I’m nearly an open book, and the ink is still very wet. I’m eager to share anything that’s not appropriate for “dinner table conversation”, even as we are seated at the dinner table. I want to talk about the hard things that aren’t comfortable yet. I want to tell jokes that would make our predecessors blush. I want to chat regarding the failed relationships we’re supposed to act like aren’t proper discussion topics but are all we are aching to speak up about. I want us to talk about hurts and confusion and pain. I want us to talk about awkward kisses and embarrassing stories we swore to never bring up again. I want us to talk about anxieties that cut us down and overwhelming pride that make us seem almost too confident. I want us to brag obnoxiously and I want us to mope listlessly. I want us to talk about faith and love, and where we’ve lost both. I want us to talk about childhood dreams that never came true, as well as the small victories we never saw coming.
I’m scared that it’s easier for me just to run down my list, day after day and year after year. I like jalapenos, I like The Beatles, I like long text message conversations, and I like turquoise jewelry. I don’t like waiting in lines, I don’t like silences, I don’t like Two & A Half Men, and I don’t like humidity. But where does this get us? Sure, we can sustain conversation and keep up appearances for a long time, but sooner or later there’s going to be that moment where I want to tell you all about near-mental breakdowns and we won’t have made it there yet.
So, yes, I will cling to my favorite things and I will tell you about them in full. I will gladly repeat banter we heard in a scene or learn chords in a song. I will quote and recommend and discuss your favorites and my favorites and resurrect a shrine of our top 5s, displayed as perfectly as possible. But, I hope that maybe together, when we’re ready, we can let go of our lists. We’ll slowly release our grip and smooth out all the wrinkles in the paper from where we’ve held on so tight and we’ll put them all somewhere safe. And then, with our hands free and our usual topics taken care of, we can really talk.
And if in that moment you can’t think of the words to say, don’t worry. I’ll go first.