Christopherson: In Defense of Enthusiasm

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Christopherson: In Defense of Enthusiasm

(Cartoon by Izzy Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Cartoon by Izzy Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Cartoon by Izzy Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Cartoon by Izzy Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Nain Christopherson

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It’s November and the holidays are practically upon us, which means it is time for my annual reminder that people who like things are inherently obnoxious and uncool. In this case, “things” refers to the magic of the season at hand – lights, decorations, the general sense of good cheer. I rarely put on Christmas music even in the week leading up to the holiday, and my instinct is to mock or be deeply annoyed by those people who wake up on Nov. 1 and immediately play Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on repeat for the rest of the year.

However, that ungenerous reflex was challenged recently when my absolutely beaming roommate arrived home with an enormous bag full of foaming hand soaps and three-wick candles in scents like “Sweater Weather” and “Vanilla Bean Noel.” What could I say, “Your excitement about the holidays is stupid, please take these wonderful smells out of our apartment?” No, of course not. Instead, I helped her arrange her purchases into a pretty stack and took a photo to send to our absent third roommate. “How could I dare to squash my sweet friend’s unbridled elation over these wintery fragrances?” I thought. And then I wondered, “Why on earth would I want to?”

I can trace my instinct for excitement crushing to a few things. I think back to an iconic moment in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” when Mr. Darcy stumbles upon Elizabeth Bennet in his backyard and asks her whether she approves of his mansion, noting, “Your good opinion is rarely bestowed, and therefore more worth the earning.” It’s possible I’ve watched that miniseries a few too many times, and I think other adults in our culture take this same sentiment rather seriously to heart. We somehow believe that to love things too enthusiastically is to love in poor taste, or to make our love worth less.

A more plausible explanation is my own regular embarrassment about liking things that seem either basic or totally weird. This summer, in a non-display of complete snobbery and pride, I listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album repeatedly and didn’t say a word to anyone for days about how great I thought it was. (Well, parts of it.) Likewise, I have loved “Gossip Girl” and “Teen Beach Movie” and my fair share of mediocre emo bands as quietly and as long as I could stand, always preoccupied with the threat that someone might feel differently about me if they knew I loved X or Y or Z as sincerely as I do.

On the opposite end of my personal spectrum of interests and self-expression, I still remember one of my first staff meetings at my job, where my boss announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby boy and jokingly asked for name suggestions. In an inexplicable and mortifying outburst I may never forget, I launched into a spiel about my “name notebook,” where I’ve collected baby names I like since I was 12 (to make it easier to name the characters in all the short stories I have never written, obviously). My new coworkers raised their eyebrows at me like I was a freak, and I wished I could sink through my conference chair and into the floor.

I’ve often been embarrassed by my tendency to gush, recommending movies, music and restaurants with so much fervor that I doomed them to disappoint. I have been excessively animated and loud while talking about the TV show I’m binging or the book I’ve just picked up. At 2o years old, I still talk the ears off of my friends and my mother when I have a new crush. Other times I rave about whatever poet I’m reading – the most humiliating of all, as no one is ever interested.

There’s a vulnerability not only in sharing our pain with others, but also in sharing our joy. Just like any kind of emotional self-disclosure, it comes with the very real possibility of rejection, the risk that another person might find the things you love unlovable, your favorite jokes unfunny, your baby un-cute.

But as my roommate bounded into our apartment with her early holiday spoils, I realized that it’s better to be genuinely joyful than to work to win a snob’s good opinion. It’s better to be open than to stifle passion to avoid embarrassment. Better to be joyful than have impeccable taste, or even (as I’m sure is more often the case) have people think your taste is impeccable. People who care about us will support us in and love us better for our enthusiasm. And, when our displays of affection are rooted in genuine devotion and zeal, no one will be able to begrudge our unadulterated joy – no matter how tacky or childish the source.

 

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@nainchris