When I was eighteen I went to a bar with my friend. As we clutched our pints of cheap beer, and peered through the fug at the live band, I caught the eye of someone I recognised. He had gone to the same school as us, and I suppose you could say we had been friends of sorts. He bounded over and abruptly demanded to know what we were doing there. Slightly taken aback, I replied drinking beer and listening to the band. He seemed rather indignant at this response, and was quick to firmly state well I’m in here ALL the time! Translation: this is MY stomping ground and you don’t belong here! At school he had played bass guitar. He wasn’t in the clichéd popular crowd, but belonged instead to the group of misfits who had a kind of cool and mysterious air about them – at least they did in their own minds! I was quiet and shy, liked a bit of bubblegum pop music, plus was known to wear those little sparkly hair clips that were the height of youthful fashion at the time. These attributes clearly meant that I had no right to be seen in a bar, listening to live music, and drinking beer a whole three years later!
I knew that his issue wasn’t so much that I was having a night out with my friend, but more to do with the fact that he saw that particular bar as his place to hang out. He got there first. What was someone like me doing there? I might end up going more frequently, thus tainting it with the memory of my sparkly hair clips. I might get to know people he considered to be his friends. I might tell them uncool stories about him from school. He might be pushed out and have to find a new place.
These worries are obviously ridiculous, but some people really do seem to think like this. People can become very protective over things they see as theirs. These things can range from the seen (friends, hangouts, fashion) to the unseen (musical interests, opinions, beliefs.) How many times have you heard the words I liked it first uttered? Even if people don’t say it, it’s usually written all over their faces. How dare you have the same interests! I didn’t have you down as a fan of that particular band – I’ve been a fan before they even found fame!
I used to scratch my head at this in confusion. Why on earth does it matter? So I don’t know everything there is to know about a shared interest – does it make my interest any less valid? More people sharing the same interests means more people to swap ideas with. Tell me why this is such a bad thing!
I suspect much of it is because people feel the need to be defined in some way. They use their music/beliefs/clothes to project something of themselves out into the world. I get that! Some see those with similar tastes/interests as a threat to their individuality. You see it frequently amongst siblings: stop copying me! It is a phrase I hear multiple times a day in my house. The whole working-hard-to-be-an-individual thing baffles me though. I’m all for projecting your individuality, but at least be reasonable in your expectations. When people go to great lengths to prove how much of an individual they are, it becomes less about who they are and more about trying to prove a point. I’m always reminded of that scene in The Life of Brian – You are all individuals. Yes, we are all individuals!
Let me just be clear on something: there are very few truly original ideas. Therefore you will always come across at least one other person (plus a few million more) who holds similar interests to you. Instead of bitching about it though, welcome the common ground. It makes for a happier, more content life. Belittling someone else by either dismissing their pursuits as a passing fancy, or completely disregarding it because you feel threatened by them is weak and unnecessary. I’m sure the band you’ve liked even before they found fame won’t complain about having an extra fan…
Gather your likes/dislikes and wear them proudly. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there for fear of being shot down by someone who liked it first. Be your own kind of individual.