Stop being afraid to like the things you like

I love vanilla lattes. I love strawberry-banana smoothies. I love cheesecake and strawberries and bubble tea and vanilla flavored beers. I like tons of things society would have you think are overtly feminine, and unbefitting of man my age. I should like black coffee, not vanilla lattes. Strawberry-banana smoothies are for little girls, they’d tell me. Look, the cup even has a flower on it.

So the hell what? If I want to treat myself, I should be allowed to treat myself any way I damn well please, and if a smoothie hits the spot then it hits the fucking spot.

I also love soft things. Blankets, pajamas, slippers, the whole nine. What, because I’m a man I’m supposed to sit around in a t-shirt with my hand shoved down my pants? Why should I rob myself of an experience I know I enjoy (one that I can enjoy in the privacy of my own home, no less) because I’ve been told since I was a kid that fleece blankets and fuzzy slippers are “chick stuff”?

Let’s flip this argument around the other way.

Girls aren’t supposed to like beers, cigars or big greasy cheeseburgers, right? They’re supposed to get the light salad and eat half of it on your first date, right? Or is that what you think, because television, movies and your parents told you that’s the way it’s supposed to be?

Look, I know gender roles are less enforced in our society than ever, and that’s fantastic. I hope I’m the last writer to pen a column about how stupid they are.

But this is less about the overt, blatantly obvious ways society imposes sexist ideology on us, and more about the subtle ways it’s been burned into our psyche over the years – the ways it’s going to take us a lot of time to leave behind us. I realize that a lot of it is a generational thing. I know that as time goes on, we’ll be bereft of the generation that was brought up believing that gender could be identified by a color. But ideology this old and this impossibly ingrained in our culture won’t die silently in the night with our grandparents. We have to actively fight it, like we do with the more blatant forms of sexism.

So how DO you fight this? Well, you could do like I do, and just ignore the looks you get when you, in all your masculine, bearded glory, walk up to a counter and order your vanilla bean milkshake with extra whipped cream.

Or, if people confront you about it (what assholes are you hanging out with) then you can put them on the spot and make them tell you what it is about pumpkin spiced lattes that makes them part of the stereotypical white girl ensemble. Either they won’t know how to answer, and you can walk away mentally high-fiving yourself, or they’ll spout some nonsense back at you and you can start a fist fight. These are your choices.

Okay, maybe not. Maybe you’ll have an intelligent, well-informed dialogue with this old-fashioned character about gender specific coffee drinks. But you probably won’t.

This isn’t just a sexism thing, either, though. Our society has plenty of other problems with trying to force people into pre-defined boxes. Take “nerd culture”, for example. Should an adult-aged person be ashamed of their pristine Star Trek memorabilia collection? Should a middle-schooler be judged for legitimately enjoying doing calculus in their spare time? The answer to both of those questions, I’m here to tell you, is a resounding “no”. As long as the things a person likes don’t hurt anyone else, who are we to tell them they can’t partake in those things?

Imagine a world where everyone stays in their lane and minds their own business, letting people be who they want to be. Racism, sexism, homophobia – would all slowly fade into the past, where they belong. Unfortunately, that won’t ever happen – not completely, at least. People have been, and always will be to some extent, hostile to things that are different or foreign to them.

Society has this way of making people feel like their perception of the world is some sort of objective truth, and anything that threatens that perception is wrong. In reality, as many people are thankfully starting to realize, almost nothing about society will be objectively right or wrong, on a grand scale. Right and wrong, when it comes to issues of cultural, psychological and emotional fluidity, will always be remarkably individualized. It’s not something society can decide together, it’s something each and every person decides for themselves. The important thing about this, is realizing that your ideology is not the exact same as anyone else’s, and that’s okay.

Life is way too short to let other people tell you what you should like. It’s time that we, as a society, kill off the concept of “fitting in”. It’s a myth. Everyone is weird somehow, and that’s awesome. What makes you weird is what makes you, you.

Whether the things you like (and feel like you shouldn’t) are somewhat trivial, like lattes and slippers, or massively relevant to your identity, like your sexuality or cultural background, like them all you want, and block out the haters and the detractors.


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