Secret Pop

Sep 16, 2003

A Change of Taste

I recently realized that I like westerns. This came as a surprise to me, because I was often known to say that I adore Technicolor and that I would watch ANYTHING in Technicolor -- even a western. This was my smarmy way of saying, "I don't like westerns." And for much of my life, this has been true. There are a few exceptions, but by and large, the dusty backdrop of the open plains and the gritty veneer of the unwashed characters made me wonder why saloons didn't build entire doors instead of just those hinged shutters which were miserable at keeping things from getting dirty. Made me wonder why even the well-to-do folk traveled in wobbly stagecoaches with large, flimsy wheels and very poor shock absorption. Made me glad to be alive now and not then. Now in my clean times. With showers at the ready and air conditioning for the taking. And what of paving? Let's not forget the advances paving has allowed in footwear design and cleanliness and remaining allergen-free.

So I was turned off by the western genre. If there were pretty girls in the pictures, that was fine. And if it was a musical, I could probably get by. But dirty cowboys riding dirty horses over dirty roads peppered with ramshackle jaileries and whorehouses did little to inspire my imagination.

Today, however, while watching a promo on AMC for a spate of western flicks they are about to play -- and also at the comedy show when Patton Oswalt lauded the merits of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- I realized that I actually like quite a few westerns now. That I like the actors and the cliché heroism. That I liked Unforgiven so much, I nearly peed in my pants just to avoid having to step out before the end.

I like westerns after all. What a wonder. I thought about it and lumped it in with my evolution in the areas of spicy food, Spanish-style architecture, and cabbage -- all things which once brought a scowl to my face.

How does that happen? Is it just age? Or is it that adulthood robs us of the will to hold onto our youthful predilections? Do we just get lazy and decide it's not worth it to continue to hate leafy green vegetables? Do we become more inclined to join in, unwilling to allow our picky preferences to alienate us from our co-workers and friends? We who once winced at the taste of beer and coffee, we who once yawned when the news came on, we who once preferred the books with pictures in them -- somewhere along the way, we stopped bothering to keep the list of "things I hate." And everything just melted in. And now, we like cheeses and orthopedic footwear and a commitment to regular exercise.

Or do we?

Is it all a lie? Maybe we just acquiesce. Maybe we just get lazy about being a staunch adversary and decide to let people heap things on our plates, even if we swear they will make us sick. That's how I learned that I like cottage cheese, for instance. But there was a time, when I was about eight, when I went to someone's house for dinner and the wife/mother figure put some sort of an orange Jell-O salad on my plate, and it had cottage cheese curds in it, and I nearly thought I would vomit trying to eat it. My throat closed up, and I had to turn the stuff away, politely ejecting it into my napkin and making a sour face to my sister, who sat knowingly beside me and shared my dismay. I'm still like that with any of the blue cheeses. But who knows. Maybe by the time I'm a retiree, I'll love the stuff. And if I do, I wonder if I will feel like I sold out. I never felt like a sell-out for liking brussels sprouts or spinach or lima beans, all of which I liked even as a child. This should come as no surprise. I was also fine with escargots, pork tongue, and brains scrambled with egg. Yum yum, I say. Although, I used to have a dickens of a time trying to tell myself I could get used to the taste of plain milk. I suppose I should give that another go now, too, since I've since learned to adore nearly every other dairy product around.

I don't have any great point, really. I was just noticing that I was thinking about watching westerns, and it didn't make me grimace. And I wondered if it meant I'd grown up, or if it meant that I had somehow lost myself. That like hair and skin, tastebuds and emotional preferences might completely molt every seven years or so, leaving behind nothing of the person preceding. I wonder if there is any remnant of the child I was in this current self. The only things that manage to stick around are poor self-esteem and sun damage. And that's nature's way of reassuring me that soft lighting is an investment worth looking into.

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