Sunday, 28 October 2007

Loving The Way You Hate It

I once met a man who hated music. Seriously, in both senses of the word: he really and truly hated it, and he hated it with a real passion.

His name was Masaaki and he was an intermediate student of mine, an engineer. I found out this interesting fact about him when I gave the class a questionnaire on Likes and Dislikes. We were covering food, hobbies, school subjects and general interests, and at first I thought he was just being lazy when I overheard him stating categorically that he did not like music -- any music. I sidled up to his table, certain that he had simply not known how to express himself adequately. Everybody likes some kind of music, after all, whether it's opera or the blues or swing or folk or soul.

"Come on, Masaaki," I said, "you don't mean that you dislike all music.

He gave me a look. "I do mean that."

"But not all music, right?"

"All music," he said emphatically.

"Even classical?" I asked, amazed.

"Hate it."

"Jazz?" Jazz is hugely popular in Japan.

Masaaki curled his lip and rolled his eyes.

"What about Japanese stuff? Enka, for instance, or minyo?

"I can't stand them."

I sat down in the chair opposite him and the partner he was paired with. I should have been walking around the class, prompting a shy student here, coaxing a nervous student there, but to hell with the rest of the class: this was too damned interesting. "Really?" I queried, incredulous.

He crossed his arms over his chest and gave me a very hard look. "Really. Every kind of music. Every single kind."

He was wearing a wedding ring, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for his wife. What a dismal existence, living with a man who hated all music!

"How about your wife?" I blurted out, unable to control my curiosity.

He shot me a look of pure triumph. "She hates it too! That was the first question I asked her when we first met on our omiai. I said, What kind of music do you like? and her answer was I do not really care so much for music. And so I knew she was the girl for me!"

Well, that clinched it: He must really hate music if he'd chosen a mate on that basis. I had my doubts about his wife, though; two people who really hated music was really stretching it. I couldn't help thinking that he'd merely influenced a person who did not have strong musical tastes rather than managing to find someone identical to himself. Or, on a longshot, she was just faking it to please him. I left the class marveling that anyone could really and truly hate all music. I can safely say that the only kind of music I loathe is muzak. Not liking music just seemed wrong.

And then at a party some months back, a man asked me a question that made me cringe: "What's your favorite baseball team?" He'd lived in America for over six years and had become very fond of baseball.

I cleared my throat. "Actually, I'm not really into baseball."

"Oh, come on! All Americans are!"

"Yes, but I'm not."

"Oh come on -- of course you are!"

"No, really. I was never any good at it in school." Talk about an understatement.

"Yes, but I mean teams. Which team would you root for?"

I gave him a hard look. "I wouldn't root for any teams. Ever. I really don't like baseball."


His insistence was opening a floodgate of emotion in me that I was powerless to control. "I loathe it. I can't stand it. I wouldn't go to a baseball game if you gave me a free ticket, complimentary hotdogs, and all the beer I could drink. It is the most boring, stupid waste of time I can think of."

"Wow," said the man. "What kind of sports do you like?"

I sighed. "None," I had to admit.

Mercifully, the man wasn't as persistent as he could have been: he stopped after basketball, soccer, and tennis. "Imagine someone hating sports," he said in bemusement, shaking his head. I felt positively like a pariah.

Me and poor old Masaaki.


debra said...

This post made me chuckle. We live in NE Ohio, and the Cleveland Indians were in the playoffs. I was happy for the city that needs to know it has value, but I truly couldn't have cared less about baseball. Or football. Or basketball.
But music.........

Anonymous said...

Really? A free ticket AND beer, and you still wouldn't go?

I am baffled. And snickering.

It would be a sad life without my love of music. Sports, I could live without if I had to.

Gorilla Bananas said...

That music-hating man is no primate. I would have asked him if enjoyed a drumbeat without notes. Women not liking sports is surely quite common though.

Carolie said...

What an interesting post, Mary!

Though I do like baseball (well, I like the EVENT of going to a minor league ball park and having a pretzel and a beer and watching the people and joining in with the silly chants and organ antics...watching it on TV or following the box scores? Not so much!) I have less than no interest in American football, or college basketball (heresy in North Carolina), and I actively despise NASCAR racing (more heresy).

I would have reacted as you did, convinced the gentleman just meant he didn't like certain genres of music.

It would never have occured to me that anyone could feel that way about MUSIC, nor would it occur to me to equate my disinterest in or active dislike of certain sports with someone's dislike of music!

How thought-provoking. I think of myself as very open-minded, very "to each his own" but I have to admit that there's always been a little tinge of superiority in my distaste for NASCAR and American football, and I would have probably felt a little superior to someone who "didn't have the brains/common sense/discernment/breeding/whatever" to appreciate music.

You made me think. Thank you.

Christy said...

I enjoy baseball and music, but loathe basketball. My husband loves it, of course. He was convinced for the longest time that I didn't like basketball because I didn't understand it. He immediately set about teaching me aaalllll about it. I gamely played along. Now, I know more about basketball strategy than any other person I know besides my husband. And I still dislike it. At least Masaaki found a mate who agreed with him. Lucky devil.

Sue Millard said...

You have a knack of finding the funny side of even negatives! You've got me wondering now what the hole in my passions must be ... wait, I've got it - driving a tractor!

Carole said...

I don't have a strong affinity for music. I can take it or leave it and prefer to leave it. If I am alone, I don't ever have the radio or stereo on. When I am driving I prefer books on tape to music and preferable to that, I like silence. If I must listen, there are several types of music I "like" but again silence is my preferred genre. My husband is a happy man and loves to whistle. He whistles well, not off-key or anything, and I still want to kill him. I hate the sound. It is so annoying--like most music.

Sports I love. Spectator sports that is. Or at least baseball, football,high school and college wrestling, summer and winter Olympics, hockey, I know enough to really enjoy them. John likes sports too so we do have that in common. This being said I prefer to watch sports inside on the TV so I can mute the sound.

I often wonder if my music problem is how I was raised. Without electricity we didn't have a radio or stereo and it was never a part of the first 18 years of my life. We also had to be very silent or go outside. My mom's ears are extra sensitive and she would often say, "You're breathing again. Go outside if you're going to make all that racket!."

hifidel said...

I like all music and many sports. I can imagine someone not liking sports, but I can't picture what it would be like to hate music. I've not only never heard of it, but it is unimaginable to me. I can't even "picture" the feeling of it.

What would you do when you went out someplace — it seems there is music playing everywhere. That must be terrible!

Kara said...

The difference between you and your student is that YOU are perfectly logical in your loathing and HE is off his nut. I can prove this with one word. And that word is "golf".

Mary Witzl said...

Debra -- How glad I am to know that it isn't just me! For some reason, a lot of my women friends are passionate about sports, especially baseball. I feel so lost, trying to follow what they are talking about. You either get it or you never will. I have to accept that my chances of never getting it are very great indeed.

Riley -- Maybe if it were Dos Equis beer and someone threw in a plate of nachos and served it all to me with some really good homemade salsa followed by a couple of margueritas -- well, you get the idea. But even still, my heart wouldn't be in the baseball. Sad, isn't it? I've never admitted this to the people at Passport Control on my rare trips back to the States. I think they'd make me turn in my passport.

GB -- Even I rather enjoy a drumbeat without notes on occasion, but I'm betting that Masaaki didn't even like that. I suspect he had a tin ear and no rhythm whatsoever, much in the way that I have no aptitude in sports.

You've raised my feeble feminist hackles, though. Oh, how I'd love to be a woman who likes sports just to be one of the select few!

Carolie -- Thank you for your kind words.

I could pretend that I don't like sports such as football, basketball and car racing because I had more refined tastes, but the awful truth is that I am just over-the-top, breathtakingly uncoordinated. I have plenty of stamina and can walk and hike for miles; I can swim up to three miles without stopping; I can cycle reasonably well, but I have no hand-to-eye coordination. It has to be seen to be believed. I suffered horribly in elementary school, as a result. Teachers used to say that I couldn't do sports because I didn't try; they had no idea how wrong they were. In high school, I tried to pretend that I understood football; Just remembering this makes me cringe.

After being grilled about my sports tastes by someone who clearly liked sports and enjoyed a wide variety of different activities, it struck me that I had imposed my values on Masaaki. I think I know how he must have felt now...

Christy -- You and me with the basketball! I'll never forget how in junior high a teacher, spotting my superior height (I'm the same height now as I was at age 14) asked me to try out for the basketball team. Boy, did she change her mind once she'd seen me 'in action.' Very little action there; I managed to retain the ball for a second and a half.

Sue -- My husband would happily drive your tractor for you! When he lived in France picking grapes, his job was driving the tractor and he waxes lyrical about the pleasures of those early morning tractor drives even now. And if that's all that you can't do, geeeee whiz!

Carole -- You had a fascinating upbringing, though I can imagine that some aspects of it must have been pretty grim. Some day I would love to sit down with you and pick your brains over this! No electricity? My mind boggles.

When I was very young, my parents belonged to the Church of Christ and no musical instruments were allowed in the church (dumb, eh?) The good thing about this -- in a way -- was that all the hymns were sung in solid (usually) plain voices, and there were some wonderful harmonies achieved. To this day, I love hearing harmonies and remember how good everyone sounded singing together. Though I think organs and other instruments create a richer sound, I am more moved by unaccompanied singing.

I've become passive in my actual music tastes, allowing my kids and husband to put on their music (they tend to go for really loud hard rock -- your mother wouldn't last three minutes in our house) and not playing my own favorites. But I've been trying to change that lately.

Hifidel -- Thank you for commenting! You are right: it is hard to picture someone who cannot abide music. That was my problem, and that was why I was so persistent even when Masaaki told me he didn't like any music: I just couldn't believe it. And I can see how he got that defensive, too: he couldn't get away from music any more than I can get away from hearing all about the Red Soxx and their great victory.

Kara -- Of course you are right (smile). Nothing looks dopier to me than some jackass all kitted out in a golfing outfit. Little alligators on the pocket, plaid trousers no self-respecting person would be caught dead in. However, in high school we were all given a chance to do a little golf and I actually got a C in it! For me this was the equivalent of getting an A-plus, and I've always liked to imagine that I'd be brilliant at golf if I but deigned to try it again.

Carole said...

My sports soul cannot leave without saying that Tiger Woods is incredible. He will be 32 at the end of December and he is the first athlete of any sport to make over one billion, yes I said billion dollars in competitions and endorsements. So alligators or not, golfing is loved by many. And I could happily be the jackass of the sport if I got paid a 1000th of what Tiger gets paid.

Brian said...

"The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils."

I was raised in front of an old Strad radio that provided me with jazz, ( O Bix !! ) classics from Kurt Weill back ( O Sourabaya Johnny !) in time to Palestrina and a magnificent choice of tenor arias.

But I cannot stand rap and most heavy metal , nor those females in particular who slide soulfully up and down on one quavering note .


Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- I want to think I'd be above putting on shirts with little alligators on them for even a part of that cool billion dollars (a BILLION, for pity's sake? God!) But the truth is that I'd wear alligator shirts for even a couple thousand dollars. I don't begrudge Tiger Woods; I think he's a fine athlete and I have a lot of admiration for him. But I find it hard to believe that any single human being deserves a billion dollars for his or her talents. And if I had to pick someone to give it to, athletes wouldn't come at the top of my list.

Brian -- I used to think that I hated all rap, but I heard one number that I loved, and while I'm not a convert, I know now that I can't say I hate it all. I hate the misogynist lyrics, but I don't hate rap. And because I like some heavy rock and some of that wailing female stuff, once again, I cannot dismiss all of it. But catch me EVER humming along to elevator and dentist office music!

My father was a great fan of Bix Beiderbecke and had tons of his records, which he played very rarely, but with great nostalgia. He loved his jazz.

Kim Ayres said...

The music thing might actually be a hearing thing. There are some people who cannot distinguish clearly between one note and another. They might have a vaugue sense of higher or lower if but two quite close together would be indistinguishable. It's rather like asking you to put your hand in some water and say what the exact temperature would be.

To these people, music is literally just a noise and quite an unpleasant experience.

However, when it comes to sport, I've had similar reactions to my loathing of football (soccer), rugby and pretty much most other sport.

Erica Ridley said...

LOL. I can't imagine hating music. I love music! I even love the music I hate--I wouldn't want it to go away just because I don't like it. *g

I feel this way every time someone says they hate to read. Which, unfortunately, I hear more often than hating music.

Of course, they give me a similar expression when they learn I don't watch TV, and therefore stare blankly at all their pop culture references.

(But at least it's not because I *hate* TV per se--although that's debatable--it's because I don't have time for TV based on the current priorities in my life, so there's no point in having one.)

I don't aggressively follow any particular sporting team, although I do have my favorites and go to a few games a year. (Moderation! *g)

Uma Krishnaswami said...

>I could pretend that I don't like sports such as football, basketball and car racing because I had more refined tastes, but the awful truth is that I am just over-the-top, breathtakingly uncoordinated.

I feel this way too, as you know. But I used to think I was just uncoordinated, didn't have it in me. But riding and bike (and yoga and tai chi, which I do) call for coordination too. So I've decided I'm just differently coordinated.

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- I did wonder if it wasn't something like that. In any case, I can picture Masaaki as a child, suffering through music appreciation classes the same way I endured the interminable, humiliating sessions in the baseball diamond or volleyball court.

It's always reassuring to meet others who were hopeless at sports in school. When I was eight, I just knew there was no one in the world like me.

Erica -- I agree completely about t.v. The only reason I can spend so much time writing and reading is because I don't watch t.v. Most people have no idea how much time this wastes. They tell me they don't have the time to write (or in some cases read), but then go on to discuss t.v. The only downside is that your pop culture IQ ends up being zero, but that's a small price to pay.

Uma -- Like you, I enjoy cycling and yoga, and I'm also fine at swimming and hiking. Those require coordination, but not terribly fancy stuff. I'm coordinated as long as I don't have to think fast on my feet or incorporate hand-to-eye skills. Swimming and cycling require stamina and muscle power, but little hand-eye coordination. Tai chi has always appealed to me, though. Maybe some time I'll give that a go!

A Paperback Writer said...

Hmmm... music is a much broader category than competition sports. There are many, many more types of music than there are competition sports, even if you go into lesser-known ones, such as jai-alai or cricket.
And you just admitted you like hiking, walking, and swimming, which are still sports, just not the kind where idiots sit in chairs, drinking beer, to watch others do them.
I'm like you in that I loathe competitive sports. So is Max, a frequent visitor to my blog. In fact, I know quite a few people (my father, my brother and various friends) who dislike competitive sports. But your post is the very first time I've heard of anyone who claimed not to like any type of music.

Ello said...

What a funny post! It really is a reminder of how different we all are. how very interesting. I adore music, but not all kinds - like I would shoot myself if I had to listen to country western all day. And I love baseball, soccer and tennis passionately. So I laughed at the both of you! Just kidding. Very interesting post!

Merry Jelinek said...

It's funny the things we can't imagine. I love music, all kinds, and have it playing constantly. I even drive around for a half hour or so on my way to the grocery store just to crank up the radio and get in a little down time by myself... and my kids sing along with me, we even make up songs and they know the words to goofy songs my parents used to sing me like...

Mares eat oats and does eat oats...

Have you heard that one ever? It's from the 1920's, I think, my dad used to sing it to me and therefore my nickname at home became 'merzydotes'...

As far as sports, even blogging with me for five minutes could probably reveal my over the top love of all things baseball... I'll watch it on tv, love to get in a real game, and I like to play it, too, I even like to watch my kids play...

I did have a friend who was deaf and I remember feeling bad for him that he never heard music, but then, he also never heard anyone scrape a fork on a plate (I hate that sound, it makes my teeth itch).. He never missed it because he'd never experienced it, but it does still strike me odd that someone would hate all music... I'm going to go with the commentor who said it was a hearing thing that made it all sound bad..

Now, not liking baseball, well, there's just no excuse for that!!!!


Danette Haworth said...

Great post! I marveled at other girls who were interested in sports. I wasn't.

I hated those weekends as a kid when the TV would be taken over by my dad and brothers as they watched one game after another. And one minute football time was different than one minute real time.

Mary Witzl said...

APW -- Sure, music and sports are different. You could argue that babies generally make singing noises at a very early age and respond well to singing and music, whereas learning to play sports takes more time and maturity. What struck me, though, is the notion we have that everyone likes music. We generally don't even ask people if they like music; we ask "What kind of music do you like?" whereas we tend to ask people IF they like sports before going on to ask them which ones they like. Still, for people who love sports, someone like me is as hard to imagine as someone like Masaaki is for your average music appreciator. I'll bet my kind is a lot more common than his kind, though. Just look at some of the comments here. How relieved I feel to know I am not alone!

Ello -- Don't worry: some of my best friends love baseball and tennis, and as long as they don't do anything silly like trying to get me to join them, I love them still. And I've got a niece who is a genius at soccer. My sister and I can't figure out how she beat the genes there. Both of my kids are lousy at sports, and my husband was pretty much an all-around athlete when he was in school, and still loves sports.

Merry -- I know that one! "...and little lambs eat ivy." This was big during the war and both my parents used to sing it. When my kids were little, my husband and I got so sick of hearing their nursery songs over and over, we resorted to making up our own coarse lyrics for the songs to amuse each other and help retain our sanity. Some day I'll have to post on that.

As for not liking baseball, I sometimes suspect that my credentials as an American are suspect because of this. I love most of Bernard Malamud's work and tried desperately to get into The Natural. But damn it, I could not. The one book I remember reading about baseball and enjoying is Graham Salisbury's "Under the Blood-Red Sun," about boys growing up in Hawaii during the war and how baseball had the power to unite communities. In fact, baseball does have the power to do this -- even I can see it! -- and for that I can truly appreciate it. I just can't play it or stand to watch it.

Danette -- I was lucky: my father didn't really understand sports either, in spite of having dabbled in a team or two when he was in high school. (I suspect he wasn't much good at whatever he did: he was as ungainly and uncoordinated as I am and could not really even swim, though he was strong and fit.) But on holidays, my uncle and cousins would come over, and then it was a sore trial, listening to them as they monopolized our t.v. and living room. And you are right: one minute of a football game is really seventeen.

Merry Jelinek said...

Yay, you know that song, too! I love it, actually - I was born in '73 to parents who were older than most of my friends (my dad was born in '24) so it was almost like a little secret, that I knew these phrases and songs that were before everyone else's time.

We also like the bushell and a peck song - you know, 'I love you a bushell and a peck, a bushell and a peck and a hug around the neck...'

When my daughter was little she changed the verse 'I've been talking in my sleep... about you..' to "I've been talking to my sheep about you..." That's probably what she thought the words were, and she had a lamb stuffed animal that had constant residence on her bed at the time.

Okay, so I know you don't like baseball and I would never try to change your mind - I'm not much for soccer or basketball so I get it... but there is a book that I think you would like The Brothers K I read it proabably 13 or 14 years ago, loved it so much I passed it on to half of my friends and it still sticks with me... yes, there's some baseball in it, but it's more a sweeping saga about the relationship between these brothers, their parents, and the world of the time... go check out the write up at Amazon if you're inclined.

Kanani said...

Oh, I just can't imagine hating music. It's such a primordial thing. I can imagine hating some sorts of music, but not all.

Ah well.
Baseball? I love going to the occasional game, but usually a college game over a professional one anyday.

divatobe said...

I keep coming back and re-reading this post. As someone who is lucky enough to be immersed in graduate work at a choir college, I cannot comprehend someone who does not find any kind of music enjoyable. I have never met someone who doesn't have some kind of connection to some kind of music.


Mary Witzl said...

Merry -- I like your daughter's sheep song! We like the group 'Say Hi to Your Mom,' and they have a song with the lyrics 'It's just a matter of a little time before you have the dogs, the tots, the pretty wife.' My youngest heard this as '...before you have the dog that talks to pretty wives.' We still laugh every time we hear that song.

Kanani -- I still find it amazing that anyone could hate every kind of music. I wished I could make Masaaki listen to a little bit of everything; I couldn't help but think I was certain to find something he liked.

Divatobe -- Thank you for your comment. I agree with you -- completely. You wonder what goes on in the brain of someone who feels like that about music. But the fellow at the party was easily as baffled by my general loathing of all sports.