10 Things Everyone Loves That I’m Not Really Feeling

Sometimes popular culture feels like a party I wasn’t invited to.

Lizzo at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul (Photo: flickr/Andy Witchger)

THE BEACH

What kind of Caribbean queen am I? I think I might find baking on the sand more bearable if people didn’t make me feel like such a weirdo for preferring to chill out elsewhere. How about at the pool (in a prime covered, UV-protected spot) … or indoors … or anyplace where I won’t be risking wrinkles and where I won’t end up shedding grains of sand for weeks?

BUBBLE BATHS

For the first minute after my body adjusts to the nearly unbearable hot water, I can kind of understand why people get into them. But by the second minute, I’m just going through the motions of relaxation, thinking about the shower I’m going to have to take afterwards to actually get, you know, clean.

COFFEE

I’ve gone so long without ever even tasting it that, at this point, it’s become a “thing.” Years ago, when I told Aaron Carter about my coffee virginity at a Teen People photo shoot, he tried and failed to force me to sip his. Even when I lived in Australia, the “cuppa” capital of the world, I never once gave in to non-temptation.

Drinking coffee now — even trying it for the first time — would be, in the immortal words of The Golden Girls’ Sophia Petrillo, like getting tackled on the one-yard line. (Runner of C-thing: Chocolate!)

COUCH PILLOWS

Too much work. I hate having to fluff them and adjust them every time I get off the couch. It would make more sense to just buy a comfortable sofa with no movable parts.

LIZZO

Sorry, fans. I understand why she matters. She’s insanely talented (the flute!), and she’s selling empowerment: Big can be beautiful and sexy and all that jazz. If you don’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else? Why would you expect someone other than you to love you?

I get it, and I co-sign all those sentiments, but I’m decades out of my Smiths/Morrissey phase when I looked to music to validate myself or my feelings. Plus, I no longer go out, so I’m not looking for feel-good music that I can get ready to while looking in the mirror admiring how hot I think I am.

These days, I look to music for three things, none of which I get from Lizzo:

  1. Nostalgia value, which would explain my current obsession with ’70s music and modern music that reminds me of songs from the last century.
  2. Beauty, whether or not it makes me feel beautiful.
  3. Gravitas, whether it be emotional, social, or political, which explains why The Smiths, R.E.M., and The Cure are my favorite bands and why sad songs say so much to me.
  4. Sex appeal, because no matter how old you get, songs that set that mood never go out of style. (And, in my humble opinion, Lizzo and her music try so hard to be sexy that they’re not.)

Frankly, as black singer-songwriters with non-runway body types go, I’d rather listen to the equally successful but much less buzzed-about Khalid. (Runner-up mega-popular-but-not-beloved-by-me musical act: Foo Fighters!)

MUST-SEE 2010s TV

I can admit it. In the ’90s, I was a sucker for several key components of NBC’s Thursday night “Must-See TV” lineup, particularly Seinfeld, Friends, and Will and Grace, with lesser forays into Mad About You and Veronica’s Closet. Later in the decade, I was hooked on the misadventures of the teens on Dawson’s Creek, and I spent every Sunday with the Big Apple ladies of Sex and the City.

Then, I’m not sure what happened. By the beginning of the middle of the first decade of the current century, I started to tune out everything that I was supposed to be watching. It probably started with The Sopranos. Never watched an episode. Same goes for Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black, and Stranger Things. (I tend to avoid high-concept fare like GoT and Stranger Things with a vengeance.)

I have nothing against any of these shows, but how do people who keep up with everything the pop-culture tastemakers tell them they should be watching have time to do anything else (like sleep)?

With the advent of streaming TV, it seems critical consensus and popular opinion now operate in tandem. They build around certain shows, and loving them becomes almost compulsory. I mean, I’ve tried Fleabag, The Good Place, and The Handmaid’s Tale, and I wonder: Would everyone love them so much if friends and critics and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences didn’t tell them they have to? (It’s definitely a cable and streaming-TV thing, because critical consensus and popular opinion have rarely overlapped this century when it comes to major-network TV.)

I can see why people like Fleabag and The Handmaid’s Tale, even if I don’t. Still, I’m convinced that if The Good Place were on a regular network and not on Netflix (which, to many, probably means it has to be good, though Netflix is overflowing with stinkers), it would be as critical a hit as Mom, which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoy.

I’m also into Atypical, Grace and Frankie, Homecoming, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, Schitt’s Creek, and Sex Education, some of which are buzzy but not nearly as zeitgeist-y and you-MUST-love-them as GoT and The Handmaid’s Tale.

THE OLYMPICS

I pretty much lost interest after Bruce Jenner became a star at the 1976 event. I was seven years old, and he was the first celebrity I ever crushed on. The only thing that could pique my interest in the Olympics now would be if Caitlyn Jenner decided to make a comeback at the next one.

REALITY TV

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably continue to say it until reality TV is dated history. If I wanted to see “real” people, I’d turn off the television and go outside. There are real people everywhere. But I’m a lot more interested in living my own life than I am in watching theirs.

SUNGLASSES

They give me a headache, and I always feel like I’m missing something whenever I wear them.

ZOMBIES

My friend Marcus once tried to explain to me what they are. I’m still not sure I understand, but if I do, why would anyone love something like that? Aren’t they basically ghosts with bad fashion and terrible grooming that everyone can see? (Runner-up geek things: Games people play on a TV or a phone and event movies and their sequels!)

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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