Family Practice: Pop culture frenemiesWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Although my interests are fairly eclectic, I’ve never quite understood the appeal of certain things. Things I just don’t have much of a taste for include car racing, “Two and a Half Men,” classic rock, fictional books, musical theater and camping. By the same token, it is somewhat hard for me to understand others’ aversion to rap music, Facebook, sarcasm, NPR and life in suburbia, which are all things I generally hold in high regard.
Surprisingly, some of my teenage pop culture archenemies have become personal favorites over the years. There was a time when I certainly never could have imagined myself watching soccer, listening to country music or eating spicy food. I regarded soccer as one of the most boring sports on earth, just a smidgen below curling, and could not understand how anyone could bear to listen to the obnoxious twang of country songs. Spicy food seemed appealing, but any attempt to try it left the memory of a burning fire in my mouth for years to come.
I have learned that tastes, however, change if we let them.
There came a day when listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails and Cypress Hill no longer made as much sense in my life as listening to the heartfelt lyrics about parent/child relationships and loving your spouse that country music had to offer. Still, taking on new interests hasn’t meant completely writing off what I used to love. I still appreciate good bass-thumping music, but, as my life has turned in that direction, I have also gained an appreciation for music with nothing more than a happy, positive message, regardless of the genre.
Soccer and spicy food have been more of a gradual transition. I was first reeled in with jalapeno poppers and preschool bumblebee soccer. After getting hooked by the humor of several 4-year-olds kicking a ball back and forth, I worked my way up to discovering that there is much more to soccer, even professional soccer, than 90 minutes of near nothingness. Aside from skill and strategy I didn’t know existed, there is the reality that most people on earth have the physical and financial means to give it a whirl. To my surprise, the supposed beautiful game really is beautiful in its simplicity.
My own continuous pop culture acceptance and growth has instilled in me the importance of teaching my children the lifelong value of an open mind. I’m not speaking of the politically rhetorical open mind, but rather one of the honest-to-goodness, anything-is-possible variety. As part of the generation that vehemently swore off ever driving a minivan only to find that particular vehicle quite useful for toting around the soccer-playing kids we said we’d never have, I’m here to say that you just never know what tomorrow will bring.
Of greater concern than whether my children will be listening to the same music at 35 that they did at 15 is their willingness to accept other people’s pop culture choices. A common side effect of trying to find yourself as an adolescent is an acquired feeling of superiority based ever-so-simply on peer influence and personal preference. In short, liking certain things makes us feel like we’re somehow more in the right than those who like other certain things. Although figuring out what you enjoy in life is good, looking down on what others enjoy is not.
I have to admit that I am floored when I come across a peer who is still holding onto the idea that the music or movies or favorite sports teams they enjoy are somehow intrinsically better than the ones someone else enjoys. Of all the qualities we’ve chosen to judge one another on in this life, pop culture preferences may be the silliest. Continuing the practice as adults who should know better sets a bad example for children and young adults who are not yet able to see the lack of weight their childhood pop culture likes and dislikes will actually bear over the entire course of their lifetime.
I personally don’t get the appeal of NASCAR, Pink Floyd or “Mamma Mia!” but I’m certainly happy for the folks who do. I ask for the same respect as I update my status in the suburbs while listening to Flo Rida.
Columnist Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at