Everyone’s made at least one recommendation and had it backfire on them. You know how it goes. You absolutely love something (a book, a movie, a TV show, a place to eat, whatever), it makes you think of someone who might enjoy it too, you recommend it to them and they dutifully follow through and report back. Most of the time, a positive recommendation garners a positive response. The level of positivity varies from case to case, of course, but people generally know their friends/relatives well enough to know what will be a hit with them, and what will be a miss. Every once in a while, though, the recommendee ends up on the absolute opposite end of the spectrum from you (if they’re good friends, this is at least conveyed gently) and you wish you’d never opened your mouth to begin with.
Rationally speaking, this isn’t really a big deal. Even close friends and family have differing tastes and opinions; the world would collapse if everyone agreed about everything. Still, when someone you like doesn’t like something you like, it stings. I remember once recommending a funny show to my sister-in-law and watching an episode with her, and she had to stop mid-episode to tell me that she was getting uncomfortable with me scrutinising her every reaction instead of actually watching the screen. I hadn’t even realised I was doing it, but I was basically looking for proof that she was finding the show as funny as I had told her it would be, that my recommendation was successful. I can’t remember now if she actually ended up enjoying the show, but I remember really, really wanting her to. In a way, it’s a bit like seeking approval. If others, people whose opinion you value, share your enthusiasm and love for something, then that enthusiasm and love feel warranted.
It’s so odd to me that we need validation for liking things, as though we shouldn’t really commit to liking something unless it is well and truly justified. We don’t really bother getting approval for not liking something, though. Dislike and hatred are the default parameters.
Innocent Hated until proven guilty worthy of love. I once looked up reviews for a popular book I didn’t enjoy, and the positive reviews didn’t really bother me – I blamed it on poor taste, on people having low expectations, on people just not knowing what they were talking about. But I couldn’t apply the same ideas when the situation was reversed; every single negative review on a book I had given 5 stars for pricked a little. And these weren’t even people I knew! They were complete strangers, and the fact that they were hating on something I really liked was bothering me. Strange, no?
I guess it boils down to this – it’s easier to hate than to love. I’ve heard that a lot before, usually in contexts much more significant than this, but it makes sense here too. Hate flows freely because it doesn’t make much of an impression. People aren’t remembered by what they hate. We are defined by the things we love, though, so we’re a lot more careful about what that entails. Liking this will make me nerdy, enjoying that will make me seem stupid. So we like things very cautiously, hoping someone else will also like it and make it a valid choice. And when that doesn’t happen, we question what we like and/or feel embarrassed by it. It’s dumb. Positivity is a good thing, and it’s positively idiotic to be cautious about it.
These days, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to embrace the things I love, no matter how embarrassing or silly. To love things openly, without fear of judgment and without need for validation. I’m also trying to be brave about making recommendations without worrying about the outcome. What I love does say something about me, but I’m not going to stress out about what that is. Love does not need justification.
Love should be easier than hate.