“That’s right,” she said reaching for two non-matching bowls to put the finally-ready paella in. “We haven’t talked about music yet.”
She dished the mixture of yellow and green and red into the bowls and brought them to the little table by the window. “What kind of music do you like?”
I took a bigger than necessary bite of chicken and rice in order to buy time before responding to her question. When I couldn’t chew the paprika and saffron-coated morsel any longer, I swallowed, looked up, and attempted to own the only answer I had come up with.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” as if on cue. Mine was obviously not a satisfactory response.
“Well,” I said, dragging out the one syllable word and resisting the urge to fill my mouth to the brim with seasoned shrimp. “I like what’s playing now.” I hated how agreeable this sounded so I added, “I also like the Beatles.” The Beatles are like Girl Scout cookies; everybody likes them. Not to mention the fact that liking the Beatles now would imply a second coming of sorts, like I’ve been on quite the musical Tour De France, and I’m back around for yet another loop.
“What’s your favorite Beatles song?” she asks. I hate this question too. I consider my options. Nothing too sappy or pop-y or drug-y.
“Across the Universe,” I say but then I realize that it’s Rufus Wainwright’s version of that song that I really like, much more so than when the Beatles sing it. Does that even count? But I don’t want to say Rufus Wainwright because I only know like six songs of his, and I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t really constitute me as a fan since I haven’t sought out his “older stuff.” Or are the songs I like his “older stuff”?
I ask her about her taste in music, trying to sling the blinding gleam of the spotlight onto her. As the immanent sweat from my time in the interrogation chair subsides, she runs off a list of performer names, some I’ve heard and some I have not.
I don’t know what exactly it is, but I hate these music questions. I feel like I’m being judged no matter what I say, like the Jeopardy music is playing in the background and there is no question for this answer. It’s like a freakin’ online quiz: what kind of music are you? What liking this artist says about you. Genre preferences as connected to personality traits and intelligent quotients. If you chose mostly a’s, you are the dumbest person on the planet. If you chose mostly b’s, you live in an unrealistic universe and have your head permanently stuck in the clouds and cannot be trusted to uphold common responsibilities due to your perceived flightiness. If you chose mostly c’s, you are an inauthentic faker and you don’t deserve happiness and will never find love. I don’t see me proudly posting any of these results on my Facebook page for extended judgments.
I don’t want her to think I’m too mainstream, but I can’t say something obscure because I don’t really know anything obscure, and I don’t want to get caught up in a lie, like in sixth grade when some popular kids engineered this coolness barometer of asking not-so-popular kids, such as myself, if we’d heard of the band Crash. If we admitted we hadn’t, they would deem us lame and totally uncool and relentlessly tease us. If we said we had heard of the band, they would catch us- hook, line, and sinker- and mock us for saying we knew a band that didn’t really exist that they had made up all along.
I don’t want to pick something too sweet or too cynical or too weird or too loud or too stoner-ish, Nothing that means something, even if I don’t know what it means. I don’t want to subscribe to the wrong thing. Why is everyone so goddamn into music anyway?
I can’t wait until we talk about something else, something I know. Like chocolate.