Pet Opinions

1 09 2015

After hearing someone go on in length about how much they disliked my favorite band, I was led to ponder about several things. The first thing I marveled about was my emotional response. I felt anxious and angry. I wasn’t too surprised about the anxiety since most social interactions elicit some level of anxiety on my part, but why was I angry? Of course I’m aware that there are going to be people that don’t like the same things I do and normally I’m completely okay with that fact. So what was different in this case?

First let’s talk about a quirk of human nature that is hard to see in yourself but can be quite readily apparent in others. It is the pet opinion. I define a pet opinion as a personal opinion that one is enamored with to the point that they really enjoy expressing it. They often have a hyperbolic aspect to them much like a fish story that grows bigger with each telling. It’s like the telling of a favorite joke. It gets streamlined and polished with each telling until it takes on a life of its own. Other considerations can be drowned out by the mastery we have with the pet opinion. Just as we may begin to enjoy our telling of the joke more than the humor itself, the presentation of our opinions often overshadow the convictions behind them.

My impression of this person’s tirade is that his opinion of the band in question is a pet opinion. It had the polish of an opinion that had been shared in numerous locations with countless companions. The joy he received from sharing this pet opinion overshadowed his normal propriety and compelled him to disregard all other concerns. Even when reminded that he was tearing down my favorite band, the band I like the most, my vision of perfection in musical quality, he persisted. He needed to finish the punch line at all costs, regardless of the repercussions.

Maybe that was why I was angry.

Or it may be that it was my darling pet opinion got trampled on. I have been coddling this opinion for decades, raising it up from when it was just a little inkling, a tiny notion. From the moment that I proclaimed, “This is my favorite band!”, this opinion has been my constant companion, always there when I need it. My precious opinion is fed and nurtured every time I hear a song from my favorite band and I feel the warm smugness of knowing that I have a favorite band.

Now we come back to human nature. When our pet opinions get compared to another’s pet opinion, it can tease out a little bit of insecurity. It’s like the feeling you get when you take your dog to the dog park and a bigger dog or more yappy dog comes barreling toward your little pet. Now just as I know my dog can fend for itself, I know that my opinion is more valid than the other guy’s. And that’s not just because my opinion is shared by millions and millions of people, while his seems like some niche, hipster opinion.

See, my anger is making me look petty. And I hate being petty, so I’ll steer this back on course.

The real reason I think my feelings got hurt is probably because I have such an emotional attachment to the band he was tearing down. His experience with the band and his feelings toward it are exactly opposite mine. Every time I hear a song from this band, I have an emotional reaction. The music and lyrics resonate with my soul. Others don’t have the same reaction and that’s okay! If we all liked the same things the world would be boring.

I’m glad to get that off my chest, now I am going to go back to listening to my favorite band and get back to enjoying life.

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