Authenticity is kind of a big deal with me, both when it comes to me being who I am authentically and others being authentically themselves. We’ve only got one life to live, and to spend it being something you’re not or being a version of yourself that isn’t true to who you really are is a waste of the 27,000 days we have on this planet. I’ve struggled a lot with authenticity over the years, especially because I am also essentially a private person that wants complete control over who knows what about me. Trust me, there’s nothing very riveting or worth writing home about, but I do still like to have boundaries in my life. I have also learned over the years that authenticity is not the same as balls-out honesty. You can be authentic while holding things back. Knowing where and when you can disclose something is pretty important. Also, I dislike how authenticity seems to go hand-in-hand with “finding yourself.” While certainly there can be an aspect of that in being authentic, I think it’s less about finding yourself and just being true to who you really are inside.
Blog reader and frequent (thank you!) commenter Elliot aka Mr. Brain Splats commented the other day on my “Girl Gone Wild” genius playlist and said something to the effect that if he had seen this somewhere else on its own, he would have figured it’d be my kind of playlist based on my musical tastes. This pleased me immensely because it assures me that I have represented myself pretty authentically, at least from the perspective of what music I like to listen to. For a really long time, I was an odd amalgam of passionately loving the music I did, but also never really admitting it until I got to know a person very well. Mostly that was because of a lot of hangups on my part – as you can tell, the music I listen to is not very typical for a 40 year-old married-with-child guy. For someone that always felt like he had trouble fitting in with other guys, my musical taste was the nail in the coffin from my perspective.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped caring. And every now and then, it pays dividends. Like the other day at work.
On Monday, the guy who comes to take away the outdated drugs was there for his once-a-quarter visit. He’s about my age, probably a little younger, but within the margin of error of +/- 5 years. Back where he was working, one of my co-workers was playing a Eurodance internet radio station. My love of cheesy 90s Eurodance knows no bounds. Anyway, “Another Night” was playing and she said to me “Check it out! It’s La Bouche!” to which my reply was (naturally) “Actually, that’s Real McCoy.” The outdate guy, who was minding his own business up till that point chimed in and said “He’s right, you know.” What followed was a mini-Eurodance lesson for my co-worker. When she asked me which ones were La Bouche I responded with “Be My Lover” and “Sweet Dreams” to which out-date guy replied “Well done!” He and I then started up a very quick musical conversation which managed to include Spice Girls, Snap! and Savage Garden, the latter being my response to his question “who sang that ‘chick-a-cherry-cola’ song?” It was also decided that I was able to come up with that answer a little too quickly.
At this point, I decided to push it just a little bit. A while back, a Facebook friend posted a link to an NPR story asking “what was the most important band of your college years?” I told them both about this and I said “would it make me a horrible person if I said that the most important band of my college years was Ace of Base?” His reply was an emphatic “NO! We we’ve been waiting to hear Ace of Base but haven’t heard any yet.”
This is kind of a ridiculous story, I realize, but for me, it was pretty important. I can’t help but wonder if my decision to not be typically male and hide those cheesy musical tastes in in a trunk somewhere in front of this dude that I barely knew helped both of us a little bit. For a moment, we had a bond, if only over cheesy 90s dance music. I told someone later that I wanted him to come work here full time so I’d have someone else to talk about music with. And what I really meant by that is I wanted another guy that seems to be just a little bit like me in my life. Because that kind of thing pushes me past the fear and further toward being authentic. It’s not that I need someone to validate that what I feel and like is ok, but hey, I’m only human. It’s nice to see yourself mirrored in another person from time to time.
On his way out the door, he made sure to stop and tell me that they heard “The Sign” as he was putting the finishing touches on the outdates. All in all, a pretty awesome and affirming interaction, even if it was just over high-NRG songs from almost 20 years ago.
And just so you know, Ace of Base might not be THE most important band of my college years, but they’re pretty close.