The Trouble with Being Byzantine
Ever want to go out and do something fun with your friends, only to discover they think what you want to do is really damned odd? Diversity is great, but this is ridiculous.
by ANDI KIRK
PEOPLE, 01/08/99: MODERN LIFE So I like video games, I like horseback riding and I like collecting fossils. What's the problem? Don't look at me like that.
Have you ever noticed that certain groups of interests go together? If I look around at my friends, generally, I can sort of group them by what they like to do. People who like video games also like anime; people who like collecting gems and minerals like sci-fi/fantasy and medieval role-play/re-enactment. People who like to breakdance like to draw. (This one is simply beyond me.) These groups aren't mutually exclusive (yeah...all of my friends like anime...) but for the most part, they're pretty clear-cut.
This results in me having to decide which friends I want to hang out with at any given time. Trying to hang out with them all at the same time just doesn't work very well.
Then there's another wrench thrown in the machine: I have a few hobbies (ok...maybe more than a few) that none of my friends share. For instance, I love paleontology, dinosaurs in particular. If I had my way, I'd be studying geology on my way to a paleo-specialization. I've been crazy about dinos since I was 3, so it's not like it was brought on by Jurassic Park or something. It just seems like most people "outgrow" dinosaurs. Sure, a few people don't. But this does relate back to my point eventually, I promise.
Speaking of dinosaurs, bird watching is amusing. I've finally reached that song-recognition level with the birds around my house, and I seldom miss the rather obnoxious performance of one local mockingbird every morning.
Another thing I get a kick out of is heraldry, the study of what we call in the vernacular "coats of arms". (The proper term is "armorial achievement", and doesn't that sound stuffy..) Don't ask me why, I really can't say. For some reason, I just think it's a hoot.
How about costuming? Studying the fashion of ancient Rome and Greece, the Far East, and a little Renaissance Europe is fairly entertaining, and it gives me something to draw.
Handcrafts are fun; I spend many a Sunday afternoon knotting, beading or twisting jewelry into shape, and I'm currently trying to make feathered masks (like for Mardi Gras, or the Carnival in Venice).
I love writing, prose and poetry, and I like to draw, even though I can't. I'm nuts for fighting video games (sorry, that's the only genre) and I like playing around with web development and programming (which is what I go to school for). Comics (both American and Japanese) and anime keep my attention pretty well, as do fantasy or sci-fi novels. Pretty normal stuff, but mix it all up, and then add everything previously mentioned, and then some, and it starts to get weird. Sometimes people can't reconcile the differences.
(scene in an arcade, waiting to play "Soul Calibur")
Certain combinations of things seem to defy logic for some reason; they don't fit into the little categories that people designate inside their heads. The dinosaurs and the heraldry especially seem to catch people for some reason, possibly because no one else cares. Ah well. I guess my fossil collecting must continue alone.
If hobbies wasn't bad enough, I have this goofy diversification in my tastes in music, as well. Trying to discuss music with some of my friends is likely to turn into an argument (see below).
I regularly listen to pop, classical, and world music, but I suppose my favorite kinds of music are alternative, metal and techno, but I only say "favorite kinds" because I probably wouldn't object (too much...everyone has a few artists they hate) to any example of these types of music being played. "Favorite artists" might provide a better idea of what I like: Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Elton John. Yeah, those last two aren't typos. All of those artists write their own songs and lyrics, and those songs and lyrics happen to be damned good, so I like them. A lot.
Of course, after you start talking about individual artists, you have to think about their albums through time. YES, early Bon Jovi was pretty damned goofy. But their later stuff was rather nice, and no one does better ballads, except possibly Aerosmith. On the other hand, I prefer Elton John's older works to his newer stuff, just because I like that 70's sound, I guess. Those older songs seem more emotional, and more interesting than the slightly watered down pop stuff of the 80's and 90's.
What about the more typical stuff, the AiC, STP and MD? This always causes amusing conversations between my boyfriend and me. He's more of an 80's metal fan, so he likes the old, speed metal Megadeth, which I can't stand. I prefer the latest albums, starting from "Countdown to Extinction". That was the first one he didn't like.
He also likes the older Alice in Chains, moreso than I do, although I like AiC pretty unconditionally. (Actually, what he really likes is Layne Staley's screaming. Therefore, he didn't think much of the Unplugged album, which is probably my favorite.) But he says he likes the last Stone Temple Pilots album better than the first two (which, of course, is the opposite of how I feel). The album makes very little sense, which is what appeals to him. I preferred the music in the first two albums better, "Tiny Music..." was a big change.
Anyway, apparently my boyfriend and I can agree on artists, if not songs, but the kicker is, he hates techno in general. This is just too unfair...At least my college roommate (who really is about as diverse as I am) and I have the same basic tastes. Last year was hell, because the girl I was rooming with really, really loved the Dave Matthews Band. Ugh.
So must those of us with ridiculously complex interests continue to suffer odd looks from our friends when we suggest things like looking at the armor hall at the Met, or going to the beach to look for sharks' teeth? I say thee nay! Those of you who don't consider yourselves "Byzantine", take a closer look at your interests, you may be surprised. And if you still come out in one "category"...come on. Get out there and diversify. You'll learn lots of fairly useless trivia, you'll make people like me love you, and, for goodness' sake, you might even have fun.
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