Do You Really Like It (Is It, Is It Wicked)?
Every couple of months I wake in the dead of night, drenched in a cold sweat, eyes searching my bedroom for recognisable features until I realise where I am. I let myself sink back into my pillows, awash with relief. In the nightmare I’m at Coachella.
I could plausibly end the explanation there to be honest - the thought of attending Coachella is enough to make me scream for my mother - but on this occasion there is actually more to it. In the dream I’m stopped by a film crew. The interviewer asks me, smirking, what I think of the new band on the scene the Swivvel Swarps. I panic, and respond with total conviction: ‘ah yes, the Swarps are really on the up right now. Their last single was genius.’
Some people wake, wailing into the night, checking frantically that their teeth haven’t in fact crumbled from their mouths. Others jump from their beds, convinced their skin has been brushed by some maleficent ghoul. Some imagine the unravelling of World War Three, processing the fears sown in our waking hours. Not me though. It turns out my greatest fear is being exposed as a highly suggestible fraud.
The Swivvel Swarps are my millennial equivalent of the Emperor’s new clothes, and not to characterise myself as the Empress or anything (though surely you expect that kind of self-aggrandisement from me by now) in my dream I'm parading around proverbially pantless, recommending The Swarps’ excellent second album to my loyal subjects.
Full disclosure: the nightmare is very much grounded in reality. I have a long and chequered history of pretending to like things I don’t, or worse, pretending to like things I know literally nothing about. My earliest memory of it takes place circa 1999. Let me set the scene for you: on the playground, Pokemon cards are the new currency of cool. Did I know how to play Pokemon? No. Did I have an enormous and carefully curated collection? Stop asking me questions you already know the answer to.
One break time, and with an ever-deepening pit forming in my stomach, I fear that I’ve been rumbled. During a swapping session, Jono Bond had looked me straight in the eye and in the most accusatory of tones had said, ‘I don’t think you know your Charizard from your Pikachu.’ I assume I replied that his mum didn’t know her Charizard from her Pikachu before assuring him, because I wanted him to like me, that I did. If he didn’t believe me then I’d just bring my Pikachu card in the next day.
I so clearly remember the bile rising in my throat as he walked away. I did not have a Pikachu card. The jig was up. So desperate was my need to resist exposure, and to align my own interests with his in order to demonstrate our compatibility as friends, that that night at roller skating club I traded my entire collection for the card I needed. I gave it to Jono the next day in exchange for a Magikarp. If that’s not a cautionary tale then I truly don’t know what is. Magikarps are shit.
As time has gone on I've left behind the compulsion to li(k)e for love, but nonetheless the Empress within me keeps trying to break out, to liberate herself from both the shackles of authenticity and her pants. In order to keep her in check, when confronted with the latest cute new song / film / book I ask myself: do I really like it? It’s crucial that the reasons I’m vibing to a track or raving about a show are my own, and not a result of outside voices, but is it even possible to remain totally objective? Undoubtedly I’m swayed by the people or publications I perceive to hold more cultural capital than me. Do I still say something’s cool, even though I'm clueless, just because someone else cool told me it was cool? All the time.
So how do you know that anything I recommend to you isn't just something someone else has recommended to me? You don't. But I'm trying hard. As an exercise in staying #truetomyself, and as a trust exercise between me and you, here are a few things I have in the past said I like, but either hate, or have literally never seen or heard. Brace yourself.
Nearly every Star Wars film, almost everything by Alfred Hitchcock, The Godfather 1, 2 and 3, The Wire, Brass Eye, The Sopranos, Pride and Prejudice, every Charles Dickens novel, most of the back catalogue of The Beatles, Glastonbury, disco as a genre.
Find Anna on Twitter at @annaerichmond