"That's ridiculous," I said to B.K. "How can a person not like fireworks?" This was years ago. She was the first person I ever knew to have an opinion about big, colorful blasts in the sky that was not either "Weee!" or "Wooo!"
"I hate fireworks," she said. "I can't take the noise."
There was no sense arguing. Obviously, B.K. had issues. I figured she had latent party-pooper tendencies, an unwillingness or an inability to join a crowd in celebration for some buried reason. Sad, but there it was. Then one day we were at a baseball game and somebody hit a home run, and so there were fireworks. Not a lot of them. Maybe five quick explosions of joy for the home team to behold. "Weee!" the people said, and, "Wooo!" I looked over, and B.K. was in fact quivering. She looked just like my dog Betty looks whenever the sound of thunder is within range. Actual vibration of the torso.
"I really hate fireworks," she said, holding her hands up to her ears and shutting her eyes.
"Oh my God," I said. "You do. You really do."
This cracked open a door for me. Was it really possible to dislike something that everyone else loves? It didn't have to mean you had issues, or hidden problems, or that there was something wrong with you?
It's like . . . clowns. I don't actually think clowns are funny. I don't get them. Is this allowed?
I'm often reminded at this time of year of that baseball game with B.K., and how it led me to say, for the first time in my life, "You know, I hate white-water rafting." There is no exaggerating the joy I felt in that simple statement. For years, my brother and sisters and nieces and nephews and I had been doing this rafting thing, and the day of my declaration came just after a voyage down some hell of a Class 5 river -- we basically did a nose dive down a waterfall -- with the fear generated in me registering an easy 10.5 on the Richter scale. "I hate this," I said, climbing out of the raft when it was over. "Terror is not fun for me." And that was the last time I went.
How freeing it is to declare -- to be able to stand up for who you are in the face of who you're supposed to be.
Summer is filled with things you're supposed to love. Think of all the vacation brochures featuring smiling families on sailboats. "You know, I don't like sailing," I said one day to my friend Marie. That was a doozy. But I really do hate the fact that there is no shade, anywhere, and that the boom keeps almost hitting you in the head. I hate that! I would much rather abandon ship and swim.
"I hate almost any kind of boat I can think of," I said later. This was getting positively dizzying. But I was just getting warmed up. "I hate very many activities that take place off the actual earth."
And so: "I hate dates with men who want to show you how good they are at flying tiny little airplanes, which they may, or may not, be very good at." It's not fear of flying. It's fear of dying. I had two separate dates with two separate amateur pilots before I was able to swear off that whole category of daredevil men. (The man I eventually married had already gotten airplanes, and motorcycles, out of his system.)
All because of B.K. and her little fireworks problem. I keep meaning to call her and thank her for liberating me. Talk about Independence Day. I'm finding this lesson particularly useful when it comes to parenting. You know, every little girl wants to be a ballerina, but it turns out that yours hates ballet, and all she's really interested in are the outfits. Let it go. This is who she is. Believe her, and bring on the tutus.
Ironically, I have a kid who doesn't like fireworks. This is, admittedly, depressing, and I secretly believe she's going to grow out of it. But, for now, it's the noise she can't take. Just like B.K. This leads me to believe there are a lot of closet fireworks-haters out there, and maybe even professional river guides who don't like white-water rafting, and all sorts of people floating around on Chesapeake Bay at this very moment who long for a life on dry land.
Free yourselves, people! Free yourselves! Stand up and say, "I don't actually like this!" Try it. This is America.
As for my family, well, we won't be going to the fireworks this year. We'll be at an amusement park, but we'll leave before the big night show. And, no, we won't be taking one last family ride on the roller coaster. We won't even be taking a first one. Because my husband hates roller coasters.
"You used to fly airplanes," I say to him. "You routinely drive a farm tractor down a treacherously steep hill. You are made for roller coasters."
"I hate roller coasters," he says to me.
See, now, I do suspect he has issues.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.