I’ve been writing about Before Sunrise and Before Sunset –two of my favorite films of all time — over on Rogue Cinema for the last two weeks. And each week, my husband Jared has dutifully read my posts, an act of love and friendship because he’s not really a fan. (“I like the first one O.K.,” he says, shrugging). The same could probably be said of a lot of my posts, most of the books I read, any jazz, singer-songwriter or Arcade Fire I listen to and any drama and/or French film I’ve watched in recent years. And, to be fair, I never read anything about Anglo Saxons or Math and I cheerfully head to bed with a book when he turns on most of the History Channel shows he likes, another repeat of South Park or an episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand (his latest guilty pleasure show).
For a woman that takes her books, movies and music as seriously as I do, this has always been a tricky territory for us. We were first drawn to each other because of our shared love of music. Jared could not resist the siren call of a BYU apartment with a drum set (my roommate’s), a Bjork poster and a bunch of girls dancing to Prince. We’ve always joked that “our song” is the Dead Kennedys’ “Chickenshit Conformist,” a song whose lyrics we had both memorized. Those first few years of marriage have a lot of happy memories for me – our shared love of Rushmore, The Big Lebowski and Fight Club, hours and hours spent milling around book stores and the band we formed. However, one of the strange things about meeting your future spouse when you are 19 and then marrying just a month after you turn 20 (!) is that you are a bit raw and unformed in your tastes and habits. The core of me was there – the passion for music and movies, the feminist, the book worm, the person attracted to Eastern thought – but many of those interests have deepened, sharpened and taken unexpected turns over the last 13 years, resulting in some divergent paths. Neither of us listen to the Dead Kennedys much these days (well, I don’t – Jared says he still listens a few times a month, but they just don’t resonate with me the way they did when I was 14.) In fact, we went to see Jello Biafra, the lead singer, speak a few years after we got married and he had mellowed a lot with time, he sounded like a thoughtful old hippie, much to my husband’s disappointment.
Because I love talking about this stuff so much, I have sometimes bemoaned our increasing lack of compatibility. A few months ago – after Jared went on a tirade about hating Bright Eyes or Jeff Buckley, I declared that we were getting a music divorce because we had irreconcilable musical differences. We didn’t get back together until he made me a double-CD mix of love songs, cleverly titled, “The Importance of Loving Earnestly” and “Love in the Time of Being Earnest.” But what do you do when your spouse declares that the only music they like anymore is early 90s gansta rap or Swedish Death Metal or insists that Battlefield Earth is a really good movie (although, I suspect he is just being difficult)? If The Wire hadn’t come into our lives, we could have gone months and months not spending any time together at night.
That might be why I was fascinated when I came across an article about the dating site Allikewise.com, a cross between Goodreads and Match.com, it allows you to meet people based on literary taste. Of course, I’m not dating and haven’t been for some time, but when I first saw the site, I imagined that it would be such a relief to build a connection based on a shared love of Haruki Murakami or Zadie Smith, rather than looks or trying to match personalities. The books people love and the way they talk about them can be quite revealing about the way they view the world. Or not.
Looking at the site, I can see a lot of possible traps. For example, what could you possibly learn about those people who have picked books like Eat Pray Love or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – books I’ve read and enjoyed, but then so has almost everyone else in the world. On the other hand, the potential for seeming pretentious also seems high. While looking at the site, I rather bizarrely found myself most interested in people who loved books I’ve heard of, but hadn’t read because they seemed not boring and I couldn’t tell whether I would agree with their opinions. Really, I’m not sure that this is not any less superficial than having a thing for blondes or outdoorsy types, nor does it account for chemistry and the fact that you could have a lot in common with someone and have absolutely no spark between you. And, of course, my husband and I would probably never have found each other on such a site.
I know plenty of couples that have nothing in common with their partners when it comes to music or movies and they have no expectation of enjoying the same things. They go and see things with other friends and then occasionally do each other a favour by watching a show or movie together. In the end, I have tried to embrace rather than despair over the differences between Jared and I and let go of the expectation that we can be all things to each other. How about you? Do you and your partner have similar taste? Is it even important to you?