At the moment, I’m about halfway through Sunny Side Up: A Story Of Kindness And Joy by Susan Calman. I’d read her previous book Cheer Up Love: Adventures In Depression With The Crab Of Hate before, and loved it. I’m really enjoying this book too, as Calman looks at what it is to be kind in a world that actively tries to stifle kindness.
I came across a chapter last night where she talks about the people who try and stomp on the joy that other people feel. She calls them ‘lemons’, as they come and inject bitterness into something that should otherwise be sweet. When put like that, you can see why it’s so ridiculous that someone would want to do such a thing, but these Lemons are everywhere.
Everyone’s encountered one at some stage of their life. A lot of the time, it seems teenage girls cop a lot of flack for the music they enjoy. There’s nothing more pure and joyous than the fandom you feel for a certain boy band. You love them. Their music speaks to you. You fancy the absolute arse off one or several of them. It’s wonderful, there’s nothing else quite like it. However, you mention your favourite boy band and people will fall over themselves to tell you how stupid, worthless or crap they are. Why?!
Lord knows I’ve had enough Lemons in my life trying to tell me the things I like are rubbish. For example, I collect toys, My Little Pony in particular. I’ve been collecting them for over a decade now. I have around 130 of them, they live in glass cabinets in my spare room and are full of colour and joy that they can’t fail to make me happy. I’ve attended conventions dedicated to them and made close friends with others with similar interests. They’re brilliant, and I love them.
If I tell people I collect them though? You’d think I was an irredeemable child that needs to grow up, yesterday. ‘Why waste your money on it?’ ‘They’re just for kids!’ ‘That’s so stupid!’ These days I know that is someone says these things to me, then they’re not somebody that I want to be associating with. That person just wants to crap all over something that makes me happy, so why would I care what they think? In the past though, I kept my collecting a secret. I’d never tell anyone what I spent my money on, in case they’d look down on me.
Isn’t that just so sad? I wonder how many more friends I could have made if I’d just talked about what made me happy, without giving a damn about what others thought about it? That’s what Lemons do. If you’re not like them, then they’ll do you down, trample you until you fit in with everyone else.
Sounds overdramatic, but it’s true. Everyone has encountered Lemons that just want to make everyone else fit in with their own narrow worldview. They value their own tastes above everyone else’s, and will make you feel bad until you conform. There’s nothing to say that their tastes are better, either. A Lemon may sniff at you for reading Jilly Cooper rather than James Joyce, but they’ll also look down on you for liking one cartoon over another. It’s all arbitrary and basically pointless.
It must be quite sad, being a Lemon. You’re so convinced that you’re ‘right’ that you can’t enjoy anything that doesn’t fit in your worldview. You can’t even make friends with other fans of what you like, as you don’t even believe them. This has lead to the rise of ‘gatekeeping’, where fans will interrogate other fans, asking them to ‘prove’ their loyalty. ‘You like this band? Name five of their albums.’ LoadingReadyRun lampooned this perfectly in their ‘The Gatekeeper’ sketch a few years ago.
It’s all just very unnecessary. If you have a Lemon in your life, don’t let them get you down. Don’t listen to them if they start doing down what makes you happy. If you’ve only been watching Doctor Who since the Eccleston years, or if you love delving into trashy novels of an evening rather than classic literature, don’t sweat it. You do you, and don’t give these Lemons any power.