Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free to be…like everyone else?

When my older son was young he had a best friend named Petey. Petey loved the movie Free Willy. He also loved hot dogs.

Erik liked neither to the point of what I feared was rudeness during play dates.

“I don’t like Free Willy, I’m never gonna like Free Willy, and no one can make me like Free Willy,” he pronounced on the way home from Petey’s one day.

My son’s adamant stance against this movie (and hot dogs) didn’t seem to affect his friendship with Petey. But I still apologized to Petey’s mom just in case Erik’s independence bordered on impoliteness. She actually said to me she wished as an African American mother her son was more independent. What the teen years would bring concerned her.

I was on the verge of teendom when Free to Be…You and Me, was released, a record album and book featuring stories and songs performed by celebrities. The original message was both boys and girls could achieve anything.

When this phrase pops into my head, I think of it as meaning more. We should respect each other’s individuality, not disparage it. We can’t all like Free Willy (or hot dogs) and why should we?

Previously I’ve written about what a huge fan I am of our local YMCA and the great classes and instructors. A new type of workout is being offered at multiple times, and it’s extremely popular.

I don’t like it so I’m not doing it. It’s not the exertion that doesn’t appeal to me, it’s the preparation. Putting weights on bars is not my thing. Same with photography, make-up, accessorizing, and crafts.

During those pre-teen years my Grandma Rock, a prolific knitter, tried to teach me the art of twisting yarn on needles. She was far more successful with instructing me on playing Gin Rummy for nickels.

Those who like this new workout are usually quite polite when they ask me what I don’t like about it. Recently, though, someone I don’t know well asked me rather impolitely.

I nearly channeled Erik’s age-old Free Willy litany…but refrained.

But it got me thinking about being free to be…me. I have no problem being a non-conformist. And in some areas I conform to the norm, though what that is I often wonder.

Parents spend so much time worrying about their children “following the crowd.” I actually had a friend once who confessed when she was a teenager she did jump off a bridge when everyone else did!

How can we, as parents, exhort our sons and daughters not to succumb to peer pressure when we send mixed messages our adult selves all have to like the same thing?

And I’m not just talking about a new exercise workout.

We can’t all like Free Willy. Or hot dogs.


  1. I think opposites attract. I will not do anything I do not like, or wear something I do not like, just to conform to what everybody else does or wears. One of my best friends and I are very different from each other in certain ways, yet we have been friends since birth.

  2. I think that's true re opposites. And having friends who are different just enriches both people's lives....think how boring the world would be if we all liked the same thing!

  3. I agree. WE can't all like Free Willy and hot dogs. I'm pretty agreeable and do like those things but there are things I dislike with as much enthusiasm as your little boy showed for his dislikes.
    I learn at least one new thing a day and most days I'm reminded of how very little I know - about myself and the world at large.
    So I'm thankful for each new day.

  4. Pam, Well, we already covered the fact that I don't like moving. I like rhythms and quiet and... Well, I've been told that my quiet life isn't very exciting, but I like it as is! Glad you're skipping that class...life's too short to do stuff you don't like. There are too many things that you do...they can fill up all the time!


    PS Hermits Rule!

    PPS I am not a huge fan of hotdogs, though we're having them tonight, and I enjoyed Free Willy! LOL