Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Favorites, continued

Everywhere I look, I'm being asked to name favorites.

Our computer saves our favorite websites when we tell it to; those URLs get their own special billing across the top of the screen. The Etsy website wants me to select favorite shops and items to share with others. My cell phone encourages me to save my most-called numbers; those are favorites, I suppose. This blog, even, asks me about favorites on the profile page (favorite books, movies, music, etc.) and the blog design page encourages me to list my favorite blogs—other than this one, of course. I talked a few posts ago about my favorite color. I have an old pair of L. L. Bean gum boots, pull-ons without laces, that I've had for 20 years now...and they remain one of my favorite shoes. A wonderful, genuine fisherman's sweater from Cork, Ireland that I lucked into finding at a second-hand shop also ranks as a favorite item.

But the truth is, I've never been good at keeping things. Friends, apartments, careers, jobs. I bought those old L. L. Bean boots I love partly because the weather where I had moved was beyond intemperate, and partly because I'd always admired them on the feet of my first college crush, who wore them with a breezy air and kept his feet dry with timeless style. That fellow has long passed out of the "favorites" category; only his footwear remains, and the boots have stuck just because they're so darned practical and indestructible. How many other shoes have come and gone in my world that were once loved and now forgotten? Heck, how many boys came and went before one of them stuck? And my favorite color used to be teal. Teal? I wore teal clothes, teal eye makeup... it was hideous. No one told me that it was a terrible color for me. Today? I stay clear of it.

Even the favorite books and music categories stump me. Should I name the favorites of yesterday? Or the current flavor-of-the-month? We don't really know which favorites will stay with us, do we? I thought about favorite bands and musicians, and immediately Led Zeppelin came to mind. I love Led. Yet. How many months have passed since I dug out a Led CD and gave it a whirl? Perhaps years have passed? Is that possible? It's the same with authors. My favorite is John Steinbeck. Of course it is.

When did I last read anything by John Steinbeck?

The truth is, I'm fickle. I change my mind a lot. Favorites pass in and out of favor like seasonal throw pillows in my world. I like different things, styles, movements, people every day. I'm really liking the band Vampire Weekend lately, but last year it was James Hunter, who could not be less like the first group. I used to love Anne Tyler as an author, and I still like her style, but I find my mind wandering as I read her words these days because lately, all of her lovable, hapless characters are so alike and slightly annoying to me. Even the favorite websites are constantly shifting in that little line across the top of our computer monitor; KDKA weather, then the weather channel. Hockey websites, then football websites. Right now, there's a link to PBS Kids in that favorites list, but for how much longer?

The word "favorite" feels as if it's been hijacked by the fast-moving, ever-accessible techie world that has sucked us into its insatiable jaws. The very term has become trendy, changeable, watery in its meaninglessness.

I think, to keep my sanity, I'll have to redefine the word favorite. In my world, "favorite" will have an unspoken connotation with "current" or "of the moment." Those are favorites to me: possibly passing fancies, the sorts of things that catch our attention and make us take notice, but are always moving in and out of our focus.

Influences might be a better word for me when it comes to my old-school favorites. Which bands, styles, genres were most influential in teaching me about music and how we relate to it? Which books shaped my appreciation for characterization? for the flow of a well-written phrase? Which artist do I still, to this day, want to emulate? Which towns, apartments, people and jobs have most affected how I comprehend and make decisions about those very things from here on out?

Influential. Now there's a word that captures it better for me.

Am I alone? Does the rest of the world have stationary favorites? Don't judge me because I'm indecisive and prone to redirecting my affection. I beg you.

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