Recently my friend was looking through my iPod, and after looking up at me in faint pleasure, began to play "Careless Whisper" by George Michael. He then said -- over the hauntingly beautiful sax -- "Is this one of your guilty pleasures?"
The words "guilty pleasure" annoy me, as it would indicate that I should feel bad for indulging in the sweet slender tones of "Careless Whisper," which I shouldn't. Listening to George Michael doesn't make me feel bad.
A man once said, "Never regret anything, because at one time it was what you wanted," evidently after his wife caught him with a copious amount of Glee compilation CDs and romance novels. Yet he does have a point. I found myself deeply regretting the purchase of the biography Making Waves by David Hasselhoff. However I realized that on that fateful day in the book shop, I longed to know (as the description says) "what it means to be the most watched TV star in the world." And after reading all 267 pages, I still long for the answer to that question. What did I discover however? I enjoy the biographies of semi-celebrities! The book now holds pride of place on my bookshelf between the autobiographies of James Blunt and the Undertaker.
There's a lot of talk nowadays of teenage self-esteem issues, with mounting pressure on adolescents to '"fit in" with social norms. I would usually claim I've never felt this obligation to conform, to act as a societal average, yet despite not experiencing the seemingly insidious pressure so often noted as the bane of high school students, I'm often overcome with a strange sense of guilt over the things I love. Even with my closest friends, I find it difficult to talk about my hobbies and interests, like writing or business, as if doing so would end in an outburst of hysterical laughter. Granted, it could be argued that having "You Can't Stop the Beat" on my 'Most Played' playlist deserves said laughter. Yet I sometimes feel that being myself in a greater sense is going to result in others rejecting me. When I talk about my writing, I do so almost always looking down, avoiding eye contact (making the infinitely awkward conversations I have even worse), and even my dreams of studying in the U.S.A. are often spoken about from an uncharacteristic, blushing face.
Self-confidence is an infinitely important aspect of a successful adolescence, and I believe that this trait should be both encouraged and nurtured in our schools, and more importantly, by those around us. I must admit, I am guilty of questioning one or two friends' pastimes, simply as a small joke, or 'banter,' however, I find that the majority of people at my school have been made fun of for a hobby or an interest. A friend who enjoys sailing -- in fact, is world number one in his category -- is continually called "Boatman" and now shies away from talking to anyone about the thing he loves most. A guy in my year is a talented singer, and recorded himself covering his favorite song to show his close friends and family. When our classmates discovered this video, despite not having wholly malicious intentions, he was teased for about a month.
I'm not an incredibly sensitive, politically correct person. Yet I believe there is a fine line between friendly jokes and devaluing the great aspects of a person's character. Sure, make fun of your friend when he falls head first onto the ground, or wets the bed, but when he tells you about how he spent his summer pursuing his love of chemistry, don't call him a nerd -- listen, and give him a hug.