The Caesar’s Bath meme

Lots of people are paying attention to this meme, of which I learned from walker and which is doing the weblogging rounds:

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.”

Poking into what people put on their lists is revealing. Although some people ignore the premise and simply list things they love to hate (for example, President Bush), it is more interesting if, as intended, you are attentive to what your social circle or peer group loves but you cannot get into (I feel really sorry for the Bush-hater who finds h’self embedded in a peer-group of Bush supporters!). Certainly, it is partly a question of how you define your peer group; most of the lists say much more about that than they do about your tastes and those of your social circle per se.. There are certain circles in which I hang out in which a list of five items wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of our divergences (although I wouldn’t call them my close friends), and others in which I would be hardpressed to come up with five of any significance. How trivial or profound a difference of taste from your peers does your list embody? I mean, I hope you are going to differ from your peers with respect to some rock band or other, some TV show or other, and hopefully even on some of the books you have loved.

There are a number of entries that commonly appear — reality TV, drinking, spectator sports, NASCAR, Jim Carey, Seinfeld — or maybe I just notice them because they would all be on my list. If you can’t think of many items for yourself, I wonder — does it mean you are fortunate to share most of your preferences with your friends? unfortunate in that your circle of friends have very little stimulating diversity? or could it be you just don’t know your friends very well?

The game might be easier for someone — probably generally someone much younger — whose peer group have much more conformist needs. While this is abit stereotypical, the tastes of those of us who are older are probably generally less congruent with those of people we nevertheless call our close friends, perhaps because friendships are built more and more on shared history rather than shared preferences; people may remain friends even with drastic divergence of their cultural styles over decades. It may also be that people define who they are more securely and less on the basis of what they like, so even new friendships may be with more culturally dissimilar people. BTW, an interesting variant on this meme, for us older more settled folks, might be to “list five things that your spouse or life partner is wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over.”

And finally, it occurs to me that, because of the selection bias in this being a weblogging meme, there is one item that probably would appear on some lists which will not: weblogging.