2) When someone doesn’t like a certain food or animal, it doesn’t always mean that they just haven’t tried the right KIND of food or met YOUR animal.
Some people don’t like cheese. Some people hate dogs. My initial response to both of these revelations is always acting as though some sort of gauntlet has been thrown and I must immediately rise to the challenge of changing that person’s mind. But it’s time I laid those feelings to rest.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and it is not my responsibility—nor have I just been personally invited—to rock that person’s world by introducing them to the one cheese or dog that will turn their unacceptable-to-me sentiments upside-down. Yes, there are many, many kinds of cheese in the world, and maybe that person hasn’t tried St. Andres triple-crème brie (which my roommates and I used to refer to as ‘crack cheese’), and maybe that, to me, suggests that they have given up on cheese with a prematurity that verges on tragic. But I do not need to prosthelytize so heartily. I can enjoy cheese just as much even knowing that there are people out there who do not like it. After all, that does ultimately mean that there is more cheese for me. So why complain!
Not only that, but the few foods I actively dislike, such as crab and okra, I will vehemently refuse to try in any new and exciting flavor combinations or old family recipes. I just don’t like them, ok? While I understand objectively that it is in fact delicious, the very taste of crab makes me sick because of this one time when I ate crab stuffed shrimp and was then violently ill for several hours. And okra, even deliciously fried, has a squishy, slippery texture I despise. So quit asking, ok? Trust me to know what I like and don’t.
This revelation may or may not have been prompted by the time I insisted that my coworker try black olives, which he had not had in years, but recalled disliking. As he raced to the bathroom, I wondered what had been the point in forcing him to eat a food he was pretty sure he hated. When you get right down to it, the only real motivation in such situations is the desire to be right; to have someone turn to you and say, “Wow, actually these ARE good! What was I thinking all those years?” But when you run the risk of having a subject turn to you and say woundedly, “Why? Oh God, why?” as he chokes on his own bile—well, was it really worth it? There are better things to be right about. And ultimately, is someone else’s unexpected enjoyment of a food that you enjoy all that personally fulfilling?
So it goes with animals. If someone is terrified of dogs, most likely because of some early childhood experience which left them heavily scarred, there is no need for you to make statements along the lines of, ‘But my dog is so sweet and gentle—you’ll love him!’ He’s still a dog, yes? Then he’s terrifying to this person. It doesn’t matter if he’s going to mix your friend a martini or present her with $25 gift card to Target. She won’t think he’s cute. She won’t want to pet him. He won’t change her mind, and she doesn’t want to meet him.
Finally, just because you are not personally responsible for changing people’s minds about things they doesn’t like, doesn’t mean that they are doomed to wander through the rest of their days constantly missing out on the opportunity to eat pickles. I myself used to hate shrimp, and eventually I tried eating them and gradually learned to love them. And it wasn’t because one day someone skewered a shrimp on a toothpick and put it in my face at a cocktail party and made me gag it down until I realized how great it was. It was because I made the decision myself to learn to like shrimp. You can lead a person to foods they hate, but only they can decide whether or not that is going to change. Trust them to know when the time is right to expand their tastes.