It’s an acquired taste

Whenever you tell somebody you don’t like something, one of the worst responses you can hear is a condescending “it’s an acquired taste.”  It makes you feel really small, just for having an honest and valid opinion on the worth of some food, song, book, or whatever.  As if not having that acquired tasted makes you less important.

As a person who doesn’t like coffee and doesn’t see any point in forcing myself to drink it until I do, I’ve always thought “it’s an acquired taste” was a euphemism for “it has prestige, but it’s bad.”  The fact that those two phrases can even be linked is potentially an ominous symptom of a greater societal problem, but that’s not a question for this space.

I think acquired tastes are an unintentional conspiracy (we need a word for a conspiracy that’s not actually a conspiracy at all, it’s just something that happens that if someone consciously planned it’d be really shady).  Most people aren’t pretending to like coffee, but I do believe that once people have forced themselves to like it, they have an incentive to maintain its status.  If coffee loses its prestige, all the work people put into making coffee bearable was for naught.  So people unconsciously propagate the idea that coffee is the cool, mature, working-man’s drink.  They naturally want to preserve the sense of satisfaction they get from having acquired a taste.

Of course, not everyone has to go to great lengths to enjoy coffee, just like some people actually liked The Scarlet Letter the first time they read it.  These people get a free pass in some sense, because they get all the perceptual benefits of having an acquired taste without having to go through the arduous process of acquiring it.

There’s really no point to this observation, other than it’d be nice if everyone could just like what they like and not worry about how sophisticated it looks.


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