The other night, I joined friends for Indian take-out. The selections included two kinds each of lamb and chicken curry, sag paneer, samosas and two flavors of naan. I had some of each curry over savory rice, plus a samosa and the garlic naan. A couple of the dishes were quite spicy, but the flavors were rich and layered. I loved all of it.
Later, as I drove home, I remembered the first time I tried Indian cuisine. I hated it. What were those pungent smells and earthy flavors? None of it tasted right, all of it was unfamiliar. These thoughts brought to mind other items I disliked at first blush, but grew to like (or in some cases love): country music, bald dudes, the smell of Quaker Oats. Below are a few other acquired tastes that may need a little explanation:
- Bike shorts: All of my adult life I have joined friends in making fun of people who wear bike shorts. Especially if they are wearing matching jerseys (or, like the couple I saw on Saturday, BOTH wearing the same matching shorts/jerseys outfits). “Really?”, I’ve thought. “You need to wear a diaper in skin-tight spandex in order to ride a bike?” With the purchase of my first pair of biking shorts this summer, I have had to take it all back. I may still be less than comfortable with the skin-tight spandex, but I am loving the diaper part. Comfortable doesn’t begin to describe it – those shorts have literally saved my butt.
- Squats and lunges: A number of years ago, when I still weighed close to 350 pounds, my friend Ryan designed a workout routine for me. He included lots of these moves, and I told him I couldn’t do them. He said I could. We went round and round on it, but the truth is, I nearly fell over when I tried a lunge and I thought I looked like a weirdo when I attempted a squat. I gave them one chance, and refused to consider them again. Once I joined Sisters’ Gym, the fitness classes almost always included squats and lunges. I did them as gingerly as possible, and complained frequently about how they hurt my knees. However, this summer I have turned a corner – all the bike riding has strengthened my knees, increased my physical confidence, and allowed me to see that squats and lunges just add to my body’s strength. I don’t wait until my trainer’s back is turned to fudge on them anymore.
- Top 40 Radio: To be fair, this is a re-acquired taste. I loved it as a teen. I despised it throughout my 40s. Last year, I was exposed to it while riding in a van with Mike and his teenaged sons. I had to listen, because the volume was cranked. I distinctly remember hearing “Magic” by B.O.B. and thinking, “Wow, I’ve never heard this before, but I can already sing along!” When it came time to update the workout songs on my iPod, I turned to the ever-popular popular music for songs which might be inane (Brittney or Ke$ha) but have a good beat (Flo Rida or Usher).
- Power bars and sports drinks: Back in the days when I was always looking for the most delectable snackfoods, I thought these were terrible. The bars were sticky and tasted like sawdust, while the beverages were sweet with a strange aftertaste. Also, when you never break a sweat, they seem dumb. Now I know better. Early morning physical activity benefits from food intake, but I just can’t do breakfast sometimes. And long bike rides during severe heat advisories are just safer when electrolytes are replenished. I have come to appreciate (yes, even like) these items.
- Movement: There was a point in my life when I avoided things that required extra movement, or really any movement. My mother often commented on my strange talent for finding a way to complete household chores while seated. Sometimes, I was actually jealous of the people on motorized chairs in the grocery store – why did they get to ride while I walked? When friends needed help moving or completing work projects in their homes, I usually volunteered to bring food rather than engage in the labor. Now, some days I feel lazy. But most days, I need to fit in some kind of physical activity, even if the day is a long one, in order to feel truly well. It turns out, I like moving. A lot.
I didn’t include any people on my list. However, experience has taught me that first impressions should not be allowed to determine the course of relationships. I have a number of treasured friends whose personalities or styles were an acquired taste for me – and I am certain that the same is true for them with regard to me. I know all about the research on first impressions, their tenacity and the lightening speed with which they are made. But I also know that first impressions can strike deceptively far from the truth. The important thing, whether I’m talking people or curry, is to keep an open mind. Like most important life lessons I’ve learned, this one bears repeating. Luckily, the opportunities for having it reinforced are many!