Along with “If you don’t know, ask!”, this phrase was probably one of my father’s favorites. Virtually every time I made a decision he didn’t agree with (and those instances were many), he would shrug his shoulders and say, “There’s no accounting for taste.”
When it came to literal tastes, we were polar opposites. I find mushrooms slimy and disgusting; he loved them. With the odd exception of really weird cravings during my only pregnancy, I’ve never been able to stand the taste of olives – but I used to purchase one-gallon jugs of the things for my dad and my sister to share at Christmas. And then there was the black licorice. Ugh. Just writing about it makes me crinkle my nose in disgust. But Dad loved the stuff … and to this day, when I see it in the store, I still have the inclination to pick up a bag for him, even though it’s coming up on three years since he passed away (December 31, 2005).
But taste extends much further than our literal tastebuds. It has to do with all of our preferences, from the way we dress and style our hair to the careers we select, our cars, and the friends and partners we choose.
Take my sister, for example. Our taste differences tend more toward apparel and accessories. This has actually served me quite well when it comes to gift shopping for her, though. My basic rule/strategy is simple. If I think it’s pretty, but would never wear/use it myself, there’s a 95 percent chance she’ll like it. So far, this rule has worked in my favor just about every time. You should see us in thrift stores, though … competing to see who can out-ugly the other with our garish finds!
Nothing could have brought home the meaning of the phrase, “There’s no accounting for taste,” more than my earliest days making Christmas stockings. I was stocking up on fabric for my newfound hobby at the Rag Shop store at Mill Creek Mall in Secaucus, New Jersey. What a fun way to spend time … looking through the dozens and dozens of Christmas prints … dumping about half of them into my cart … and then whittling down my choices to the top 10 or 12. Well, on one particular fabric bonanza shopping spree, I was trying to decide which prints would make the final cut, when it suddenly dawned on me that all along, I had only been purchasing fabrics that I liked. My goal, however, was to create Christmas stockings to suit every taste. That meant one thing: I had to expand my purchases to include fabrics I didn’t really care for.
So … I hunched my shoulders and headed back over to the table with the discount Christmas prints (no reason to pay top-dollar if I, personally, wasn’t going to love them) and started pawing through some of the less attractive (again, in my own humble opinion) fabrics. It wasn’t long until I found a hideous one – bright blue with little white gingerbread houses all over it. And busy! Yikesy – this print was so busy it made my head spin. I really, really did NOT like this fabric at all, which made it the perfect selection with which to begin expanding my fabric cache.
It was all of three or four minutes before my father’s well-worn point was proven true.
I tossed the bolt of ugly fabric on top of the pile in my basket and made my way to the cutting table. Amazingly, there was no one in line ahead of me. As soon as I approached the table, the Rag Shop clerk assigned to cut my various fabric and ribbon selections picked up that bolt of hideous, busy blue material, exclaiming, “Why, isn’t this pretty!” I did a double-take and had to choke back the words, “You’re kidding, right?” She wasn’t kidding at all. This lady really thought that horrible material was a very nice print.
Lesson learned. Thanks, Dad. So now I keep my eyes open for ideas, everywhere I go. I recognize that others may find stunning the thing I regard as most appalling. And I understand that doesn’t make them bad people, just people with questionable … ahem, different … taste.
FOR THE RECORD