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Monday, October 3, 2016

What Did You Expect?

Expectations are a strange thing. They color our experiences, whether we want them to or not. Take, for instance, the lovely watermelon in the picture. I bought it at a local farmer's market. The idea of yellow watermelon intrigued me.

I sliced into it and sure enough, it was a lovely pale yellow. The first bite was kind of strange. It was watermelon, but it wasn't. If I had my eyes closed and didn't know it was yellow, I might have spit it out because it didn't taste right. If I were expecting red watermelon, it would have been disappointing.

After that first bite, I had to stop a moment and tell myself, "This isn't red watermelon, it's yellow watermelon. Taste it for what it is." It was sweet, but not cloying like red watermelon can sometimes be. It had a light taste to it, a crispness that I found very refreshing.

My kids? Not so much. Watermelon should taste like watermelon, the kind they are used to eating. I tried to convince them to treat it like a different kind of melon, like orange honeydew or Korean melon or crenshaw or one of the other bizarre varieties I like to drag home when I find them for a decent price. Yellow watermelon was a no go with most of them.

How many times do we form an opinion of something before we try it? I'm guessing it is most of the time. Look at the ad selection algorithms on Facebook. They're based off your browsing history, things you've clicked before, what you've entered into your profile, and a dozen other things. But they boil down to one thought: If you liked X, then you will probably like Y because it is similar. But how often do you bite into that juicy melon expecting it to taste like X but it tastes like B instead? And how often do you form an instant rejection of it because it wasn't what you were expecting?

I liked the yellow watermelon, more than red watermelon, but it took me a minute and a reminder to treat it as something similar but not the same as red watermelon. It's still melon, but it has its own unique taste.

And to tie it back into books because I'm a writer and a voracious reader, just because something is classed as the same genre as another book doesn't mean it is the same thing. I know people who reject entire genres of books because they tried one once and didn't like it. That's like saying all flowers are awful because you smelled one once that stunk like rotting poop (google voodoo lily if you're curious). Or all watermelon varieties taste the same. They may have similar characteristics, which is why they are classed into the same group, but they may be totally different once you scratch under the surface similarities.

Have you read a book that surprised you, one that you thought would be one type of story but ended up being something totally different? Was it a good surprise or a bad one?