something you might not know about me

I don’t listen to music. 

No, seriously. I don’t listen to music. Like, not ever

I don’t know lyrics.
I don’t know musicians.
I don’t know genres or song titles or band names.
I don’t go to concerts or have spotify or create playlists.
I don’t hum songs or whistle or play an instrument. 
I don’t sing in the shower.

It’s not that I have anything against music, really. It’s just that music just isn’t something that occurs to me. 

(Caveat: each December I play Christmas music for about two hours while I’m baking cookies before I get tired of the noise and have to shut it off.)


A few years ago, one of my coworkers announced to the bakery at large that people who don’t listen to music don’t have souls. When I told them that I don’t listen to music, they were, much to my amusement, flabbergasted, and they peppered me with questions, trying to find a crack in my facade.

I’ve thought about that exchange a lot since then: how it is that an un-music-curated existence is so normal to me — it’s something that I barely even think about — and yet it is so utterly incomprehensible to so many.


A couple weeks ago I attended a music festival for a few brief hours. I’d never been to this particular festival and it was pretty darn impressive: Giant music tents. Children everywhere. Shaded walkways. Big fields. Food stands. Thousands of happy, smiling people in their funky festival outfits. Square dancing. Babies. Twinkle lights. Energy. Unbridled joy. Community. Music, music, music. The place felt like magic. It was magic. 

And yet, I didn’t like it. The noise was deafening. My ears hurt. There were too many people. I felt trapped. So intense was my craving for silence and birdsong and cool running water and quiet shade and doing things that I felt like I might crawl out of my skin.

What was wrong with me?

On the air conditioned car ride home, as my raging crankiness gradually subsided and my mind cleared, I said, “I just don’t like being uncomfortable.” 


When I told my mom that I didn’t like the festival, she gasped and then half accusingly, half triumphantly tumpeted, “You’re getting old!” 

“I don’t think so,” I said because I’d already thought that one through. See the following:

1. While I was there, I ran into a friend whose husband had stayed home. “This isn’t his scene,” she explained, and then I was like, Oh, right. Just think of all the people who aren’t here because it’s not Their Thing.
2. There were lots of old people at the festival having a humdinger of a time. 
3. I’ve since talked to music-loving young adult festival goers who were in royally pissy moods because of the heat, so disliking being uncomfortable is not age related.

4. It’s okay to not like something!
5. My ability to identify what I like and don’t like, and make choices accordingly, is perhaps a sign, not of old-aged stuck-in-the-mudness, but — get this — WISDOM and SELF ACCEPTANCE and CONFIDENCE. I know what I like and don’t have to pretend otherwise.

But could I change my mind and decide to enjoy the festival? Absolutely. It’s called Knowing What You’re Getting Into, plus determination — and ear protection.


I might not listen to music, but I very much enjoy it. Here are three songs I’ve been savoring.

A college classmate…

My brother and sister-in-law (starts at 1:16)…



Bellydance photo circa 2010 (and there’s another thing you might not know about me!) by Steven Johnson.

This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week 70, the quotidian (7.9.18), the puppy post, let’s talk, zucchini skillet with tomatoes and feta.


  • Liz Hansen

    Same. I was actually a music minor. Play several instruments. Sing decently. I truly love music and can be deeply moved by it… but not in a favorite-bands-listen-all-the-time way. I often remind myself that I have unlimited access to all the genres of music I enjoy at any time via the internet — but still, I rarely actually tune in to something. I appreciate live acoustic music very much, but it’s so expensive these days that I rarely make it to a concert. And I don’t love crowds and walls of sound. I definitely feel a disconnect when I see/hear friends raving about a life-changing arena concert or artist. Not my scene.

  • Kim from Philadelphia

    It’s just part of what makes you unique! You are a very talented, interesting person with so much going on in that creative head of yours. Music just isn’t your thing.
    I love music, but cannot stand concerts. Always some combo of too hot, too loud, or too expensive for me.

  • suburbancorrespondent

    I’m confused: if you’ve been savoring those three songs, then you were listening to music! Do you mean that you don’t listen to music as much as other people? Then it’s just a matter of degree. I like music and like singing to songs I know, but I rarely think to turn it on when I’m enjoying time to myself or working in the kitchen. I’m more likely to turn on a talk show on NPR. Doesn’t mean I don’t like music, though

  • ccrinma

    I definitely find that getting older brings me more certainty and calmness about what I like and what I don’t. It’s nice not to feel like I have to like something just because others do. We’re all different.

  • Toni

    It’s crazy how we judge each other by our likes, dislikes, preferences. I do appreciate that you self-examine your why’s and wherefore’s.

    I love music. I love silence. I like the sound of wind and rain and running water. I certainly don’t want any of those things constantly.

  • bradtstacy

    Love it!! You love books, reading, writing and thinking. You ARE a big thinker/ponderer. Maybe that’s why you prefer the quiet. Music muddles your thoughts, totally understandable.
    Love that you belly dance. I tried to teach myself how, with the help from another youtuber I enjoyed when I was also teaching myself through youtube how to decorate cakes. I followed a lady whos channel was called, “Cakes with Lorelie” learned a lot! Then found out she was also big into belly dancing and followed a few of her belly dancing vids as well as some others. So fun!! I need to make room in my life for it again.

  • Rose Shenk

    You’re the second person (I know) I know who doesn’t like music! Son Daniel. Not quite the same–He plays an instrument and sings, but just doesn’t like the whole going to concerts and being in loud spaces thing. Red Wings was a stretch for him, too, but he went to surprise his girlfriend, who is totally into it!
    Nice memory of Clementine’s there! = )

  • katie

    You like SO MANY THINGS. I like SO MANY THINGS (including music) but I find it calming and reassuring to realize things that I really just DONT particularly like. There are so many things in this world — things to learn, things to do, places to explore, people to meet, ways to do everything and anything — and it is amazing but also SUPER OVERWHELMING so isn’t it just great, to be a people person, activity and learning loving, yes-saying individual who at some point each day or each week or whenever can just say, “no, thanks. I’m good.” and not have to add one. more. thing. Rejoice! Enjoy! and Celebrate! (without music)

  • Kevin Promnick

    It’s not only you Jennifer.
    I am 58 and I do enjoy music on the odd occasion but in general I prefer silence and very quiet background music.
    If it’s on so be it but if not who cares. I have been to see 3 concerts and all 3 times hated them

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