I don't have any favorites, is that strange?
July 20, 2010 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Is it unusual to not have a favorite anything? Because I don't. I really don't.

I'm always nonplussed when people ask me "What's your favorite...?" because I don't have a favorite...

I don't have a favorite book, movie, song, food, drink, person, anything! I don't even have a favorite *type* of book, music, movie... etc. I like a little bit of every genre and style. Heck, I don't even have a particular "type" when it comes to men. Of course I have my likes and dislikes (I like blueberries but I dislike apples) however I don't hold one particular trait over all the others. Of the myriad experiences I've had, books I've read, movies I've seen, music I've heard, I cannot choose one, hold it up and say, "this one, this one shines brighter than all the others" because nothing does. Nor can I say the opposite, "this is the worst..."

So, how unusual is it to not have favorites? I'm sure I'm not the only person out there.
posted by patheral to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have favorites either, at least not one I can call to mind if somebody asks. I can usually come up with a short list of things in a particular category I really really like, though.

I am always taken aback when I'm filling out the info for some online account and the security questions include things like "what's your favorite movie?" or color or whatever. Even if I had a favorite at the moment it would almost certainly be different later on in time.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2010

My experience is that it's somewhat unusual, but it's not a bad thing. It has, however, been a source of tension between me and girlfriends who *do* like to talk about favoritest things, so know that some people just won't understand relative likes and dislikes vs. absolutes.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2010

This is not unusual at all. In fact, I feel suspect of people who have one single favorite everything; it suggests they haven't really experienced a whole lot of things.

If you're asked and you really feel like you need to provide an answer, you can say that your favorite thing is to have the luxury of choice.
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2010

Don't take it too literally.

People can ask you, "What's your favorite band?" Or they can ask you, "Please give an example of a band you like a lot so that we can use it as a starting point for a discussion of your musical tastes and whether mine have anything in common with yours."

Which of those is a better thing to say in conversation? The first one.

But do they both mean the same thing? Pretty much.

Also, you don't need to answer directly. If you answer with, "Well, I really like the Beatles, but lately I've been listening to a lot of the Kinks," very few people are going to be annoyed that you didn't literally specify what your #1 favorite band of all time is.

The key is to talk in terms of specifics rather than just bland generalities about liking all kinds of music.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:58 AM on July 20, 2010 [27 favorites]

Seconding SED's comment. I don't think most adults have favorites the way children and adolescents have favorites, and when asked what their favorite _____ is, I'm pretty sure that most people just give an answer from their top 5 that gives the asker a general understanding of their tastes.
posted by mudlark at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010

This has actually become a project for me - figuring out my favorites. I can name boyfriends' favorites long after they've become exes, but don't know my own!

I find it helpful to allow myself to name a few of my top things in one category rather than one specific favorite. Somehow it takes the pressure off. And of course, they're always subject to change!
posted by valeries at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010

I am you. I have always dreaded questions like "what's your favorite ice cream?" or "what's your favorite color?" -- because I never know what to say. I absolutely *love* ice cream, but never get the same flavor and will usually make up my mind about what to get when looking at the options. It's all a mood thing. I've trained myself to say that yellow is my favorite color, even if I'm not sure it's true (I do like yellow, though).
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010

No, it's not unusual. I don't know a lot of people who could easily name favorite books or movies or artists (I certainly couldn't, and those closest to me flat-out refuse to fill out those sort of questionnaires).
posted by halogen at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2010

It reminds me a bit of the way some people have problems with social interactions because they take things more literally than they were intended. "I don't have a favorite X" vs. "I like Y" and not getting hung up on whether it's really your absolute favorite forever.
posted by smackfu at 11:01 AM on July 20, 2010

I've secretly suspected that most people over a certain age don't really have strict absolute favorites either. I have things that I really enjoy, but to pick one favorite beer, restaurant, book, genre of movie, or folk song that I like above all others at all times seems a little silly. I wouldn't dare limit my experience.

That said, I favor light beers in the summer, restaurants that serve food I can't make at home, philosophical movies when I watch alone, and sometimes I hate listening to folk music. I couldn't even tell you when I like what kinds of books.
posted by jander03 at 11:02 AM on July 20, 2010

For things that I really love, I can't pick a favorite. For example, color. All colors make me happy so I couldn't choose just one as a favorite. And music - yes, I get hooked on a band every once in a while, but I love music so much that I can't say what my favorite is. Same with food.

So I don't think you're unusual, you might just have eclectic taste.
posted by cecic at 11:02 AM on July 20, 2010

I don't think most adults have favorites the way children and adolescents have favorites

This is not very accurate. For instance, my favorite band is the Beatles; my favorite composer is Beethoven; my favorite color is purple, etc. These are definite favorites. I enjoy ranking my own tastes -- it helps me get more in touch with my own experiences. And I know a lot of people like this. I don't think it makes us less "adult."

But fortunately, there's no need to be like most "adults" or to enjoy rankings as much as other people. You are the way you are.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:04 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I guess it's not that weird, I know one person who has said something similar, but you don't need to take the question so literally. You can say "My favorite food? Oh, it's so hard to choose. But I do like Italian and French and Mexican a lot."

Most people don't really have a favorite, favorite book or experience or song they would hold up above all others for always. It's understood that it's just a way of talking about things you quite like a lot.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:06 AM on July 20, 2010

Well, I would be completely incapable of ranking a bunch of things because my memory just does not work that way. I can't mentally pull up a list of my favorite 50 (or even 10) bands, and then order them. OTOH, if you gave me a list of 50 bands, I could put them in order.
posted by smackfu at 11:07 AM on July 20, 2010

smackfu might be getting at an underlying question. If someone asks you to pick a favorite, it's not a homework assignment, it's an attempt to start a conversation.

I have a friend who will ask "Have you seen any good movies lately?" when a conversation gets quiet. Same thing.

You could respond, "I don't know that I have a favorite, but recently I've been into ____."
posted by jander03 at 11:09 AM on July 20, 2010

Whether it is usual or unusual for adults to have favorites is clearly an empirical question, although the OP is asking for anecdata, which is fine. However, claiming to speaking for "most adults" is not helpful in this context, nor is taking umbrage at others' anecdata by claiming to truly represent "most adults."
posted by proj at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2010

However, claiming to speaking for "most adults" is not helpful in this context, nor is taking umbrage at others' anecdata by claiming to truly represent "most adults."

To be clear, I wasn't doing either of these things, since I have no idea what "most adults" do. I don't think any of us do. As you said, this is all anecdata.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:16 AM on July 20, 2010

Recently I was suggesting to my book club that for our next set of books, we each pick "one of our favorite" books, because it would be interesting to learn more about each other that way. Because I certainly couldn't single out a SINGLE favorite, and most of the women agreed they couldn't either. "A book I really liked that I think the bookclub would enjoy" is much easier than "your favorite book."

If you get more specific I can do favorites: "My favorite cookbook for vegetarian food" I could do, but not so much "My favorite cookbook." "My favorite coffee cake recipe," yes, "My favorite cake recipe," no.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:19 AM on July 20, 2010

This is not unusual at all. In fact, I feel suspect of people who have one single favorite everything; it suggests they haven't really experienced a whole lot of things.
I feel this is an inaccurate way to look at things. If aliens dropped down to earth and offered me three different gimrotbs to eat - something I have obviously never had before - and I taste all three, I can certainly have a favorite amongst the three. If they then tell me that there are over 10,000 different flavors of gimrotbs does that somehow negate my ability to have a favorite out of what I've experienced so far?
posted by komara at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2010

I feel suspect of people who have one single favorite everything; it suggests they haven't really experienced a whole lot of things.

This is getting pretty silly. My favorite band is the Beatles, by far. To say this means I "haven't really experienced a whole lot of" bands is absurd. In fact, I had to listen to a lot of different bands before coming to a meaningful conclusion about which one my favorite is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:30 AM on July 20, 2010

I also have difficulty with the "what's your favorite X" question, because my habit is to go about answering it in a rather pedantic manner. So I'd have to start by making a complete list of all X's that I've seen/experienced/know about, and that's hard because I'll surely forget a few.

Then I need to either assign them all some sort of numeric value, or at least be able to compare them in a way that is transitive (if A is better than B, and B is better than C, then A is better than C). And that's hard because for a lot of things there's no simple way to assign a figure of merit or compare in a simple better than/worse than sense.

Then I need to go through the complete list and rank them all, and whichever one comes out at the top must be my favorite. This is just a lot of work for any significant list of X's. So I don't have a lot of favorite X's, for any type of X.

Obviously people do not expect me to actually do any of this in response to the question, nor do they really expect that I've already done it for categories of X that people frequently ask this about.

What I do instead is pretend the person asked "what are some of your favorite X's that you can remember right now" and then I just pick one of those at random. I think this is mostly what is meant by the question.

What I think also happens is people do the latter and somewhat randomly pick a "favorite" thing in a certain category, from a list of things they like a lot, and just decide that is going to be their favorite from now on, and get really into that. I think it's often like this for people who have a favorite sports team, for example. Especially when kids do it. And why not, it's fun!
posted by FishBike at 11:32 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can you name things you dislike/hate? You could do a process of elimination to then determine your favorite things. :)

My answers always depend on the moment, which is why I also find those subjective personal account verification questions useless for me.

Often I find that people with a strict set of favorite things are NOT terribly open to new things and experiences and I find those sort of people difficult to be around because it either gets boring or you get irritated with them for not trying something new.
posted by thorny at 11:38 AM on July 20, 2010

I think this may come back to a problem with self-identification. I always loved writing, but the quickest way to give me writer's block is to assign me to write about myself. I really have nothing to say beyond the patently factual. I suspect you might be running into a different aspect of the same problem--you're inside your own head, and it's not as simple as what you listen to the most, or laugh at the most.

One thing I think your question didn't address, but perhaps would benefit from, is a consideration of if people (who can readily list their favorites) really know what their own favorites are. Culture tends to imprint people with certain ideals relating to demographics and what they "should" enjoy. I'd wager a significant fraction of people see a movie, enjoy it, put it on some list of favorites, and that's arbitrarily their "favorite movie" for the next decade. I know I've been guilty of that in the past.
posted by Phyltre at 11:40 AM on July 20, 2010

just decide that is going to be their favorite from now on

Which can lead to my current situation where I haven't watched my favorite movie in five years.
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on July 20, 2010

Things that I care enough about to have "favorites", I have favorites. Everything else, I have likes. My favorite ice cream is chocolate. I would likely turn down other ice cream if offered. But, I have a favorite beer, but I would not turn down other beer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:48 AM on July 20, 2010

I have a made up list of favorites so that I can have an answer to the question "What is your favorite X" without being a total pill about it. Because really, it's not a test, there is no wrong answer, though being a weirdo about it approaches "wrong answer" for me.

I do not have real favorites but I have social favorites which means "favorites for the purposes of having a discussion about things that you really like" which is really what people mean, I think. My favorites are so contextually dependent that I have that "can't step in the same river twice" feeling about them. Favorite now? How about now? So, there are definitely preferences I have, often contextual, but I have no such thing as real favorites. I think this has something to do (in me) with certainty or commitment. Also what FishBike said resonates strongly with me.
posted by jessamyn at 12:04 PM on July 20, 2010

I don't have favorites, and I have to learn how to handle those questions, also. I do have a favorite movie solely for the purpose of answering those password reset questions, but that just means I can never tell anyone my favorite movie.

I suspect that for many people, preferences are partial orders, not total orders. That is, for any pair of items, A and B, we may or may not be able to rank them. I know I prefer cookie dough to mint chocolate chip ice cream, and I know I prefer mango sorbet to mint chocolate chip as well, but I can't rank cookie dough and mango sorbet.

With a small enough set of items and/or under limited enough circumstances, I can often put a total order on things and have a favorite, but movies, books, food, and Metafilter members are all too broad. Even as a child, when "what's your favorite color?" was an important question and having no answer might make someone cry, I had two favorite colors. Now, I have three.

But yeah, I really do have to learn how to just answer the damn question, understanding I don't have to take it literally.

Green. Definitely green.
posted by whatnotever at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I waffle a bit when asked to name absolute favorites in anything, but I could happily give you top-five lists, à la High Fidelity, all day long. Are you able to list five favorites of anything, like ice cream flavors or blogs? You don't need to rank the five relative to each other. Nor do you need to have exactly five: if you can only think of three things that you like better, or if you can't narrow it down from eight, that's fine. The designation of "favorite" is not absolute or permanent, and it doesn't have to mean you think something is perfect - it's just what you prefer.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2010

I guess I try not to take it too literally when asked, but I usually have to think about it for a moment. So if someone actually asks me the question, I have an answer, like:

What's your favorite color? Uh... blue?

What's your favorite food? Well, I like chocolate a lot but I wouldn't want to eat it every day.

What's your favorite book? I just read this really great book about...

But when I stopped to think about it, I just don't have a favorite anything. I kinda thought that was strange because people I know have at least *one* favorite of something - if not a particular favorite thing, then at least a favorite type. Like a friend of mine will only read romance novels, or books with romance in them. Another will only listen to country music. Another loves slice 'em and dice 'em movies (though she'll watch others, but horror flicks are her favorite). I've never been able to do that - even prefer a type of something above others. It's always been a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

On those stupid security questions, if they ask for a "favorite" then I'll never remember what I put (color... color... did I put blue? or green? maybe it was gray??? darn it! >_<) so I try to go for mother's maiden name - that never changes.
posted by patheral at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2010

I like to think of it more as my "go-to" in whatever category.

I like a lot of different ice cream flavors, but if I'm in the freezer section of the supermarket I tend to have a shortlist: Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie, or if that's not available I will usually pick either Cookies & Cream or Choclate Chip Cookie Dough. I'm liable to say any of those three things if someone asks what my "favorite" is - even though none of the three are my All Time Bestest #1 Ice Cream Eating Experience.

Same for beer - in a bar with a typical selection I'm probably going to get Guinness. I also like the Saison or Belgian Farmhouse style of beers a lot. Depending on the context, I will say one of those two things. Even though neither of those answers is a very precise expression of My Absolute Most Favoritest Ultimate Beer Drinking Experience.

As for music, books, movies, etc - I'm sorry, but nobody older than about 15 has been exposed to so little media that they could really give you a precise favorite. I'll usually throw out something I go back to over and over, but it depends a lot on my mood and the audience. If my grandmother asks what my favorite movie is, I'm going to say"Singin' In The Rain" and not "Pulp Fiction" (I have a deep love for both). It's just easier that way.
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2010

The Godfather is my favorite movie. That never changes. But in any other category I'll fumble for an answer.

So, your favorite color is blue? Which blue?
posted by ellenaim at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2010

I'll admit, however, that I have some "favorites" that are not commonly favorited categories. My favorite New York City skyscraper is the Flatiron Building. My favorite typeface is Futura. My favorite chair is Hans Wegner's Wishbone Chair. But nobody ever asks about those and they certainly never feature in security questions. They're just me being silly, I guess.
posted by Sara C. at 12:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think of "favoirte" in terms of "default order" at a location. (on preview, Sara C said it much more concisely)

IE an item that if I am going to be forced to chose something, I will pull up this answer to proceed to the point after my choice-making is done, since I don't particularly care about the choice and don't want to painfully overthink the situation:

Cafe Drink: Chi Latte
Sandwich: Something with Turkey
Beer: Budweiser (or Yuengling, depending on price etc)

NOW. if you don't have Chi Latte or Turkey will I be upset? Not in the slightest, they are not my "Favorite" in an absolute sense, they are just my default orders so I don't have to think about ordering.

Now when it comes to Movies and Books and stuff that is harder.

Movies. I love movies, asking me to name a favorite movie is like asking me to choose my favorite child... And I have Siamese Quintuplets. Your asking me to first conduct a painful operation on something I love, and then compartmentalize it since that will in some way help you so you can judge who I am... Now I'm not so happy. I usually get around this by saying something like "give me a genera" but even still it usually is a hodgepodge of random movies that I like based on whatever I have been thinking about today.

Color - Red... except when it is green (environment)... except when it is political (then definitely NOT red... but maybe blue? purple?) except when it is a wall in my house (the color that matches the rug then).

It is all so contextual, it is just silly.

*FINALLY - my true favorite, when there is an INTERESTING choice is

Something good that I've never tried before.

Favorite movie to watch? Something good that I've never seen before.
Favorite food to eat? Something good that I've never eaten before.
Favorite beer to drink? Something good that I've never drunk before.

And so on... unfortunately most places neither "interesting" nor "good" nor "that I've never tried before" is available. In most places you frequent in average life it is all mediocre that I've done a million times. Therefore == Default Orders.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's unusual or not, but you're certainly not the only one. I mean, when someone asks "what's your favorite food?" I think... "Comfort food? At a Restaurant? Sweet? Savory? Breakfast? Dinner?" I have different favorites for each category.

This was really annoying when I have to set up answers to security questions on some websites. There was one...I can't remember which, where every single security question was a 'favorite' question. Even if I could pick one today, it won't be the same 6 months from now.

However when it comes up in normal conversation I just re-frame the question. "Well I don't know about favorite, but I really like blueberries. What fruit do you like?"
posted by Caravantea at 1:41 PM on July 20, 2010

ellenaim asked So, your favorite color is blue? Which blue?

Well, I used to like cornflower blue but it's too light now. I like deep, royal blue because it's calming, and there's blue-black that's really nice, and then midnight blue is great. I also had a shirt once I swore was bright blue, but my friend swore was purple. The blue on the metafilter page is easy on the eyes, and the default windows blue is nice too. I can go on...

But blue isn't actually my favorite color, it's just the one that fell under my eye when I typed the question. ^_^
posted by patheral at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it unusual to not have a favorite anything?

Other than Mrs Jones and the child Jones, color me unusual. But really, such lists are mostly for polite conversation, surely, therefore of no particular importance.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:28 PM on July 20, 2010

Favorites can also change quite often too. A friend recently asked me "so what's your favorite Lady Gaga song?" Well, right then, Alejandro, but had she asked me a few weeks earlier it'd have been Dance in the Dark, and if she asked me a few weeks before that, Paparazzi.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:17 PM on July 20, 2010

Me too... but my girlfriend is pretty awesome.
posted by klanawa at 10:53 PM on July 20, 2010

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