Pretending to Like Museums

I used to think I should like museums because smart people like museums and I wanted to be smart. When travel ‘must-do’ lists said to visit this museum or that museum, I bought a ticket, and waited in long lines, and went. I went because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. It turns out I’ve done a lot of things in my life simply because I thought I was supposed to. And I’ve developed a lot of opinions about things because that’s how I thought I was supposed to feel about them. 

Like how I tried to force myself into liking Love in the Time of Cholera because book lists said it was a good book, and friends said it was a good book, and random strangers said it was a good book. So I’ve tried to finish that book about 3 times now and each time, I lose interest and give up on it. Instead of re-reading books I actually enjoy, I kept trying to reread a book that I really didn’t. Pretty crazy, right?

Maybe I thought exposing myself to museums would somehow result in me waking up one morning and realizing I like them. It’s a psychological phenomenon so why wouldn’t it come true in this case? I guess because the heart is pretty smart and sometimes you can’t force or trick yourself into liking things. 

The truth is, I don’t like museums. They’re impersonal and cold and everything beautiful is tucked away behind glass walls. Don’t touch anything; don’t talk too loud. So many rules and so many people pretending to understand things or care about things that they will probably forget about as soon as they walk out through the door. Or else they’ll go home and tell their friends how moved they were, how enchanted. And they’ll think better about themselves because they’ll feel like they’re cultured now, that they’ve seen things worth seeing.

I don’t know if any of the above is true for other people. But they were true for me. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in museums pretending to be fascinated by things that didn’t really interest me, nodding my head and smiling, pretending to be excited about ancient vases, or old stones, or piles of thousand-year old bones when all the while, I was bored and wanted to go outside, wanted to wander down tiny streets, wanted to be part of life, not trapped between those suffocating walls.

What I wanted was to be surrounded by real, breathing, living things.

I appreciate the past, I care about history, I like knowing how things came to be but I don’t like museums. Admitting that almost feels like I am exposing myself and I don’t know why. Is there some sort of unstated rule that dictates I should like museums and if I don’t, I am somehow wrong? Of course not. Like many things, it’s all in my head. 

Well, I’ve said it now: I don’t like museums. Maybe one day, I’ll change my mind and maybe I won’t. But if I do end up having a change of heart, it’ll be because that’s how I actually feel and not because that’s how I think I’m supposed to feel. 

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