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My Dad likes to listen to his music loud. I mean really loud. In fact, he blew out a set of speakers this winter that were all but guaranteed not to blow. It drives me nuts. I like to enjoy music, but I also like to hear myself think, and the only thumping in my body should be my own heart. But my Dad is not unique. By and large, I find that many men like to enjoy their music at obscene decibels (and don’t get me wrong, I have been known to crank U2 or The Killers whilst on my way to the Franklin House or Northside with Marquette and Editor in Chief… but on average, I think men out-perform woman as to both loudness and frequency of loudness).

But aside from the sheer pain/pleasure thing, I submit that there is a huge amount of the actual music that the listener misses at certain loud levels. In fact, today, in point: “Vertigo” was a favorite of the law school pub crawl days. Today at the gym, however, I had my iPod on the Pump Mix and “Vertigo” came on. Everyone knows the Spanish countdown in the beginning… but between that and “Lights go down” is something I have missed during the hundreds of other times I have heard this song. It’s a man’s voice that says “Check it out…”.    !    But I never would have heard it if I was being deafened by my tunes.

And as for music, there are delicate, higher notes that often also get overpowered by the deeper, “bigger” notes.  It’s almost like listening to a brand new vinyl album the first time vs. a home-made cd.  There’s a lot that just isn’t there.

But music isn’t all this applies to. There’s volume in food too. I have a small contingent of friends (all 3 are men) who eat everything with hot sauce. From Cajun Sunshine to Taco Bell’s very own. It goes on everything, regardless of the initial taste (which is often never tried unimpaired). X and I discussed this the other day, while X was dousing the rare filet I had just grilled with hot sauce.  I had made a soy sauce rub with oregano, basil, and ground black pepper. It was delightful. But also a rather delicate taste… not overpowering, but very complementary to the steak itself. But X (giving credit, did take a few enjoyed, unblemished bites) finished the filet with the help of Taco Bell. I surmised that X missed out on the quiet, but very flavorful culinary venture that evening. After months of cooking with Taco Bell, has X lost the ability to appreciate the more delicate side to food?

And I’ve often thought about this with regard to intimate relationships too. It’s almost like the thought that too much of a good thing will hamper your appreciation for the simpler things in life. I mean, if you spend a bulk of a relationship enjoying nothing but fantastically hard and aggressive kisses (or sex), you will have forgotten about the delicate kiss in which the barest of lips touching (or the softest brush of fingertips) can send more shivers through your body than any hard lip lock could attempt to do.

The volume needs to be turned down sometimes. Don’t get me wrong: I like loud music, sometimes. And I enjoy a firey hot diavolo pasta dish, and I always order my Pad Thai extra hot, but not every dish needs these decibel levels. And as for kissing and sex, well… same applies. But there’s a lot to be said for the softer decibels here too sometimes. And it doesn’t mean you can’t turn up the volume later. But just think: you might not even know about the parts of the song you’ve been missing at louder levels.

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