About 1,000 Words on Preferences

“I like: salad, cinnamon, cheese… I don’t like: white Pomeranians, women in slacks, geraniums…”
—Roland Barthes, “J’aime, je n’aime pas”

I prefer falling asleep to waking up. I prefer beer to wine. And I prefer the sound of the electric piano, such as a Fender Rhodes, to the sound of any other instrument. I prefer short books to medium-length books, but I prefer very long books most of all. I prefer quiet to loudness. I prefer cats to dogs. I prefer cities to the countryside: there are more people. I prefer washing, ironing, and putting away clothes to doing the dishes. I prefer blue to other colors. I prefer pretty music to aggressive music, though there was a time when I preferred the latter; the difference is I am now very old (35). I prefer peeing to shitting, but the truth is I am ambivalent toward both, and wish I could do without them. Of the physical pleasures, my preferences, in order of most preferred to less, are: lazing, light intoxication, sleeping, looking at a beautiful person, sex, eating, smelling something pleasant, and playing games. I mostly prefer the company of women to men, but there are several men I enjoy. I prefer soft-spoken people to loud people; this is of course a generalization and it is wonderful to hear a loud person with an exceptional laugh. I prefer gatherings of six to seven people rather than large parties where it feels difficult to have a decent conversation with anyone. I prefer hamburgers to hot dogs. I prefer book stores to other kinds of stores, and in fact, I dislike being in most stores that don’t sell the aforementioned, or sell food; I often wonder what I am doing in those places, when I don’t need anything from there after all. I prefer water with bubbles to flat water. I prefer the paintings of the Flemish Renaissance to those of the Italian Renaissance. I prefer thick eyebrows to thin eyebrows. I prefer Joe Brainard to Édouard Levé, for the former is more whimsical and relishes in the unassuming minutia of his life, whereas the latter finds the totality of these facts a great burden. I prefer the video games of my childhood to the video games they make today, which I don’t play at all; even so, when I try to play the video games of my childhood, I grow bored quickly, and realize they’re better left in the past. I prefer arid climates, deserts. I prefer the ocean. I prefer trains to other forms of travel, and in fact, if I could only take a train for the rest of my life, I would. I prefer walking most of all. I prefer reading the biographies of great thinkers rather than the books written by those people. As a heterosexual, I prefer round-faced women. I prefer men who are not competitive. I prefer wearing button-down shirts to other kinds of shirts, and despite my love of warm weather, I prefer having to wear a jacket outside. I prefer very spicy food. When I was a child, I preferred Christmas to all other holidays; now I prefer no holiday over the other, and in fact slightly disregard them, as I don’t have a family with which to spend them. I prefer being alive to not existing, for now. I prefer to not have birthday parties or celebrations for myself, as I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, even among a few people. I prefer having a mustache to other forms of facial hair. I prefer novels to short stories, and I prefer poems to plays, and I prefer books of philosophy to books about other disciplines of sustained thinking. I prefer essays that are as concise as possible, and have a point. I prefer when people speak slowly and pause often. I prefer speaking with people who do not seem invested in whether or not I impress them, whether or not that be the case; it makes me feel at ease, as I dislike all forms of interrogation. I often prefer doing absolutely nothing. But I prefer writing a book to not writing a book. I prefer spending most of my day alone and spending my evenings with people. When alone, I prefer talking to myself out loud, and have done so for many years; my suspicion is that this is a habit adopted from childhood, as I was a latchkey kid and have no siblings, and I often wonder if I was drawn to writing because I enjoy talking to myself. I prefer nights where I have very many dreams to nights that are dreamless: it seems that life is more filled up with things. When I smoked, I preferred smoking, and now that I’ve quit, I still prefer it. I prefer writing lists to writing visual descriptions, which I mostly avoid. I prefer the work of Georges Perec to the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet. Culturally, I prefer the 1990s to the 2000s, and prefer the 2010s even less, but won’t speak about the 2020s, which, I admit, appear aesthetically dismal, notwithstanding the art of my great, handsome, and talented friends. I prefer days when I feel astonished by the overabundance of meaning and possibility in the universe to days when I find everything random, evil, and hopeless, but those days can be fun, too. I prefer Spinoza to Descartes. I prefer strawberries. And I prefer rice to noodles. I prefer butter to oil. I preferred my mother to my father, but she’s dead and he’s alive, so I prefer him now, as I have no choice—it isn’t personal. I prefer lighthearted gossip about things like sex, rivalry, and artistic failure, to mean-spirited gossip about family, health, money, etc. I prefer sunrises to sunsets, due to their hopefulness or whatever, and I’ll always remember what a sundial once said: night, shortly. I prefer analogue clocks to digital clocks, as the latter seem too concerned with telling the time. I prefer musical compositions for a single instrument to lush, orchestral arrangements, which feel too big and sort of stupid. I prefer being showered with love and affection as opposed to being completely and utterly dismissed by my contemporaries. I prefer emails to text messages. I prefer wearing contacts to wearing glasses. I prefer comedies to dramas. I prefer my coffee with a little bit of cream and no sugar. I prefer the French literature about everyday life to the American literature about everyday life, but only slightly. I prefer giving oral sex to receiving it, for it is more creative. I prefer taking a bath to taking a shower, but I never take baths because it’s too much work to make all the water. I prefer eggs as omelets. I prefer feeling sad about my memories, and in fact, it is memories of things lost or gone that generate the greatest sense of melancholic pleasure within me, and I look forward to soon losing things, as I can then think about them ruefully, how great they were (even if they weren’t), how sad it is they’re no longer around (even if it isn’t), etc.

There are other things I prefer but I will tell you about them another time.

Sebastian Castillo is the author of SALMON, Not I, and 49 Venezuelan Novels. He lives in Philadelphia, PA.