How beds, coffee, steaks, and whiskey are governed by the Kanakia Theory of Manly Preferences

Love this oddly apropos meme that I found... (source: hotmeme)
Love this oddly apropos meme that I found… (source: hotmeme)

Once upon a time, I walked into a Mattress Discounters in search of a new bed. And the first person that the salesperson asked was, “So, do you prefer a firm mattress or a soft one?”

And I was like, “Firm! The firmer the better! I can’t sleep a wink when I’m on a soft mattress!”

And he said, “Okay, why don’t you try out this one.”

But, for some reason, that bed just didn’t feel right. And neither did the next one. Or the one after that. I had to lie in eight or nine beds before I found one that felt even sort of right. And then I had to lie in another half dozen before I started to triangulate what I wanted.

And when I finally came back to him and said, “This is the one,” he was all like, “Aha! I knew it! That’s actually one of the softest beds that we have.”

He said that around 70% of the people who come into the store say that they want a firm bed. But once he actually digs into their preferences and has them try out a bunch of beds, it turns out that what almost everyone wants is a soft mattress. Which really shouldn’t be a shocker. If people really wanted to lay down at night on a firm surface, then we’d still be sleeping on the floors of caves.

Anyway, that was the day that I first formulated the Kanakia Theory of Manly Preferences.

The theory goes like this: In many situations, people will ignore their actual tastes and instead espouse a preference for the choice that seems to be more rugged and manly.

And it’s not that people are consciously lying when they do this. It’s just that our preferences are often not very clear to ourselves, especially after we let ourselves get muddled up in semantics. When I think to myself, “I like to sleep on a firm mattress,” there is something about that sentence which feels so right that it makes me think the sentiment is true. Unfortunately, I’ve confused myself. What feels good about that sentiment is that I like to think of myself as the kind of tough person who prefers a firm mattress. There’s something pleasurable about the word ‘firm’ and something distasteful about the word ‘soft.’ And those semantic connections manage to overpower the actuality of what those things represent. It’s only when I’m actually lying in a bed that I’m able to understand what I want.

In addition to firm beds, three other things that (in my opinion) are governed by the law of manly preferences are: i) black coffee; ii) rare steaks and burgers; and iii) straight whiskey.

I think that most people (or at least most men), if quizzed about their preferences would say that they like black coffee, medium-rare steaks, and straight whiskey.

But if we were to dig deep and explore the actual nexus between their taste buds and their brains, we’d find that they actually enjoy milk and sugar in their coffee, better-done steaks, and whiskey mixed with something sweet and palatable.



I’m onto you, guys.

Comments (



  1. Widdershins

    Love this! 😀

  2. Darren

    I’m obviously not that manly as I prefer white coffee with sugar and can’t abide the taste, or smell, of whiskey. I do, however, prefer my steaks medium-rare, so I at least retain some semblance of manliness!

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      That’s good. Wouldn’t want to be completely unmanly.

  3. TT

    Interesting that all of these default-manly preferences are actually my own… I wonder if “control-freak” and “manly” are somehow synonymous? Or, perhaps, I’m just more masculine in my taste for black coffee, bloody beef, and firm sleeping surfaces. Whiskey…well, there’s where I “girl up,” because my favorite whiskey is actually tequila mixed with fresca.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Haha, now I feel bad. People should feel okay about their preferences =]

      Also, tequila mixed with Fresca? That sounds great.

  4. Tristan Gans

    Great post. I disagree only as to meat and whiskey. It has to do with the quality of the raw product as appreciated by someone with taste. Cooking meat helps you infuse it with other flavors, like from salt or marinades and whatnot. A really great piece of meat can be eaten rare, anything less needs help. Similarly, a top-notch whiskey is fantastic on its own; a run-of-the-mill blended whiskey needs accompaniment. I’d add (as many Italian travelers and cooks would tell you) that pizza works the same way: a great dough, baked in the right oven, only needs a tiny bit of cheese and tomato, maybe some olive oil and basil (the ‘classic’ margerita). Inferior dough needs to be loaded with cheese and sauce and toppings.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I can believe that. I remember once being shocked when a Taiwanese housemate cooked mushrooms for us and all she did was sauté them in a tiny amount of oil. They were so juicy and savory; it was my first intimation that food, presented by itself and with no frills, could taste good.

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