I often wonder what peopleís reaction would be if they heard the music I listen to when Iím sitting in the corner of Starbucks writing my column every week. Because Iím willing to bet that most people wouldnít expect me to be listening to Jagwinder Singh Dhaliwal, better known as Juggy D, a British Indian singer from Southall, London, England.

Especially the people who know me well. They probably think Iím more of a Top 40s or indie-pop girl or even a gangsta rap fan (well, maybe just my homies would think that). And thatís because our taste in music is such a deeply personal piece of our personality ó one that often doesnít match up with what the outside world might expect from us.

Itís fascinating, really. At least to me. I just love how someone may appear to be a very distinct personality type, based on nothing more than how they dress or where they live or what they do professionally. And then something as simple as their taste in music showed us a very different side of them than we thought we knew.

Take my father-in-law. Pretty conservative, clean-cut guy in his late 70s whose heyday was back in the mid-í50s, putting him squarely in the Bobby Darin, Ritchie Valens generation. Although The Platters was his favorite when he was young. Funnily enough though, heís become a true country music guy. Like, the ringtone on his phone is Kenny Chesneyís ďShe Thinks My Tractorís Sexy.Ē

OK, for the record, Iím really not 100 percent sure if thatís his actual ring tone, but it might as well be because Iíve definitely heard the words tractor and beer. Either way, country music just isnít a genre I wouldíve matched him up with in my head if I met him on the street and had to guess. And I absolutely love that because itís something you just wouldnít expect.

And Iím sure you could say that about millions of people all over the world who escape into the world of music as their own little rhythmic Fortress of Solitude or use it as a vehicle through which to express a different side of themselves.

I mean, wouldnít it be interesting to poll random people in coffee shops and cyber bars across the country to find out whoís listening to what? In the same way you can never judge a book by its cover, Iím sure weíd be shocked to discover how many peoplesí music taste didnít line up at all with who they appeared to be on the outside.

Thatís what I think is so truly cool about music ó it gives us a safe place to connect with a wide range of emotions and moods and personalities that we carry around inside us that we sometimes just donít know what to do with. And music allows us to connect with them on an
external level.

Like maybe youíre a quiet, reserved person to the outside world who has a spicy side that youíre just not quite comfortable expressing to the people around you. With music, though, you have a safe way to express that side of yourself. You can be a cowboy at heart on the inside, like my father-in-law, and express it every time you listen to songs like ďYouíre the Reason Our Babyís So UglyĒ or ďGet Your Tongue Outta My Mouth Cause Iím Kissing You Goodbye.Ē

Thatís because music is a safe and universal platform for self-expression. Like maybe deep down you have an edgy side and you want to express it, but youíre just not comfortable dressing goth or getting a tattoo or dressing in all black, so instead you listen to Marilyn Manson.

Thatís your outlet. Thatís how you connect with that side of yourself in a way that maintains a healthy balance of self-expression between who you are on the inside and how you project yourself on the outside.

Or, conversely, maybe youíre an extroverted personality type whoís always putting yourself out there, always engaging with people and you need a way of mellowing out, so you spend some quiet time underneath your big air-traffic-controller headphones listening to Chopinís Nocturne No. 2 and thatís how you channel your quiet side.

But regardless of what type of music you like, beats and rhythms and lyrics are always there to support our moods and our fantasies and our individuality in very distinctive and beautiful ways. Itís there to help wind us up, to help us wind down, to console us, to inspire us, to stimulate us, to enchant us, and to define us.

So whatever your favorite music is, I hope you listen to it loud and proud in spite of how it may or may not align with how the outside world sees you. I hope you treasure it as the intimate, personal expression of the hidden rappers and cowboys and hard rockers who live inside all of us.

And the next time you hear some funky Punjabi music that sounds like it came straight out of ďBend It Like Beckham,Ē youíll think of me fondly.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.