When I was fifteen, I self-identified as a punk: bleached and spiked hair, absurdly large wallet-chain, a few piercings, and, of course, a permanent scowl plastered on my little boy face. I was the “Real Thing,” or so I thought, which really meant that I was nothing of the sort. Still, I was earnest and dedicated. But, as many of us do, I had a secret. Every morning before I marched off to school, I sat down in my room and watched an episode of the Care Bears television series. Not so punk rawk, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. It was my guilty pleasure.
But let’s be honest here. All of us are…well, guilty of having a few guilty pleasures. Maybe you can’t get enough of Miley Cyrus’ music. Maybe your perfect day ends with you lounging in the bath, reading the latest Harlequin romance novel (I suggest Carole Mortimer’s The Virgin Secretary’s Impossible Boss). Maybe, when no one’s around, you curl up on the couch and watch endless reruns of Boy Meets World. Whatever it is you secretly enjoy, you’re not alone. All of us commit this most heinous of sins.
And therein lies the problem. No, don’t worry—you can still do whatever it is you do when no one’s looking (besides, we all know about it). The problem is that we’re made to feel guilty about many of the things we enjoy, which makes those things considerably less enjoyable.
Generally, when we speak about “guilty pleasures,” we’re speaking about something (i.e. music, junk food, fashion, etc.) that exposes our apparent lowbrow tastes. Sure, too much of a good thing is often bad (except, of course, for Care Bears, which would never be so ironic as to become bad). There’s wisdom in cautioning against over exposure or over consumption. And that wisdom is especially true if you’re consuming something that is, shall we say, a little fatty. But the solution to that is moderation.
Mind you, as the saying goes, all things should be experienced in moderation. Just as you shouldn’t play Miley Cyrus’ latest album on repeat, you also shouldn’t spend your evenings entrenched solely in the operas of German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner—only a person of great exaggeration and considerable stamina would dare to do so (and at the expense of everyone’s patience).
The key, then, is balance. Though I’d likely be the first to suggest it, Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” might make for a good counterpoint to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” The same might be said for an episode of Care Bears and a Stratford production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. What matters is not that one is better than the other, but that they both offer something that betters the individual. Maybe you listen to or watch one for entertainment and the other for cultural enrichment. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that a person needs both—at different times and in different amounts, sure, but both are necessary.
As such, find pleasure wherever you may; leave the guilt for those who’ve actually done something wrong (like No Heart and Beastly).
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.