What’s up with guilty pleasures, anyway?

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Unless you’re the type of person that enjoys having sex with children, bathing in the blood of people you’ve murdered, or chewing with your mouth open, there is no reason to be ashamed of what you like.

For as long as we’ve had culture, we’ve had societal limits on what you should and shouldn’t do. As we’ve become more open minded, the things we “shouldn’t” have had to become smaller. It’s not cool to tell people who to marry anymore, or what career they should pick. So instead, we nitpick. Our guilty pleasures fall into one of two categories:

  1. Things we know for a fact we shouldn’t be doing but want to anyway
    • For example: going into debt to go on vacation, buying a new electronic when the old one works fine because it isn’t the New Thing anymore
  2. Things we truly enjoy, but our social group tells us is not something we should enjoy
    • For example: reality TV, young adult novels, Dungeons and Dragons

Here’s the issue. Neither of these are really “guilty pleasures” are they? The first group uses “guilty pleasure” to avoid judgement for doing something they know to be selfish and harmful. The second group uses the term “guilty pleasure” to avoid judgement for fear of judgement. It’s like dating someone you really like but talking trash about them in public.

If you know you shouldn’t do something, either do it and own up to how irresponsible it (“yeah, I have to use credit to go on vacation, but this is the best time for me, and I already have a plan for getting back on track financially after”), or be an adult and don’t do it (“Maybe going on vacation being YOLO doesn’t have a ton of internal consistency. I’ll save up and go next year instead.”)

If you are doing something you like, be proud of it! So many people never really find anything that they can really sink their teeth into. You are one of a select and lucky few. If you talk about your genuine interests that way, guaranteed you’re not enjoying them as much as you could and you have a good chance of eventually buying into your own bullshit.

Enjoy, or do not enjoy. There is no “guilty pleasure”.


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