by Hayley Doyle
We all have what is commonly known as; Guilty Pleasures.
Here are some of mine:
Grey’s Anatomy - to be watched with a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate
Elaine Paige’s musical theatre show on BBC Radio 2 every Sunday
Jigsaws - 1000+ pieces - preferably done whilst listening to the above
Listening to Kylie’s Christmas songs in, perhaps, April
Chicken Kievs, oven chips and frozen peas
Karaoke, and in particular 80s power ballads
Watching old black and white movies and reading up on the movie stars’ lives
X factor on a Saturday night (obviously I haven’t found a worthy replacement since this ended back in 2018, so I might make up for this by watching old clips on YouTube…)
But, hold on.
Can we all just do ourselves a massive favour please, and eliminate the word GUILTY from these pleasures? Why should we torture ourselves at the very moment we should be enjoying pure indulgence? Let’s put this into some perspective.
For starters, if you indulged in your preferred pleasure all the time, it wouldn’t be a pleasure. As I shared my list with you, I felt a pang of sadness at how little time I get to fulfil these pleasures. Some have remained dormant for over a year! I’m guessing I’m not alone, right? Our lives are consumed with many other less pleasurable tasks. This might involve a heavy day at work. Actually, make that a heavy week. Your workload is overflowing. Your attendance is required meeting after meeting. And that doctor’s appointment has already had to be rescheduled, so you best squeeze that one in for the sake of that major overlooked detail; your health.
It could be that your kid just recovered from a nasty cold, the kind that keeps him coughing all night and disturbing your sleep rather than (you sigh, gratefully) his. Except your other kid has just caught that cold and is miserably enduring that early congestion phase where they can’t figure out how to blow their own nose, which results in throwing a tantrum instead. You make them food that they won’t eat. They blame you for the cold (even though it was the sibling who kindly gave it to them).
Or perhaps as you leant against the kitchen sink holding your bowl of cereal this morning, you realised you were out of milk. And bread and cheese and snacks. Yep, even the snack cupboard is bare. You’ll have to cancel that meeting to do the food shop, and work late. No. The meeting cannot be cancelled. You decide to postpone your dentist check up because, let’s face it, you’ve been postponing that continuously for the past eight months.
You might be totally on top of things. You managed to get your car serviced, upgrade your home broadband and found the time to buy filler for that crack in the wall that’s been there since…forever. You might have a well-stocked fridge and know exactly what you and your household are going to eat for the next seven days. You even went for coffee with your friend who really needed to talk, and you stayed an hour longer than planned.
Or, you just went to work, came home and crashed because you’re simply, tired.
Everything mentioned so far is a task, a chore, a necessity. Some of these are enjoyable. I’ll be honest, I like doing the food shop. Especially the snacks part. Having a deep and meaningful with a friend is a total priority for me and I always leave with a warmer heart and a lighter mind. But nothing, in all those possibilities of how your day might or might not have panned out, includes you doing something that fully encompasses your pleasure. We seem to have created a culture where something else “more important” always needs to be done. You should be working, you should be cleaning, you should be tidying, you should be NOT allowing yourself some time to switch off. And if you do, oh, tut tut. But why?
The reason these pleasures are labelled “guilty” comes from a place of pretty harsh judgement. Yet, with modern hashtags and campaigns screaming out for YOU DO YOU, and HATERS GONNA HATE, and SORRY NOT SORRY, why are we still so worried about squeezing little pockets of sweet enjoyment into our hectic lives? And even if your life isn’t hectic, there’s no rule book stating that you can’t bathe in your happiness, too.
We are experiencing life in an era of deep sensitivity. The last few years have brought so many heavy social and environmental issues to the surface, making many of us look internally at ourselves, question our actions, make changes in how we move forward. There is plenty to feel guilty about. We should acknowledge mistakes made, then educate ourselves on how to open our minds and hearts to do the right thing. In short, your date on the sofa with the Kardashians or belting out a self-made medley from Frozen 2 in the shower is no reason to feel guilty. That time is precious. You are taking care of your soul, releasing happy vibes. And if this world needs a shot of anything right now, it’s happy vibes.
In the media, Guilty Pleasures have been described as something taboo, something you don’t want to admit to, something that people don’t hold in high regard. Eyes are rolled at an extra slice of cake, a rom-com book/movie, or a pop song that you should only enjoy when you’re a kid. Even as I’m typing this, I can feel the steam coming off my fingertips. I’m fuming. And here’s why…
An extra slice of cake - you’re hungry, you’re craving it, you’ll feel dissatisfied if you don’t. For as long as we can remember, we have been told how to achieve the “perfect” body by a global industry making millions from selling diets. Your body is already perfect. Eat the cake.
A rom-com can be easy to watch/read. Which means the brains behind it are genius. An unbelievable amount of work goes into creating a piece of art that becomes hugely commercial and it takes a sharp, intelligent brain to think of that hook, you know the one that drags you in? I read a bunch of Marian Keyes’ books in the Noughties and decided that because they were so easy to read and so utterly enjoyable, I wanted to write books like that. Ladies, it took me 13 years to get published. And you might think my debut was the first book I ever wrote. Nope. It was the fourth.
When it comes to our favourite songs, I have to admit, I’ve never met the Song Police. I haven’t come across any law that enforces me to stop listening to a song because I’m above a certain age. Songs evoke memories and give us a warm sense of nostalgia. Whether it’s The Rolling Stones or Five Little Ducks, your happy place is yours to own. Age is just a number.
So the next time you want to watch your favourite reality TV show, whilst eating ice cream followed by picking the nail varnish off your toenails because you happen to find that satisfying, therapeutic even, please don’t give it the title of Guilty Pleasure. Get rid of that guilt. Be gone! And for those who say, yeah, but it’s unhealthy or it’s shrinking my brain cells or it makes me look like a slob or a nerd or a princess or a… stop. You don’t do this all the time, do you? Because you don’t have time. It’s your pleasure. So go on. Get on with it. And don’t feel guilty. Just enjoy.