Grateful Pleasures

Gratitude Month Week #3: Guilty Pleasures

Last month I had dinner with my friend Mary, who in addition to being a marble friend is also a Health and Wellness Coach.  I told her that I was in a bit of a funk, but would soon snap out of it with the help of my vast library of self-help books.  I even had one in my bag as a reference, which I plopped on the table in between the chips and guac.

“See, this book says I really need to be going to yoga five times a week.  And maybe I need a vision board?  And I HAVE to get up earlier to meditate.  But I already get up at 5:00 so maybe….”  Two glasses of wine later I was an overwhelmed, weepy mess blowing my nose in a cocktail napkin.

Mary gave me a long, serious look. “You know what you need to do?”

“What??”  A silent retreat?  A juice fast?  A sugar detox?

She grabbed my book and held it up to my face.  “You need to stop carrying self-help in your purse.  PUT. THIS. SHIT. AWAY.  Read The Hunger Games or something.  Just chill out.  Do something for fun, and don’t feel guilty about it.”

On the way home, I thought about Mary’s advice.  The last book I read “for fun” was the novel Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  It was in the summer, because that’s the only time I allow myself to read novels (Yes, as I type this, I realize how masochistic that sounds). I devoured it in 48 hours, curled up in my favorite chair.  No self-improvement, no end-of-chapter “dig deep” journaling prompts…just 100% guilty pleasure. Pure bliss.

Guilty Pleasure: (n). Something pleasurable that induces a minor feeling of guilt.

Why do we feel guilty about pleasure? For me, guilt comes from being Catholic the fear that self-care is the gateway drug to laziness.   Another contributor is my parents’ somewhat Puritanical work ethic.


I think that the guilt that comes with watching Dancing With the Stars or rocking out to Ace of Base stems from the feeling that we should be doing something else (more productive, cerebral, and growth-producing) or that we should be someone else (cooler, smarter, and more sophisticated).  We should askew fluff in favor of substance.  Use our time valuably.

But, sometimes….

Isn’t feeling good value enough?

I say yes.  Dammit.

This past week, I vowed to be grateful for guilty pleasures.  Here are some of mine:


TJ Maxx:  When Phil travels a lot, I can get a bit bitchy fried.  When he’s home, he will say, “Why don’t you get a pedicure?”

And I respond: “I just want to go to TJ Maxx. Alone.”

I don’t know what it is about that place, but for me  it’s more relaxing than a spa.  I roam the aisles peacefully, filling my cart with a designer bag, a sports bra, a pumpkin candle – and then methodically put everything back.   Then, before I leave blissful and (sometimes) empty-handed, I run to the bathroom to poop.  Because TJ Maxx is just that relaxing.


Coloring: I baby-sat a lot as a teenager, and always went armed with coloring books and the 64 pack of Crayolas.  “Wanna color?” I would say, whipping out my materials before they could say “Barbies.”  I use the same strategy with my own kids, and they usually buy it because I sit and color with them.  The problem is, they lose interest after about 10 minutes, which is not nearly enough time for me to finish my masterpiece.  They wander off while I sink deeper into the coloring zone, until I inevitably get busted by Emma.  With a nice big roll of the eyes, she says: “MOMMMMM!  Aren’t you gonna like, MAKE DINNER?”

vh1VH1- I Love the 80’s: This show makes me snort.  Where else are you going to find Carrot Top, Traci Lords, and Alice Cooper pondering the big questions of an entire decade, like:

  • Why did Doc from Love Boat get laid so much?
  • Was He-Man gay?
  • Can watching scrambled cable porn give you brain damage?
  • Do you need to be high on cocaine to master the Rubik’s Cube?

Excessive Texting: When I find myself waiting -the bus stop, school pick up line, or doctor’s office – I would love to say that I seize the moment of solitude by meditating or reading a passage from Rumi.  But the truth is, by 4:00, by brain is too toasty for Rumi, and if I tried to meditate I would fall asleep. So instead, I send a highly intelligent text, like this one to my cousin Meg:

IMG_3093Guilty Pleasure Playlist:  Here we go.  Now we get to the good stuff – the playlist of shame. You know you have one – it’s the reason the phrase “guilty pleasure” was invented.  I have to admit, posting this playlist – the one I only listen to in the car, alone – feels braver than having my colon removed.  I am musically naked. But in the spirit of Gratitude Month, I’m going for it.

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Do I feel embarrassed looking at this playlist?  Well…maybe a little bit.  But guilty?  Absolutely not.   Each of these songs make me feel something: silly, energized, peaceful, weepy…more alive.  And that makes me feel grateful, not guilty.

Sometimes I think we confuse pleasure with numbing.  But numbing is something else. Numbing is eating the whole box of Thin Mints with no memory of doing it.  To numb is to tune out.  To feel pleasure is to tune in. 

The idea of pleasure is to feel more, because it feels good: the “ahhhh” of sinking into the couch, the urge to dance that accompanies House of Pain your favorite song, the taste of your grandmother’s oven-roasted potatoes.

Kids get it.  They just do what feels good, because, why wouldn’t you? Kids don’t “dance like no one is watching,” because they don’t give a shit who’s watching.  They just dance.

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What are your guilty grateful pleasures?