Letter from America.
By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell.
Guilty pleasures: Everyone has at least one. You know what they are, those innocuous, low-brow, or tasty-but-nutritionally-empty things and activities you hate to love. You there—yes, you, the woman in the green dress who is reading this at your desk while you are supposed to be reviewing an employee’s monthly expense report—do not look away. Do not glance down at the bottom drawer of your desk where you hide your stash. All it takes is one guilty-looking, downward turn of your eyes and your coworkers will correctly conclude that you are the culprit responsible for the five dozen Twinkies wrappers discovered today in a malfunctioning heating vent.
And you! Yes, you, in the pinstriped Armani suit. Pretend all you want to find it an imposition on your valuable time, but you are not fooling anyone. Even your five-year-old grandson realizes that nothing pleases you more than opening up a brand-new jumbo box of crayons, and then coloring half the pages in his Batman and other superhero coloring books.
Some guilty pleasures are less benign than others. The Twinkies lover mentioned above might have been warned in the past that she is flirting with incipient diabetes. It would therefore behoove her to find an alternative guilty pleasure. (Bagpipe and square-dance lessons come immediately to mind; she just might savor these activities enough for them to qualify as her new guilty pleasures.) There is no reason whatsoever, though, for Gramps to turn in his crayons for fishing gear or golf clubs. The same could be said for the neurosurgeon who likes to unwind after a difficult procedure by reading a chapter or two of the latest Harlequin romance novel. If I were her patient, I would rather see an assortment of steamy reads on her desk than to note that her office bookshelf was crammed with first-year medical-school textbooks or tomes with titles such as Brain Surgery for Dummies. Why she would find it necessary to hide her particular guilty pleasure from prying eyes is something I simply would not understand. I am a fairly tolerant person; perhaps others are more judgmental, or more likely to poke fun.
You might be somewhat amused to learn that Abraham Lincoln’s guilty pleasure was to scarf down a plateful of gingersnaps. Yes, you read that correctly. Honest Abe’s guilty pleasure was gingersnaps, the 19th-century equivalent of animal crackers. I heard somewhere recently that the world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain’s guilty pleasure is also food related. No surprise there, but the delectable item in question is macaroni and cheese, and not of Bourdain’s own creation. His favorite mac ‘n’ cheese dish comes from the kitchens of Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Go figure.) Jessica Simpson’s guilty pleasure is Nicorette gum, but she claims to be a nonsmoker. She says she just likes the taste of this quit-smoking aid. (I’m sorry, but Simpson’s is a guilty pleasure which I cannot help but compare to that of a guy who claims that his guilty pleasure is to re-read back issues of Playboy magazine because they contain such thought-provoking articles.)
One woman I know confesses that doing laundry is her guilty pleasure. She fully realizes that she is supposed to grumble and groan about pairing endless socks, folding her husband’s tee shirts, and sorting the underwear of her four children into tidy stacks. To the contrary, she finds a soothing comfort in handling the warm cotton fabrics as she pulls them from the dryer. Her house could go un-vacuumed and undusted for a month, but her family members sport the cleanest, least wrinkled clothes in town. Best of all, one of her husband’s guilty pleasures complements her own. After the kids clear the dinner table, Dad washes and dries the dishes, glassware, flatware, pots, and pans by hand, even though this couple has a dishwasher in perfect working order. I would call their marriage a proverbial match made in heaven, wouldn’t you?
Many Americans will spill their secrets when asked, especially when they learn that others share their passion for watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” eating a breakfast consisting of peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches washed down with chocolate milk, or making semi-regular midnight runs to Dunkin’ Donuts for a box of glazed Munchkins Some find the disclosure of their guilty pleasures difficult, but a word of caution here: Do not, even for one nanosecond, believe folks who adamantly deny having at least one guilty pleasure. Such people are not to be trusted. For your own good, you should not encourage their friendship. Oh, and one last bit of advice: Do not, under any circumstances, invite self-proclaimed guilty-pleasureless individuals to attend the spring concert of your adult-ed musical ensemble. Their snorts and snickers will echo unpleasantly throughout the auditorium when they discover that it is you who has the tuba solo.
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