“There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.”
A few days ago, I was running errands with lots of stops to pick up this or that and drop off that or this. When I got hungry, I thought I’d just duck into Mickey Ds, grab some fries, and get on with it. Well, it was more hangry, than just hungry, and the drive up line was kind of long so when I got to the order screen it must have been the starvation mode that made me order a Happy Meal.
Happy Meals were a staple in our family when the kids were growing up. I could get them to do just about anything by dangling a Happy Meal for motivation. The promise of fries, a soda and a toy, was currency when my kids were little. Happy Meals became rewards for going above and beyond, they were reserved only for special treats, and when you’re a 6 year-old, that’s a big deal. So, imagine me, a grown woman, well into middle age, sitting in the car chomping on fries and racing a little plastic cartoon car along the dashboard. Oh, and bonus day, they now have chocolate milk in Happy Meals. Is there anything better, as a busy adult, to get to take 10 minutes out of your day to get chocky milk and nuggs?
Yes, I realize this makes me sound like some unbalanced snack sneaker, with food issues, and while that’s not completely incorrect, it’s also not unique to me. I asked around and almost all of my friends have what are sometimes called “guilty pleasures.” Guilty? Guilty of what? It’s not a crime to love French fries; it’s not a crime to want a little play time, right? I think what the term is supposed to imply is that some treats are taboo. You’re not supposed to like horking down three brownies, you shouldn’t enjoy watching some mindless reality show about overdressed housewives getting drunk and arguing. Those are bad habits; you should be eating salads and watching PBS.
Guess what? Nothing fun happens over a salad. Yes, they’re healthy, and some of them have feta cheese and olives and are wicked good, it’s just that no one savors them. No one says, “OMG, just one more bite of the baby spinach, it’s so good.” No one telling a really funny story about the time they crashed a wedding wants to crunch on some carrots, they need a big fat steak fry to wave around. Think about all the good times you’ve had with friends over the years. Birthday parties, girls’ nights out, Spring Break etc. I’m betting none of those gut busting stories and adventures included a quinoa protein bowl with shoepeg corn and a side of kale. The good times we remember, the laughs, the driving aimlessly with friends on a hot summer night, mostly all included roast beef sandwiches on the beach, ice cream cones that dripped on your shoes, and at least one 3 AM stop at IHOP.
I think many of us are coming out of a long year of lockdowns, social distancing, and in some cases, isolation. With vaccination rates going up and active cases going down, we’re a little like Amish kids on rumpshpringa, just losing our minds over being able to sit at a bar again or see a movie or go to a gathering. Staying home, working at home, going to school at home makes for a lot of togetherness. Day after day after day…I’m betting someone in every family has grabbed the car keys and bolted out of the house, maybe to mail a letter or pick up a gallon of milk and took the long way home. The long way that goes past Dairy Witch, or Five Guys. The long way that maybe involves a stop at a convenience store to buy a few scratch tickets and a slushie and sit in the car slurping and scratching and listening to the 80s station on the radio.
We tend to look around at others, at where they go and how they behave, and compare ourselves to them. All I got during the pandemic were twenty extra pounds and a new office chair. One of my friends started a new business, lost 40 pounds, won an award for her work with a non-profit, and I’m pretty sure she’s in the running to be an astronaut too. She's a perfectly nice person, but I kind of hate her. We might believe that these uber successful people never find themselves in the parking lot of a 7-11, snarfing down pecan rolls and scrolling through YouTube cat videos on their phone just for a few minutes of privacy, but we’d be wrong. I don’t care who you are, you’ve been there. If you got a little pleasure out of a late-night taco run, that isn’t a crime and you’ve no reason to be guilty over it. Life can be hard, so have the fries, or the ice cream, or the taco once in a while.