Guilt and pleasure

Clare, London, UK

Guilty pleasures? This bothered me. I started off thinking ‘we’re adults now and we’re meant to be reasoned beings who act as they please, therefore where does the guilt come from?’ And then I woke up the following morning realising I had had two suppers and more mojitos than a ‘reasoned’ person would have. And it was awesome.

Guilty pleasures: food

Anyone who knows me comments on how much I eat and it is Doomsday when I don’t have a bar of dark chocolate in my bag. However, I’m not quite as bad as one of my friends who this week woke up, ate 250 grams, and then passed out for three hours from the sugar rush (no names mentioned). The excitement of being able to chose whatever I want to eat still hasn’t worn off, though the cost of the ingredients and the washing up has. Which brought me onto food guilty pleasure no.2  – TAKE AWAY delivered! Especially from the Jasmine, hands down my favourite Indian restaurant in Greenwich. Nom nom nom, breathe, nom nom nom, bin.

Which brings me onto guilty food pleasure no. 3 – Food out when on the run, especially when it involves M&S – those adverts really worked. London’s street food is pretty good at the moment, though because it is both expensive and slightly hipster, it does make me feel guilty. Not to mention that one normal size thing is normally enough to satisfy a child. Food on the run as a student is normally homemade sandwiches so buying something which has all the extra bits one doesn’t normally have at home (pomegranate etc.) makes it feel all the more decadent.

Food guilty pleasure no. 4 – Long dairy- and gluten-free cookie binges in Camden. No joke, my best friend and I can get through lunch, two cookies each, ice cream and cheesecake at least. All dairy-free. It is amazing. Then the sugar goes slightly to your head and then comes the gong ‘that was a guilty pleasure.’ I think that’s my favourite food guilty pleasure.

INTRODUCING : Phil, Cardiff, Wales (we think…)

(When I got this prompt in my email, I immediately thought, “Oh no. There’s no way I can tell the truth about my guilty pleasure. I’ll just make up something kind of cool and edgy, like taking long, ponderous walks and collecting leaves to make art with and having charming conversations with passer-bys.”  But no. )

British treasure Steven Fry opens his book The Ode Less Travelled with this amazing confession: “I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry. This is an embarrassing confession for an adult to make. In their idle hours, Winston Churchill and Noel Coward painted. For fun and relaxation Albert Einstein played the violin. […] But poetry?”

Steven Fry appears to feel the same way about his guilty pleasure as I do. He enjoys penning (undoubtedly) thoughtful and articulate works, whereas I enjoy looking for episodes of cartoons that I am far, far too old for on YouTube.

“Aw, Phil,” I hear you say. “Watching cartoons is cool now! Adventure Time and Regular Show and Avatar (not the movie. Not that movie either) are all, like, cool! Cool people watch them. No biggie.”

I’m afraid I’m not talking about those admittedly very good and definitely very cool award-winning shows.

“Oh, is it anime? I mean, anime isn’t quite as cool but that’s still ok to admit – “

No, not that either.

“…are you a brony.”

If only.

I am currently on the second season of Disney Junior’s Sofia the First, a show about Disney’s youngest princess, aimed at children aged three to five. The titular protagonist bears all the hallmarks of a Disney princess: can talk to animals, is pretty nice, can carry a tune, etc. (However, contrary to the usual Disney Princess™ nuclear family set up, Sofia actually has a living mother, who marries a king and takes on two step children and they all live happily together! How modern!)

It’s pretty standard stuff, most episodes feature a some banging choonz and some really dodgy animation. (Dear animators: just because some characters wear huge bell-shaped dresses, does not mean you’re allowed to forget how human feet work.) And there’s a predictable lesson to take away from their shenanigans at the end, but I just can’t stop.

So far, my Sofia the First kick has lasted a couple months. Luckily, I can feel its grasp on me weakening, which only means that something probably worse will replace it. Before Sofia, I was obsessed with watching Lolitas fashionistas order things online and open them on camera (Just like retail therapy but without actually paying for anything.) and before that I’d watch music videos of songs I hated just to remind myself why and how much I hate them.

Writing this has made me realise how weird and convoluted my YouTube history is. And how much weirder it’s going to get. I asked a friend about what his guilty pleasures were and he said he didn’t have any. “Just don’t be ashamed of them. Treat them as non-guilty.” (This is coming from a guy whose pleasures in life are rock climbing and circus tricks, genuinely cool pleasures so he’s got nothing to be ashamed of, but I digress.)

I’ll try do that but please clear my internet history if I die anyway, just in case.

Kirsten, Hawzen, Tigray, Ethiopia

Binge-watching TV. I do it. A little too much.

I DO have hobbies. I immensely enjoy writing, cooking, and occasionally running or playing the guitar. But on average,

I spend at least 2-6 hours watching television every day.dscn33552

Although in Ethiopia I have a lot of free time, in the U.S. I would still spend copious amounts of my weekend mindlessly watching episodes on Netflix. Beforehand, there’s a strong urge to watch, yet a numbing emptiness hours after.

What prompts me to passively stare at a screen for multiple hours at a time?

In his essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,” David Foster Wallace says that it’s because we’re lonely. TV “offers itself as relief from the very problems it causes.”

This desire for escapism prompts people, like myself, to watch TV shows to observe stories of people’s lives but without the fuss of engaging with real people.

The more we invest into the lives of TV shows, the less we feel inclined to take stock in our real-life relationships.

Even though TV provides a momentary warm comfort from cold splashes of reality, I’m in Ethiopia, immersed in a beautiful foreign culture for only two years. I’d best not waste away this amazing opportunity by staring at pixels on a machine.

I can’t save you from your own decision to spend your time doing whatever you want.

I definitely can’t promise that starting now, I’ll change my ways to forever be a grade-A saint.

But I can tell you that we are capable of more than this.

“…the television whose weird pretty hand has my generation by the throat.” – David Foster Wallace

Hannah B., Modesto, California

In French, the expression ‘guilty pleasure’ literally translates to ‘cute sin.’ So while there are few things in life that I feel guilty for partaking of, there is one particular event that does succeed in making me feel like I am adorably transgressing my own moral code. I spend a lot of time trying to build up some consistent credibility regarding my views on feminism, consumerism, social justice and the like, so I shouldn’t logically revel in ANTM as much as I do. But what can I say, Tyra is that fierce.

ANTM – for those of you not privy to this 22-season long cultural phenomena – stands for America’s Next Top Model. It is a reality competition in the vein of American Idol but for the modeling world and it has enchanted me for almost a decade now. It is my Wednesday night cute sin, deliciously superficial and dramatic.

For her part, Tyra Banks, the legendary Victoria’s Secret angel and now business mogul, has taken several bold steps to break open the boundaries of what is considered mainstream beauty: eliminating the height restriction, welcoming plus-size models, insisting on addressing eating disorders and this year even selecting a deaf model as one of the contestants (look up Nyle DiMarco ONLY if your boyfriend is not around, cuz just YUM, and um, his personality is dope too).

Mentally, I go back and forth between justifying this stereotype-shattering approach and acknowledging that regardless, it is nonetheless part of an industry that is vastly problematic. But theoretical wavering aside, I indulge every week without fail. My brother used to remix the theme song’s tagline [Wanna be on top?] in an hilarious and incomparably mocking tone that initially was meant to shame me, but, I believe, turned into an excuse for him to watch alongside the Brady ladies (I’m telling you, this stuff is addictive).

And no matter who is lingering around the Brady household, when ANTM comes on, it sucks everyone in. We have opinions, we are convinced we could pose better on stilts, and we drool. Perhaps it’s the ritual and the community that brings me back for more every week. That certainly sounds better and takes the guilt right out! Never mind that I often watch on my own…but careful, judge at your own risk. Cuz let me tell you, the smize and the booty tooch will lure in the best of ‘em.

Hannah F., Dubai, United Arab Emirates

There’s nothing else for it, it’s going to have to be a list…


  1. Doing nothing. Sometimes you just can’t beat spending a whole day lounging around doing nothing in particular.Image-1
  2. Jeremy Kyle. I admit he’s an arsehole, and his show thoroughly deserves the 1/10 rating given on, but the people on there are usually so angry at each other for such ridiculous reasons that the arguments they have often remind me of resolving arguments between some of the pupils I used to teach back home.
  3. Rain. Only when I don’t have to go out in it, and can sit inside somewhere warm with a good book.
  4. Eating food in the cupboard that’s past its best before date but is still fine – makes me feel like I’ve cheated the system.
  5. Scratching mosquito bites.
  6. Driving around with a muddy car and not caring that it’s so dirty.
  7. Countdown.Image-2
  8. Correcting spelling and punctuation on public signs.
  9. Winning arguments with my boyfriend, or him having to apologise for something – the benefits are great 😁




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s