We all have those things that we aren’t very proud of admitting to others, or ourselves most of all probably. We refer to them as guilty pleasure. Whether it be a particular dessert, cheesy pop song, tabloid magazine, or reality show (how are those still a thing, really) we can all say that we possess at least one guilty pleasure.
Notice I said ‘at least’ one. For many it’s a few and for some it’s too numerous to count and these pleasures end up controlling lives.
I’m no different and I’ve had my share in the past including the before mentioned reality shows. (What was it about Jersey Shore?) As someone who tries to watch less and less television I removed guilty pleasure shows a while ago. I view my time as valuable and 99% of the time spent watching television is wasted. Our lives are short. Shorter than we ever anticipate and can end unexpectedly at any moment. I try to use my time productively these days especially after having wasted so much of my twenties in an alcohol or drug-induced guilty pleasure haze. (But man did I have a fucking blast, can’t remember it all but, F’ing A!)
Nowadays I spend my time as usefully as possible. As you might know I want to be a writer (Exhibit #1: Blog) and try to spend as much time as I can on writing. I’ve always been active and when playing sports became less accessible as an adult I began exercising regularly which in turn evolved into eating healthier and eventually an overall consciousness of the well being of my body and now mind (I’m a recent convert to daily meditation and affirmations and let me tell you, it’s the shit.) I have a couple jobs and I, of course, have to do all the normal maintenance of life like grocery shopping, laundry, etc. I try to get outdoors often but that seems to be the activity that gets the short end considering my wife isn’t really an outside person. With the remainder of my time I catch a movie with the wife or try to stay up on the shows I do care about (a Game of Thrones blog is in the near future I can feel it.) The other spare minutes of the day go to eating and reading.
I read anything. When I was kid it was strictly sports novels (Matt Christopher, Mike Lupica, and so on), then horror (R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike), in my teen years I read what I was forced to in class (I was too cool for books.) When I matured into a young adult I became pretentious and read Palahnuik, Vonnegut, and Hunter S. Thompson. Not to say these authors are douchey or not worth reading, quite the contrary. I’m still a huge fan of all three (I have a tattoo referencing Vonnegut for my’s sake.) But if I’m being honest, and that’s kind of the direction I’m trying to take my writing, I only began reading them so people would see how cool I was. Regardless of why I started reading them I did and I’m thankful for it.
Once I started working for Borders Books my senior year of college it all changed. The beauty of working in a bookstore or library, as I now do, is having so many choices right at my fingertips. Say what you will about Ebooks, they are the future after all, but nothing compares to browsing shelves full of books. I could do it for hours on end.
It introduced me to the endless options and I began reading anything that would peak my interest. I jump all over the place now. I read a biography here a science book there. Next I’ll give a spiritual book a shot and maybe self-help for good measure. (Always be learning; always be growing.) I have to remind myself sometimes to fit in a fiction whether it be mystery, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, classics, or literary. I jump back to a sports book, health, business or leadership, and top it off with a graphic novel now and again.
Pete, what the hell does this have to do with guilty pleasures? I will tell you me asking myself a question as if I’m someone else. Roll with me here because (and it might not seem like it considering my next sentence) I’m getting to my point, I promise you.
Have you ever watched television in your hotel room? Sure, who hasn’t right? Typically you’re on business or pleasure so you don’t spend much time doing it but when you wind down for the day it’s one of the few comforts that remind you of home in a foreign room on a foreign bed you’re trying desperately to ignore. Have you ever noticed? It never fails. You will notice this every time you stay from now on. You will find Forensic Files. And let me tell you how absolutely pumped I get every time I do!
Guilty pleasure is not the phrase to describe how infatuated I am with that show. I’m not certain why either. Likewise, I remember as a kid, watching Autopsy on HBO. You don’t find shit like that on regular television. I mean it’s not TV is it? It’s HBO. I’ve always been weirdly into movie about serial killers as well. Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal (Manhunter and Hannibal Rising I guess), Copycat, Psycho (anything Hitchcock really), Seven, Natural Born Killers, all the slashers (Jason, Michael, Ghostface, Leatherface, not so much Freddy), Identity, American Psycho, any biopic about a real serial killer and the list goes on. Loved the first six or so seasons of Criminal Minds but now, ehh. While living in Hollywood I even visited the Museum of Death and although interesting I left feeling sick to my stomach. (I might have crossed a threshold with that experience.)
While checking in books recently at the library I work at, I came across The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. I’ve never read any true crime. No reason why, I just never have. A genre that’s been around for centuries now has quickly grown over the last half century and only continues to welcome new fans. Not only in literature but the increasing rise in documentaries and mini series popping up left and right. If you haven’t seen Netflix’s Making a Murderer or HBO’s The Jinx then you will never know what the word intriguing was created for. Also, Netflix has a new series called The Keepers that I haven’t checked out yet but has received good reviews. It’s the story of Sister Cathy Cesnik’s 1969 disappearance, death and the alleged massive cover-up involving the Catholic Church.
I’ve seen a lazy biopic about Ted Bundy called, Ted Bundy, and he’s been referenced in pop culture since his existence was discovered. Honestly, it’s hard not to know who Ted Bundy is. In a culture infatuated with “his kind of people” the names Manson, Bundy, Dahmer, and the like are as recognizable as Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, or King.
You could argue that Ann Rule is the queen of true crime. She died less than two years ago but during her time she wrote extensive articles for true crime magazines and over 30 books. When I cracked open the cover of her book I was surprised to learn that she knew, worked with, and was close friends with Ted Bundy before, during, and after his arrest, incarceration, and eventual death by electric chair. In fact, hired to write about a string of killings in Washington State that was eventually discovered to be the work of Bundy, the ultimate publication would turn out to be her “big break” in the industry.
Fascinated I decided, I’ve read every other genre of book out there I might as well. This is where the term, guilty pleasure, takes on its most appropriate meaning. Writing this now and knowing someone will read it leaves me feeling, at best, embarrassed and at worst, immoral. I read through the book in less than a week, which is a feat for my attention span. I couldn’t put it down until I almost exactly reached the halfway mark, right around the time Rule, herself, finally realized for absolute certainty that Bundy was the man he was charged to be.
I could feel it effecting my mood and outlook on humanity. What was once a guilty pleasure became sheer guilt. Through Rule’s skillful writing and personal connection to Bundy I became so engrossed that my own sense of guilt for just involving myself in the words of those horrendous crimes surfaced and left me feeling sick and depressed. The only escape was finishing the book. I continued reading it whenever I had free time but, at that point, only to finish it as quickly as possible.
As a reader, I highly recommend the book if you’ve never read true crime and want to break into the genre. Rule gives insight like most authors can’t because of her involvement and it allows the reader to really become a part of the story. If you share some of my guilty pleasures regarding the morbid it’s worth checking in out.
As a human being, I feel ashamed. Furthermore I wonder if we overuse the phrase, guilty pleasure. We’ve mastered survival in most areas of the world and now it’s just all about the frosting on the cake. We have given ourselves so many luxuries in life that, in the attempts to improve efficiency, we more times than not complicate it. Even people who can’t afford certain luxuries, myself include, find ways of chasing the little comforts in life that many times come with a cost. But isn’t that the goal? Make life less scary, less dark, more enjoyable, more manageable. Isn’t it the goal to not just survive and thrive but to take pleasure in the good times when they happen? (And sometimes they are few and far between.)
Have a slice of cake, just not every day. Watch that trashy show, just not for hours on end. Drink a couple glasses of wine, just not every night. Bob your head to MMMBop but maybe don’t follow Hanson on tour every chance you get. Unless we’re really coming away from an experience feeling legitimately guilty, as in reliving the life of a serial killer perhaps, then maybe we can let ourselves off the hook once in a while. Life is a struggle. We have to Love the Struggle™ and managing it is done easier when we take pleasure in the little moments in life and flourish during the rest.
The little pleasures in life are more enjoyable when they are withheld. Guilt should not be felt if we honestly deserve the reward. It’s rewarding ourselves for nothing that elicits the guilt. Hit the gym all week? Great, take a rest day! Eat healthy all week? Awesome, go out for pizza tonight! Work on that new business idea in your spare time after work? Cool, watch Dancing with the Stars (if you must.)
But no sympathy should be extended for those of us who complain about weight and eat fast food constantly and never exercise. No excuses when we’re unhappy in our jobs but spend all or our time outside of work marathoning Netflix.
We can’t have our cake and eat it too especially if we’re loading that son’a bitch with tons of undeserving frosting. Work hard. Justify playing hard. Remove the guilt from your pleasures.
Didn’t expect a blog about Ted Bundy to end on an empowerment note did you? Boom! Write like jazz!