Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mini Powdered Donuts on the Banks of the Jersey Shore

I know the lyrics to "Party in the USA" and can sing them (a cappella) as accurately as those from the Fresh Prince theme song. I have text(ed? is there a past tense of "text"?) the word VOTE far too many times over the past eight years. I ruin my chances of seeming demure the moment that I walk into my dentist's office and slyly grin upon spotting the US Weekly or People among the odd, odd assortment of magazines. In a trick learned from my younger sister, I have been known to hide Little Debbie pumpkin face cakes in the one kitchen cabinet my dad rarely explores. The Maury Povich "Who's the Daddy?" shows have captivated me for hours (notice the "s" on the end of that). I promise, I'm going somewhere with this...

Point 1: According to wikipedia, "guilty pleasure" is defined as "something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. Often, the "guilt" involved is simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt." (and kudos to those of you who picked up on the fact that I quoted wikipedia when discussing guilty pleasures).

Point 2: I have a soda philosophy that might be useful for some of you - it is based on precise science; there is no element of psychosis or delusion involved. The theory goes as follows: If one were to, hypothetically, drink a 20 oz. Diet Dr. Pepper every morning and then said imaginary person follows that deliciously crisp Pepsi product with 40 oz. of water, it is as though the soda was never consumed. Upon drinking 20 additional ounces of water, it is entirely logical to assume that a 12 oz. can of soda is good for the subject. It is the old standard 3:2 philosophy. The more water one drinks, the healthier the caffeine, artificial flavoring, and sugars found in the cokes, become.

This morning I was driving to work, drinking my "water" (winky wink), and thinking about my older sister's facebook status related to her Hostess cake proclivity. I swear, one of the first things that popped into my head was: "well, I bet she eats fruit with the donuts." Voila! Suddenly the donuts become the equivalent of homemade granola. After silently berating myself for being crazy, I regressed once more. My mind took off, "I should create a guide, even a chart perhaps, that would track when I can listen, watch, read, enjoy one, or a mixture, of my many guilty pleasures." (I don't know if I need quotes around the pretend words my mind said.) For example: I can sing Miley Cyrus (loudly) in my car if: I then listen to NPR for 30 minutes and also lie and tell Adrienne that I don't like her MC brand shirt she found at Wal-Mart. Or, four servings of vegetables = one pumpkin face; five servings = pumpkin face while watching paternity results.

Running out of ways to somehow convince myself that there is an element of truth in this philosophy, I started thinking instead about the relative nature of guilty pleasures. I think we probably all indulge in something that an outsider might consider "lowbrow." Yet, we sometimes nevertheless critique others for enjoying something we deem even more embarrassing than our own indulgence. In so doing, we have a tendency to do much worse than engage in the surface-level, the foolish, the insignificant...We become big ol' snobs. This isn't to suggest, of course, that there is not a time for real conversation and for substantial, meaningful action (in fact, I wish we all spent much more time doing these). I would just also argue that passion and/or devotion can alienate interested parties, potential allies, and valuable assets when it is cloaked in condescension.

This reminds me of an interesting book that I think you all would enjoy: David Anderson's, Treading Lightly: The Joy of Conservation, Moderation, and Simple Living. I will acknowledge my bias up front: Dr. Anderson was my economics professor at Centre College. Regardless, however, I think he has an valuable and intriguing voice worthy of hearing. He is a nationally renowned economics scholar and author (and fantastic teacher to boot), yet Dr. Anderson remains humble. One can often find him at Centre's bookstore in downtown Danville, enjoying a tea or coffee, in overalls or jeans and Centre sweatshirts. His writing is academic, but accessible. He is an environmentalist and social justice activist, but consistently frames his ideas with pragmatism and understanding. The primary message that I took from this particular publication is that gluttony and ease obscure citizenship and human potential; we could all be better if we thought more, spent and used less. What Anderson does not do, however, is preach about why organic food, solar panels, bike riding, and second-hand clothes in and of themselves makes us "cooler," "more socially-conscious," or "smarter." Sure, these particular actions are mentioned, but they are included as examples of tangible responses to a philosophy. And it is the philosophy of simple living, not the particulars it possibly spawns, that Anderson seems to argue is significant. Why? Because a philosophy, unlike a rigid list of "to-do"s, is malleable. Simple living may mean something different to each person. We may not be able to practically do all of the tasks that would make this a cleaner, safer, more democratic society (or we may not have the desire), but there is room for small acts that make life better for ourselves or for our communities. There does not have to be a glutton v. snob binary.

And so, naturally, enjoy your guilty moderation.:)


  1. "Wake up, Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you."

  2. You must have misunderstood the wiki definition. It did not say "iconic rock song often performed as a duet by Stephen and David."
    Don't even try to put Maggie May in the same category as Party in the USA.

  3. This blog is below me. I'm off to read Chaucer, purchase second hand clothes and berade everyone in line at McDonalds.

  4. Pick up a used dictionary while you're at Goodwill.

  5. Berade-British spelling of Berate. Often used by exteme intellectuals with advanced taste in all things. Used in a sentence: "if someone uses berade in a sentence they are better than you."

  6. Or, "I berade vague adjectives that do not accurately or clearly describe the degree of intellect or taste one possesses."

  7. Well, shit. "I berade those who use vague..."