Harboring guilt and pleasure in equal measure

March 27, 2012

Miles Doornbos

Listen to this conversation

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Like most stories, this one starts, and ends, with Hanson.

In early 2007, I was working in an ice cream shop and hopelessly, quietly, in love with a fellow employee. Being in my early twenties, wooing was relagated almost exclusively to the realm of pop culture ("You were so frustrated by David Foster Wallace's unbearable egomania that you threw Infinite Jest against a wall? WE. WILL BE. IN LOVE. FOREVER*.")

Naturally, our cultural flirtation found its way to music, and, after a rundown of the usual suspects, she said this:

"I am in love with Hanson."

Twenty minutes in, and our relationship was already at a crossroads.

"As a guilty pleasure?"

"I don't believe in guilty pleasures. If you love something, you have to own it." And then, again, for emphasis, "I am in love with Hanson."

Now, as a viewpoint, that's admirable. It's one thing to drop a bombshell, and another thing to straddle it like Major Kong and ride it to the ground. The only problem is, most of us don't have the courage for that kind of soft self-destruction. Our guilty pleasures are our secret shames. The songs that we sing with the car windows rolled up, the books we read with the shades drawn, the movies we only see in matinee. They are, in essence, our most private bits of joy. Unsullied, unshared, inscrutable.

Which begs the question, why feel guilty at all? Where does guilt come from, and what purpose does it serve? Are guilty pleasures somehow less legitimate than the pleasures we share publicaly, or, as recent research suggests, are our guilty pleasures the ones that we delight in most?

Today on Eight Forty-Eight we'll lay our souls bare with associate professor of psychology Maryanne Fisher and consumer psychologist Peter McGraw, who will walk us through the uncharted territory where the shameful things that we love shamlessly reside. We'll talk about how society helps to drive our guilt and how advertisers use that knowledge to their advantage. And, if you have the courage, you can call in at 312.923.9239 and share your own guilty pleasures with us.

Here, I'll get things started.

I've never felt more free.

*We weren't. Though, I'd like to imagine she's still out there, dropkicking a copy of The Pale King in my name.