Guilty Pleasures

Does anyone else have a specific, hand-curated list of their favorite musicians, authors or movies that they reserve for their Bumble bio? A resume-friendly version of your favorite things? I’m someone who enjoys a seriously diverse spread of all forms of media. So, I tend to carefully choose the things that best reflect “who I am,” but the reality is, not everything I enjoy defines who I am. Not all of it has to run so deep. But knowing that the things I share are contributing to other people’s opinion of me determines which of them I decide to showcase. I’ll pick some songs with lyrics that really I resonate with, artists that barely anyone knows (so avant-garde), a book by Camus or Thoreau and maybe a Kubrick film or two. To be clear, none of the things on my list will be lies, but they sure as hell won’t paint the full picture either (in fact, the pendulum has likely swung so far that I now seem insufferably pretentious). But maybe I believe (or want others to believe) that this selection is a better reflection of my personality than BTS or Beyonce.

Once my selective resume gets me to the next round of dating, it’s safe for the “other things I like” to gradually come out of hiding. But they’re usually followed by excuses or explanations: “I actually only like this ironically. Like, it’s so bad it’s good.” Africa by Toto is honestly one of my favorite songs; it’s horribly cheesy in the most amazing way and I cannot physically stop myself from shouting along with it every time it comes on. In sixth grade, I loved Degrassi. Love is maybe an understatement — I made the theme song my ringtone on my very first flip phone. Next came High School Musical, then the Twilight Saga. To this day I’ll still sing along to Breaking Free and read “trashy,” cliché-ridden romance novels when the mood strikes. I still enjoy the occasional garbage reality TV show, and there is a good chance I’ll start dancing whenever Cardi B comes on. No shade at any of these examples, by the way, but I think it’s safe to say that they’re all a little…polarizing?

In my mind, these things are like McDonald’s apple pie, while a Harper Lee novel is like grandma’s homemade version, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. But McDonald’s apple pies still taste good, right? They’re probably not your favorite — especially when real pie is on the table — but they’re quick, convenient and still give you your sugar fix. What’s “ironic” about that? If it brings you joy, then let it.

The music we listen to, books we enjoy and movies we love do say a lot about us. On some level, it makes sense that we use this information as a way to try to “figure someone out.” Let’s say you’ve just started dating someone new. You’ve already established that you’re on the same page about the “big stuff,” — political views, future plans and the like. You haven’t even gotten around to the conversation about your taste in music, movies, books, etc., but there’s still a (likely) chance that they’ll throw in the towel the minute you say “Nickleback” (for the record, I think it’s time we leave Nickleback alone while “Mr. Worldwide” is still out there, referring to himself as “Mr. Worldwide”). But before I challenge this type of snap-judgement, I want to emphasize that I’m guilty of it myself, and I also understand the validity of it (to an extent).

I could list a whole slew of musicians, books or movies that I end up forming my own one-off judgements of too. Certain fandoms in particular have reputations for morphing into full on personality types. Take The Grateful Dead, for example. Be honest with yourself — do you have an image of a typical “Deadhead” that pops into your mind? Did it involve tie-dye or Birkenstocks, perhaps? What if I said they liked Metallica, instead? Is the person you’re picturing a little more “intimidating” now? How about Demi Lovato? Did you just cut their age in half, swap their gender and dress them up in glitter? The reality is that liking any one of them doesn’t define who you are (and neither does enjoying McDonald’s apple pie).

Instead of making up excuses, let’s call these things we keep hidden what they are: guilty pleasures. Everyone has them. But why the guilt in the first place? Maybe the pie analogy doesn’t hold up very well when we ask this question, because we all know too much pie of any kind is problematic. But is it really problematic to enjoy art that is perhaps less “profound?” Isn’t it okay to dance to something that has a great beat, even when the lyrics don’t speak to your soul? Isn’t it okay to have a laugh at an insanely formulaic story with a love triangle, while still enjoying yourself and wanting to know what happens next? If you ask me, my answer is a resounding “hell yes.” In fact, it’s more than okay. I think being able to appreciate a more diverse variety of art is a gift, even if the “flavor” of appreciation is slightly varied from one to the next. Ultimately, it allows you to connect with people over that many more things in life.

The next time someone on Bumble wants to talk to me about the music I like, I plan to ask them about their “guilty pleasure” songs too. I want to know the random things that make someone smile or laugh or dance just as badly as I want to hear about the things that really speak to their soul. Sure, they could be one and the same, but they don’t always have to be (and I’ll keep working on withholding judgment either way). We’re all complicated creatures with a variety of likes and dislikes, and it’s impossible to have fully formed opinions on things like personality or compatibility just from looking at one tiny piece of the picture. Later, I’ll curl up in bed with some Mary Oliver and chamomile tea. But for now, I’ll throw on some Lizzo and keep dancing like nobody’s watching. It’s okay to enjoy both guilt-free.

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