In his new book Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon has a chapter on guilty pleasures. Before the chapter is a great quote by Dave Grohl* that starts off, “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.”
I like this quote because, once upon a time, I used to be the King of Guilty Pleasures. I had a whole list of things I liked secretly, or felt ashamed that I liked. In high school I was that annoying kid who thought uncool things were cool and popular stuff was terrible. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to let go of that mindset and explore my likes and dislikes more thoroughly.
However, I’ve found quitting guilty pleasures is not as easy as I thought. Mostly due to certain friends who still live their lives in the before-it-was-cool mentality. It’s that stereotypical hipster attitude: You like a band that no one’s ever heard of, you tell all your friends about them, they get popular, you hate that band. But what kind of way is that to live?
Worse still is the idea that anything popular can’t be any good at all. I waited years to dare even pick up a Harry Potter book. And when I did? Well, there went my summer between junior and senior years. I made fun of Lady Gaga along with the rest of my friends. But when I finally gave into myself I found the music—while not strictly profound—is fun. Now she’s half my dance mix.
Talking with a patron at my work one day, we began to discuss testing variety. He told me that he’s willing to listen to or read anything once, and if he doesn’t like it—no harm done. I had to give him a nod for this, because it was something I’d never quite gotten complete control over before. An epiphany: “How can you know what you like if you don’t first know what you don’t like?” I said to him. “Exactly,” he replied.
I try to take everything in like this now. I’ll listen to new music, watch an episode of a new show, read a new genre of book, try out a new category of art—anything once. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to deal with it ever again. But if I do like it, I can dive into it arms-out-wide.
Occasionally I’ll find myself thinking, What would so-and-so think if they found out… but I can only remind myself that I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks. If someone is so judgmental about the things I like then I probably shouldn’t be friends with them anyway.
In the reverse, I try to be more tolerant of things that my friends like†. Even if I disagree with something that a friend likes, I try my best to simply let them have it (or, at the very least, provide a reasonable argument as to why I hate that thing).
Unfortunately, there are such things as guilty pleasures because we’ve yet to be able to accept each other for who we are fully. That’s what guilty pleasure boils down to: Fear of judgment from those we love. If we can take away the judgment we can take away the fear. If we take away the fear we can take away the guilt. And if we take away the guilt, we can like what we want and be who we already are.