You know how sometimes you feel like a freak? Like you are the only person in the whole world who feels, thinks, likes, or hates something, and so you just must be crazy? Well, the staffers here at Turkey Curry Buffet would like to let you in on a little secret. If there’s one thing they’ve learned in the past year and change of writing this blog, it’s that whenever they go out on a limb with a post and get really personal and then get nervous that perhaps they’ve publicly admitted things they probably shouldn’t and that EVERYONE IS GOING TO LAUGH AT MEEEEEEEEE– these turn out to be the posts that get the most hits and the most positive feedback. The secret, in other words, is that you’re never the only one. You’ll know that’s true the minute you start to be honest, both with yourself and with others, about whatever it is your internal Gollum is clutching deep inside the dark cave of yourself and refusing to let go. Take a deep breath, relax, and let your freak flags fly from the sides of your car on the 1-95 of life. You’ll be amazed at how many people honk in support as they drive by.
The other thing TCB staffers have learned is NOT TO PISS OFF their super-draconian HBIC of a boss. It’s all very Devil Wears Prada around here. Except everyone’s wearing sweatpants.
Anyway, don’t you just love when life surprises you with its goodness? (This is the Joyce Meyer side of myself I warned you about.) After I broadcast my guilty pleasures, I heard from friends all over the place. Who knew that my friend Virginia also loves the song “Unpretty”? (As the awesome comedian Mike Burns has said, “If you want to know someone’s darkest secrets and shame, look to the track listing of their workout playlist.”) Who knew that my friend Brette loves the Biggest Loser and pomegranate Craisins, or, as she put it, “fruits flavored to taste like other fruits”? My friend Grace reminded me that I used to eat Prego straight out of the jar, which then reminded me that I STILL eat Betty Crocker Rich N’ Creamy Rainbow Chip frosting straight out of the jar, which then made me realize that I have like a thousand other guilty pleasures I forgot to mention. (Side note: eating frosting straight out of the jar is an activity that will literally make your teeth hurt. Rainbow Chip frosting– not to be confused with Pillsbury Funfetti icing, an inferior product to be sure– is like cocaine, or true love; worth the burn, baby.)
My friend Jack pointed out to me that there are in fact no “guilty” pleasures. “You love the stuff you love”, he said. Although it is certainly possible to feel guilty for loving something or someone you know you shouldn’t because it is bad for you (Hello, cigarettes!), most so-called guilty pleasures aren’t actually unhealthy, and the guilt you feel for loving them is merely a symptom of your own concern with what others think of you. (There’s another life lesson in here somewhere: guilt is not a natural by-product of healthy love.) And that kind of vanity (What will they think of me? How do I look to others? Can they see my muffin top?) (which I clearly have in spades) (both vanity and muffin tops) is so incredibly limiting! And such a waste of time! I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty and vanity lately, for some reason. I’ve been realizing that I care a lot, a whole lot, more about what people think of me than I had previously thought. You know when you read your horoscope in fashion magazines– oh, you don’t? Clearly you are not an intellekshual such as moiself– they always list the celebrities under your sign? Well, I share a sign with Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, if that tells you anything. What it should tell you is that I have a string of divorces and underage Latin lovers in my future, and that I am an egomaniac. I have a little Jennifer Lopez inside of myself that is constantly jumping up and down and screaming for attention. Look at me! Look at me! Read my blog, J-Liz shouts, the double-sided tape working overtime to keep her breasts tucked inside her deep-v-cut dress. I want to be a WRITER. I want to have GLORY and RESPEKT. Pay ATTENSHUN TO THE WOMAN IN FRONT OF THE CURTAIN! (Side note: guilty pleasure #69: intentionally misspelling words. You have no idea how much joy I get from the Chic-Fil-A cows. Guilty pleasure #70: arbitrarily using the number 69.) This kind of vanity, this concern for the sight of others, is perhaps the platonic ideal of a guilty pleasure, in the sense that the more you indulge in it, the less and less pleasurable it becomes. You know, like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with the bewitched Turkish Delight.
“Be free,” Jack concluded. Be free of this oppressive, wasteful vanity. Be generous with your honesty, be open with others. Be free with yourself and of yourself. What more beautiful sentiment by which to live one’s life? So this post is dedicated to my friend Jack, the kind of man who is free enough to sing a cover of “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush at his amazing one-man-band live shows.
But as I said, I realized I have way more of these what I am now going to call “unguilty” pleasures (in tribute to TLC, duh) than I originally listed. And a lot of them involve television.
1. How could I not mention the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Watching any of the Real Housewives franchises cannot possibly be good for you, and I’m really ashamed of how much I love this one. I love it so much that the suicide of one of the cast members after the first season did not in any way stop me from watching the entire second season. I was in fact curious to see how the show would handle the real reality of the suicide on the faux reality of the show. That is fucking sick and slightly reminiscent of the Hunger Games but it’s true and I’m ashamed of it and I do not expect to get any life-highway-honks for admitting it. I would lose myself in these episodes in the same way I would lose myself in Anne of Green Gables books when I was kid. You know what’s a photo negative of Anne of Green Gables? The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Nothing like taking a dip in an ice-cold bath of trash television to make you realize you have fully and thoughtlessly molted the pure, innocent skin of your childhood self. (Side note: I just Googled “molting” to make sure I was using the word correctly and OH EM GEE the time-lapse photo on the Wikipedia page for “molting” redirects to DISGUSTING. Seriously, click on that link.) I’m fascinated by the way in which the women on this show are at once completely un-self-aware and yet completely self-obsessed. Somehow they can’t hear themselves when they speak, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SPEAKING ON TELEVISION, and can thus watch a playback of their every word and action. Shall we do a little self-critiquing, ladies? No? Okay then. I’m spellbound by their materialism, their narcissism and vapidity, their obsession with status. I’m amazed at how their wine parties and beach picnics and whatnot inevitably devolve into historic reenactments of fights that occurred between rival girl cliques in my high school cafeteria. Except nobody’s wearing patent maroon knock-off Vans from Payless. I am enthralled by the way all of their homes look exactly the same. I love to hate their clothes: slouchy “California chic” maxidresses, bodycon minis, bright pops of color, charmeuse and cleavage for days, painfully long chandelier earrings, painfully high gyaru-girl platforms, everything so jacked and tight and swaddled and plumped against gravity and age and the inexorable swiftness of time that behind it all you can see the terror in their eyes, cowering like some kind of small hunted animal under the black spiky hedgerows of their fake eyelashes.
2. Which leads me to my next point: Sex and the City. I LOVE this show, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, even though mostly everyone seems to think I should be. I understand the arguments against it, and even agree with some– the women talk obsessively, almost exclusively, about men; the women are promiscuous to an unhealthy degree; Carrie is a neurotic asshole; Carrie chain smokes; the sexual punnery is cringe-inducing– but I just don’t give a fuck. I love sexual punnery. I love chain-smoking. I’m a neurotic asshole. And let’s face it, ladies: most of what we talk about when we talk with our girlfriends is relationships. The apartments may be highly unrealistic, but the dialogue is decidedly not. I’ve seen every episode about a billion times. It’s what I put on in the background when I’m cleaning the house. (Doesn’t everyone have one those “on in the background while puttering” DVDs? Wait what? You listen to classical music while reading War and Peace while the housekeeper tidies up? You’re like totes a Charlotte.) You know how very devout Christians who regularly read the Bible pepper their speech with applicable quotes from Scripture? Which is what I SHOULD be doing, since I am a Christian, but instead, I do this with lines from Sex and the City. Except since no one I know regularly watches Sex and the City anymore, I am the only person who understands what I am quoting. I mean, you should see what happens when you drop a line like “What’s the big mystery? It’s my clitoris, not the sphinx” into casual conversation.
3. Which brings me to my next next point: the gratuitous sex scenes in Game of Thrones. HBO, thanks for hours and hours of spank-bankable material. You’re better than anime porn.
4. The comments sections of gossip websites. Especially blind item comments. HUGE waste of time. Did you read that newspaper review of the Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota that recently went viral, apparently because its earnest positivity was so refreshing to the millions of bitter, determinedly ironic hipsters trolling website comments sections? The review was written by an eighty-five year old woman named Marilyn Hagerty. In a follow-up interview about why on earth her review had become so widely disseminated, Marilyn was said her daughter had urged her to read some of the Facebook comments on her article. Marilyn was then quoted as saying in response, “I told her I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap.” I want to get that tattooed on my fucking forearm (the tattoo locale du jour of bitter ironic hipster internet commenters) because it should be my life motto. I have fallen the rabbit hole of gossip websites and their comment boards more times than I ever care to say and could have finished my book easily two or three years ago if I had been writing for every moment I had actually been surfin’ the ‘Net. And I know I can get an Amen for that.
5. Bad boys. So cliche to love a “bad boy”, right? What does that term even mean, exactly? When someone says “bad boy”, I think of a Danny Zuko-type: black leather jacket, slick hair, fast car. Which is retro, but not necessarily sexy. (Such things often add up to the Fonz, after all.) If you’ve hung around TCB for some time now, you’ll probably understand that when I say “bad boy” I don’t mean Ryan Gosling as car thief with a heart of gold or Will Smith in a wife beater as a gloriously sexy Miami cop. When I say I love bad boys, I mean simply that I love guys who are dicks. To me. Not guys who hit me, or put me down, or anything so undeniably horrible, but rather guys who take you for granted, who refuse to commit, who don’t call for a week, who make endless jokes at my expense. This is the kind of guy who does all sorts of things that hurt your feelings but you can’t exactly explain why and then when you try to call them on it, they call you “crazy”. In other words, an emotionally withholding circus monkey who takes away your right to stick up for yourself. And I’m not talking about one or two guys I’ve dated. I’m talking about a lifetime of crushes on Hans Solos and Mr. Bigs. (Speaking of Sex and the City, they did an episode about this phenomenon called “La Douleur Exquise”, which phrase has floated up in my mind, on more than one occasion, when I’ve found myself going back for seconds to some guy or another who has hurt me many times in the past. I’m telling you, if I were a frat boy, Sex and the City would be my Old School.) Obviously these mean guys are nice sometimes– just nice enough to get me hooked. The first hit’s always free, kids. But why do I continue to like them so much? Why, as my friend Abigail put it, is it so easy to fall for “the bastard who’s nice only to me”? Why not go for the good guy who’s nice to everyone? Because the bad guy’s niceness feels like some sort of “reward” specially granted to moiself rather than the good guy’s niceness, which is just a given? I mean, I like skee-ball ’cause you win those fun little tickets, but why am I making such gratifications the center of my emotional life? Why why why do I take pleasure in pain? I’m really trying to figure this one out, because I really don’t want to fuck up the rest of my life, you know what I mean? Someone (a someone very, very insightful) recently pointed out to me that the fact that I run screaming in the opposite direction from men who seem genuinely interested in a healthy, loving, committed relationship says one thing and one thing only: clearly, if you are really interested in me, there must be something wrong with YOU, because I am just so not likable. Which is funny, because I could’ve sworn I had a healthy amount of self-respect– I just compared myself to Jennifer Lopez, for Christ’s sake– but it’s how you act, not how you try to explain your actions, that really counts. Just ask the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.