Reading Lives: How Pleasure Works

Yale psychology professor, Paul Bloom, looks at pleasure in How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like (BF515.B56.2010).Bloom looks at biological, evolutionary, and sociological correlates of what we consider pleasurable. He even shows evidence that other animals find celebrity worship and pornography pleasurable.

Our question this week: What is your guilty pleasure and why?

Colette: I take most of my pleasures without guilt, so I only have a few which bring shame, and they’re mostly TV related.  The guilt comes from knowing I shouldn’t like a show,  knowing I am supposed to be too smart and too evolved for the show I’m watching.   It’s easier to put on blinders and pretend that the other viewers aren’t really my people, but secretly I know they are.  They must be if we’re both watching, and worse, enjoying, the same absurdity each week.  With my head hanging low, I admit that I like to watch both Hoarders and Swamp People.  I even press the pause button during Hoarders to fully take in that gross, hot mess.  “Holy pig sty Batman.  Did you see that nasty kitchen?”  It’s like visually gagging, or virtually poking something with a stick.  What does it say about me that I like that show?  I hate to think on it too long.  I’d rather you didn’t think too long on it either.  I’m equally baffled at my attraction to Swamp People, except that, perhaps, in an alternate reality, I have one tooth, a giant boiling pot and I like men who are both simple and smelly.  The heart wants what the heart wants, right?

Emily: My guilty pleasure is reality TV. Namely, The Bachelor/Bachelorette although we dabble in The Amazing Race, any number of Gordon Ramsey’s shows, and Celebrity Apprentice. Eric and I have been watching The Bachelor religiously for the past three years. As the season progresses, things get increasingly boring, drama dies down, “love” blossoms,” and we start spending much of the show surfing the internet — in short, fewer girls equals less drama. (Did you think we were watching it for romance?) Regardless, we watch it right down to the “After the Final Rose” special. So why is this is a guilty pleasure? I’m not ashamed that I watch it, but I suppose it’s a “guilty pleasure” because it claims no redeeming cultural value. And when I do admit to watching, it often elicits a disdainful, “Really?” But when you think about it,  aren’t shows like Downton Abbey and Homeland (fans of both) just as far fetched and crazy? Or am I just trying to rationalize my guilty pleasure?

Pam: I have several guilty pleasures, but perhaps the biggest one lately is watching old Carol Burnett shows – which I purchased for my Christmas present from my mom, in a collection of dvds called “Carol’s Favorites”. I have laughed and cackled (and cried), for I’ve reconnected with a favorite from my past, someone whom I somehow identify with and admire greatly. She has an uncanny, unprecedented ability to connect to the audience in a warm and friendly manner, be quick-witted and sarcastic and always, Always kind. Too, at this age of my life I am seeing different layers of these actors, layers I did not even know existed when I was younger. I’m able to appreciate them in a way- coming from a past of having performed to an audience myself, and the respect I feel for them is overwhelming.

Going hand in hand with this, is reconnecting to bands from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on Youtube. In viewing country, bluegrass and rock artists, I cannot believe how mesmerized I feel. It is as though, for the very first time since I was a kid, I am feeling the same happiness they brought me as a child, and at the same time, I’m seeing them through a non-judgmental lens–just totally appreciating what and who they were. I’m watching them in a disconnected way and seeing them as very human rather than just as artists. I don’t know what has brought about this tenderness in my observation, but it is touching me very deeply. I feel as though I am seeing what I think everyone else always liked in them, from a wiser, older perspective, rather than just ‘learning’ from them. Perhaps it is that I am looking back at them from eyes older than the ones singing to me from the screen! They are younger than me, the observer, now, and it is fascinating, and somehow very touching. It has brought me new enthusiasm with my own music, and I feel compelled to be more courageous than I’ve been in a very long time. I’m even thinking of starting a new band–all men, of course, and calling us Pam Gadd and Men ‘O Pause 🙂  Whatta you think?

Sally: My guilty pleasure, I guess, is that I love hot dogs.   Since they are not super nutritious I suppose I  should not eat them all the time.  I actually do not eat them for every meal but I would if I could.

Jolly Librarian: I enjoy candy that is clearly supposed to be eaten only from the ages of 5-10. I like Sweetarts, Smarties, and Pixy Stix, the last being the most embarrassing since there is no way that you can hide the fact that you’re pouring colored sugar into your mouth. I have been known to pretend to have children when sales clerk cast a glance at the giant bags of Pixy Stix and Smarties in my basket during Halloween season. Now, I have only done this when the clerk makes a comment, like holding the 2-pound bag of Pixy Stix and saying, “I remember these. We used these to play cocaine when I was a kid.” Strangely enough, not even that encounter has put me off them. Unfortunately, I don’t eat as much as I used to for two reasons: 1. The decades of eating acidic candy have made my teeth so sensitive that my hygienist despairs every time I walk into the dental office. 2. Like all companies, the makers played around with a good thing and added a fruit punch flavor, which I find disgusting.

Advertisements

One thought on “Reading Lives: How Pleasure Works

  1. I laughed out loud several times during this, as I did when I read Howard Doty’s last email, the best line of which was: “I had to go in and name my third grade teacher three times to establish a new name and passcode before it would show me whether I ate enough vegetables or not.” That’s irrelevant, but still.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s