It seems obvious: you should indulge in things that give you pleasure and make you happy.
It’s not that simple.
Here, let me give you some examples, torn from the pages of Claire LaZebnik’s misspent life:
1. Women’s magazines. Every few years, I vow to eradicate women’s fashion and health magazines from my universe. I let subscriptions lapse, toss old copies, turn away from the shelves in the supermarket . . . and then gradually, bit by bit, they creep back into my life. (Curse you, Amazon, and your cheap five-dollar a year subscriptions!)
These magazines promote an unrealistic beauty ideal that goes out of its way to make us real women feel fat, ugly, and wrinkled. They’re incredibly repetitive: hand me a November issue of almost any magazine and I can tell you the (Thanksgiving-related) articles that are going to appear in it. And they’re cruelly contradictory, offering you diet advice on one page and chocolate bundt cake recipes on the next. And yet nothing is more enjoyable for me to grab and glance through when I’m throwing the ball for the dog. It’s junk food reading: it goes down easily, it’s enjoyable, and you feel vaguely disgusted with yourself when you’re done. And speaking of junk food:
2. Potato chips. Oh, how I love you, potato chips. Every afternoon finds my hand poking through the perfect-sized hole I’ve made in the corner of your package, guiltily emerging with a couple of salty, greasy, crunchy delights. Nothing goes better with a glass of wine or scotch or diet Coke. Nothing. Who cares that articles about being healthful all say potato chips are probably the WORSE thing in the world you can eat? I do. I care. But I eat you, anyway. Potato chips, how I hate you, you insidious little buggers. Don’t ever leave me.
3. Facebook. I loathe Facebook. I think it’s a horrible time suck and has done as much to destroy my self-esteem and confidence as my teen years. Every time I read about how some other author has hit the bestseller list or some friend’s kid has done something incredible or a bunch of people I know got together without me, I die a little bit. And yet I keep Facebook open constantly on my computer. Why? Sometimes people say funny things. Sometimes I say funny things. Sometimes a fan writes in about one of my books. Sometimes I get i.m.’ed by one of my kids from an adjoining room. You know how science has shown us that intermittent reinforcements are more seductive than consistent ones? Yeah. I think that’s what it is: it sucks most of the time, but it’s great a little bit of the time. I wish I could quit. I can’t quit.
4. Say Yes to the Dress. The best worst show on TV. There’s nothing redeemable about it. Horrible rich people place way too much emphasis on what to wear to a wedding and way too little emphasis on stuff like being kind to one another. Women just try on wedding dresses and eventually settle on one that costs twelve thousand dollars, money that could actually make a different in a local school or homeless shelter. The show’s values are horrible, as are the people who appear on it. But did I mention that women try on wedding dresses? Lots of them? I never get tired of it. Never.
5. Shopping. I love going to thrift stores, especially with my 18-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. We can spend hours in a good one, searching through the clothes for designer pieces other people discarded and making stacks of old vinyl albums and books to bring back home. Sure, the individual pieces are cheap and at least we’re recycling AND giving money to a good cause, but still, I feel a little dirty when we’re done–and it’s not just from the dust. The truth is we don’t need anything. In fact, our house is already too cluttered. We should be getting rid of stuff, not buying more. The other morning, I woke up and thought, I have to do something useful with the kids today–go for a hike maybe, or clean up the house–anything but go shopping. We ended up at a thrift store. I hate myself. But I love the shirt I found for my husband (J. Crew, six bucks).
I could go on, but I’m much more interested in whether you have things in your life that you love/hate like me. Please write in if you do–I’ll still feel disgusted with myself, but at least I won’t feel so alone . . .