Monday, August 15, 2011

What's Your Guilty Pleasure?

The other day, I was searching for a piece of writing I’d done a while ago. This is usually an easy task, because I’m meticulous about organizing my electronic files. I utilize folders and subfolders religiously, and have each piece of writing filed not only by subject matter, but by title and draft number. So it’s usually pretty easy to find files.
But then I noticed a folder I’d created a while back called “other writing.” I honestly had no idea what I had tucked into this folder, so I clicked it open. In it, I found several projects from an undergrad public relations writing class I took about ten years ago, and a file I titled “momlit.”
Oh, yes. My attempt at a chick lit novel.
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with it, the “chick lit” genre became popular within the last ten years or so, and incorporates the many aspects of modern womanhood. They tend to be lighthearted and humorous, and often feature career and/or relationship entanglements that get their heroines into marvelous scrapes reminiscent of a good romantic comedy. Think Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones books, Sophie Kinsella's Shopoholic series, or the Emily Giffin Something Borrowed series. They tend to be wildly popular, and yet are generally frowned upon by the literary community as commercial, sub-par fluff. A guilty pleasure, if you will.
 A subgenre of chick lit, “mommy lit,” takes a similar lighthearted look into the unlikely antics of young moms. This is what I had started in my file, “momlit.” I started working out a storyline for this book back when my 7-year-old was still attending Gymboree and my world was all about new-mommyhood.
When I peeked at the file this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by my own diligence. As a compulsive planner and thought-organizer, I had not only sketched out the overall idea of the book, but had created a sixteen-page chapter-by-chapter outline that explored character motivations and followed the progression of various subplots. Yea, me! Why had I put aside a project on which I had already spent so much time?
And then I remembered – grad school. Once I started grad school, I not only increased my writing workload, but I also became more critical of the writing I produced. MFA students, after all, don’t write chick lit.
But why not? I enjoy reading it. In fact, when I allow myself to read it, I devour it at about twice the rate as the healthy “literary” stuff. It’s like drinking Shamrock Shakes at McDonald’s every March. I know they’re filled with all sorts of artificial ingredients, calories and fat, and yet when they come back each spring, I consume as many as possible. They make me happy, like a guilty pleasure should.
Why are we embarrassed by our guilty pleasures? Why can’t a grown woman admit to enjoying a Shamrock Shake? Or a vampire romance? Or watching people eat toilet paper on reality TV? And why shouldn’t a perfectly respectable MFA student write a humorous novel about the wacky, tumultuous life of a new mom? I say there’s no shame in guilty pleasures. We should slurp them down with our heads held high.
So what’s your guilty pleasure? Shout it out and own it. Then, you have my permission to go indulge.

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