I took an Uber. The driver was listening to Gwen Stefani. After a minute or two he said, "I should probably change that," and switched to a classical station.
One second he was nodding his head and tapping the steering wheel while we learned to spell "bananas." The next he sat still as we listened to a Russian chamber piece that was way over my head.
I decided to ask. "Do you enjoy classical music?" I said.
He thought for a minute. Then he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "Not really," he said. "But I figure that's what people think I should listen to."
For him, that made Gwen Stefani a guilty pleasure: Something "that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard."
But why would you ever change your behavior -- like listening to something you don't really enjoy -- just because of what other people might think? Is it uncool to admit you love pop music instead of, say, Radiohead? Or that you love the Lee Childs Jack Reacher series instead of books by John Irving or Toni Morrison?
There's nothing wrong with enjoying engrossing, well-written thrillers that happen to be considered "mass market."
And there's nothing wrong with being "uncool."
I would rather watch any South Park episode -- even those I've seen multiple times, like Casa Bonita or Ginger Kids or Scott Tenorman Must Die or Best Friends Forever -- over basically anything on Masterpiece Theater.
And while I probably should like Bon Iver or Wilco... I prefer bands like UFO, Rush, and least highbrow of all, early Kiss (in spite of the fact Gene Simmons accused me of creating fake news about his 10-CD box set, The Vault.)
And while I should like kale and wheat grass and an all-veggies-all-the-time lifestyle, I love ice cream. How much ice cream I choose to eat is the issue, not the fact I enjoy it. I can't control preference but I can control consumption.
I like what I like.
You like what you like. And they aren't guilty pleasures.
What you enjoy has no bearing on your level of intelligence, or sophistication, or education. You're in no way diminished because you enjoy the occasional mass market thriller. Or pop song. Or reality show. Or whatever it is you like... but aren't particularly proud to admit.
Life is too short to spend doing, or watching, or reading, or listening to things you think you're supposed to like. Life is definitely too short to spend time driving a certain car, or wearing certain clothes, or living in a certain a house, or the countless other things we do based largely on how we think it will make others perceive us.
The only time you should feel guilty is when you make a choice based solely on the reflection you think you will see in other people's eyes -- especially people you don't even know.
Then you should feel guilty.
Because that's when you've cheated yourself.