Last week I confessed my ongoing love of the Three Stooges. It's the definition of “guilty pleasure.” The dictionary calls it “something that one enjoys, but would be embarrassed by if other people found out.” It might be a childhood habit, a TV show, or some type of food. In other words, something that might be viewed as juvenile by one's friends or family.
Soon after my Stooge story was published, the letters and e-mails started flowing. It turns out I'm not the only seasoned citizen who harbors a secret love, the kind you don't go around bragging about. Here are some of the most candid confessions. The names are omitted to protect the guilty.
Age-inappropriate foods dominate our lists: Lucky Charms, Sugar Smacks, Smurfberry Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Frosted Flakes right out of the box (with no milk), and my own guilty pleasure, Cap'n Crunch. Yes, I know it will rip up the roof of the mouth if you don't let it get soft enough, but who has that kind of patience? Besides, how bad can Cap'n Crunch be for you? He's in the military.
Some of us still raid the candy counter. Many of my correspondents are in their fifth or sixth decade of consuming candy corn, animal crackers, and those politically-incorrect, hard to find candy cigarettes.
I still enjoy a pop tart now and then, but to my credit, I eat the healthy kind: unfrosted strawberry. Cue my wife, saying, “So, THAT'S your idea of healthy.” Well, it's not sugar-coated, for what that's worth. (And according to the nutrition facts, not very much).
For many of us, a trip to a ball game is not complete without corn dogs, concession stand nachos, and chocolate dipped ice cream cones. I actually had a McDonald's soft serve cone that day their machine was working, back in 2007.
Despite my rural Alabama upbringing, I never latched on to a legendary guilty pleasure: peanuts poured into a bottle of RC Cola. But many of you enjoy that southern delicacy to this day. I do still love Nehi Grape. Thank you Cracker Barrel, for making America Nehi again.
Peanut butter is a major foundation of my food pyramid. The crunchier, the better. In this, I am definitely not alone. My friends eat it with a spoon, right out of the jar. Or they make a big ol' sloppy PB & J white bread sandwich, with the jelly dripping onto your shirt.
Some of us still enjoy cheeseburgers, long after our doctors told us to stop. My love for one tiny square burger even inspired me to invent a word: “Cheestal.” What's cheestal, you ask? Simple. When you order a Krystal cheeseburger, it is served in an equally tiny cardboard carton. More often than not, there's a little dollop of melted cheese stuck to the bottom of that carton. It's the best part of the meal. Even though those slices of cheese are the exact same size, if there isn't a fingertip-sized glob of cheestal at the bottom, I feel cheated.
A surprising number of my “mature” friends still love Mountain Dew. If you've ever seen the after-effects of Mountain Dew on a 7-year-old, you can only imagine what it does to the heart of a grandparent. It's been known to make pacemaker engines knock like a '72 Pinto.
But evidently, we're going to live forever, because look what we are having for dessert. Chocolate-covered, cream filled doughnuts, Hot Fudge Cake from Shoney's, Swiss Cake Rolls, and Reddi-Wip straight from the can. When you look on the package for the calorie count, it should read, “If you have to ask, why are you eating this?” It doesn't bother me. I wash it down with Diet Coke. You know, to cancel out the calories.
Some things, we never outgrow: gulping down a Pepsi for breakfast, drinking water straight out of the hose pipe, eating convenience store hot dogs, and visiting Cici’s Pizza buffet. It's all you can eat for about six bucks. I go there for a pizza feast, and for the next 24 hours I’m in critical, but stable condition.
An early-morning guilty pleasure is Hardee's. As one friend said, “Their gravy is the secret to a long life. Look around Hardee's during the breakfast rush. Sometimes I'm the only one there whose age is still in double digits. I think that gravy holds your innards together.”
As for TV, we're still hooked on “Saved By The Bell,” “The Price is Right,” “Full House,” and Foghorn Leghorn cartoons (“Pay attention, boy!”)
But not all guilty pleasures are memories from childhood. They're still making new ones today. For example, HGTV. I like to watch them rebuild a house on a $200 budget. This is known as “reality” television.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm craving a mayonnaise sandwich.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405.