I like trash and that’s OK.
Not the dinner leftovers and scraps of paper you throw into the garbage can, but the trashiest examples of popular culture. The things we sometimes call our “guilty pleasures.”
“Gossip Girl?” I’m addicted. “Twilight” movies? I’ll marathon them. Taylor Swift? I’ve got “1989” on repeat and know every single lyric to every single song. Celebrity gossip? Can’t get enough. Cheesy romance fiction books? Love ‘em.
I also love reading news from The New York Times, watching college football and basketball, keeping up with politics and listening to history podcasts. I love binge-watching a TV series, letting myself get drawn in by the stories and characters. I love getting to the point where I’m feeling real emotions for the characters. It’s an outlet that allows me to relax and not have to actively think. It’s nice. I need these kinds of outlets more and more, especially with current events and the world, y’know, going up in flames all around us.
I think it’s not only OK to like trashy things, but it’s vital to maintaining some sort of mental and emotional balance in your life. Escapism is necessary and healthy. Balance is crucial and healthy. I’m a journalist and photographer and I’m currently spending much of my free time studying for the LSAT. I’m fascinated by history and the relationship between the Constitution and law. I really enjoy learning about military history and am also currently reading a collection of reports, letters, news articles and first-person journal entries and accounts from Americans during the first World War. I spend a lot of time enjoying and pursuing “serious” things and I need to balance that with spending some time enjoying and relaxing with trash things, too.
Some people call this “work/life balance.” I just call it life balance, because it applies to work, school, organization memberships, family and relationships. You can’t just let yourself get bogged down with all the serious things in your life without giving yourself some sort of outlet. Hobbies – especially creative ones – are great for this, but sometimes they’re not enough. You don’t have to be productive with your outlets and they don’t need to have a “point.” You don’t have to share these outlets with anyone else. You just need to do whatever you need to stay grounded and stay sane.
And you know what else? Sometimes the trashy things you like have problematic issues and maybe you have some parts you don’t like or agree with. Sometimes when I watch shows from before the turn of this last century, the storyline, characters or dialogue are less-than-sensitive or downright offensive. And while that’s not OK, it’s still OK to enjoy the overall product as long as you’re cognizant of the era it was produced in and what’s recognized as acceptable today.
Last week, when our Queen Beyoncé made the wonderful announcement that she’s expecting twins, I saw meme after meme after meme all saying something along the lines of, “Don’t let Beyoncé’s twins distract you from [insert whatever most recent horrible thing King Cheeto has done to destroy the world].”
If horrible, tragic, angering and disheartening things are going to keep happening almost hourly, I’m going to need a distraction. So will you. It’s vital to our mental health. Definitely don’t forget or ignore the great injustices or tragedies of the world, but distract yourself and escape whenever you need it. You’re going to need to take breaks if you’re going to keep yourself from succumbing to the darkness.
I like to see myself as a pessimistic optimist. My default setting has always been to look on the bright side and to expect the best. But I’m also reasonable and realistic and am able to see and understand the down side and the worst pretty quickly. I need distractions. I need to “treat myself” even when I haven’t necessarily done anything above and beyond to earn it. I deserve it anyway.
So when the new “Fifty Shades” movie comes out this week, or when the new season of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” starts, or the next time you want to read a trashy paperback novel or listen to trash EDM like the Chainsmokers and get some time away from the world, do it. Life is hard and stressful. Being an adult is hard and stressful. Bills suck, the current political climate sucks, illness sucks.
Treat yo’self. With trash. You deserve it.