Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tacky Pleasures!

In preparation for Lent or in observance of Valentine's Day, I notice the popular press having fun with Guilty Pleasures.  "What's Yours?"  scream the blurbs.  "Jen's Secret Temptations!" squalls the cover of some magazine.  One read is all that is necessary.  These articles are going to talk about how we will overlook budget constraints, diets, and rational thinking when it comes to our favorite pricey indulgences.  Examples are easy to come by--designer chocolate, fancy-label jeans, shoes that will match one outfit, flying first class, and $6.00 lattes.  These guilty pleasures are not my concern.

I'm interested in the OTHER pleasures we don't talk about much and that the popular press most surely ignores.  These are tacky pleasures.  They differ in many ways from the more sought-after guilty pleasures mentioned above.  They are cheap.  They are common.  They are strangely ill-suited to the persons who own them.

In order to write about the tacky pleasure phenomenon, I first had to research it.  This was a two-step process.  First, I had to look up tacky in the dictionary.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary, tacky  is an adjective which means "lacking style or good taste.  tawdry.  distasteful or offensive; flimsy, rundown or in poor repair."  Here's the kicker:  The term derives from tackey, an inferior horse.

Step two was for me to canvas the riders of the inferior horse.  To put it bluntly, I went around asking people what their tacky pleasure was. (Such a tacky thing to do!)  The list of their responses was as varied as their personalities.  I should interject here that some folks could not come up with a tacky pleasure.  They seemed genuinely apologetic about it, and they wanted to cooperate.  For example, the supervisor of my workplace, who is just not tacky in any way, could only come up with her weekly Sunday smoothie, which, it turns out, is an extravagant little treat.  Alas, I informed her, that is just a guilty pleasure, nothing tacky about it.  She seemed a bit disappointed, and she promised to think it over and let me know "in the morning" about her tacky pleasure.  I have yet to hear from her.  The lady isn't tacky.

Those of us who do have a streak of tacky ( and we are the 99%) don't have to think about it much to come up with an answer,  Oh sure, there were a couple--both teachers, coincidentally--whose hesitation really alarmed me, as I had so hoped their tacky pleasures would be revealing.  Both of them, however, came through, identifying pleasures so deliciously tacky that I was nearly envious.

So I present a sampling of my favorite tacky pleasures, offered up by a group of people who are generally not tacky.  If I save some reader from being racked with guilt about his/her tackiness, I shall not have labored in vain.  Except that tacky folks won't care anyway.

Chosen by a lady who is my friend, confidante and go-to when I need HELP is a particular shopping experience.  Not the Galleria.  Not Kohl's.  Not even Wal-Mart.  My buddy loves her shopping trips to Dollar General!  Not only Dollar General, but a specific, "nice, new" Dollar General in a nearby neighborhood. She goes out of her way to shop this particular store.   I suspect she and her daughter have already planned their summer wardrobes around what is soon to be the sale rack.

An associate of mine, an able paraeducator in a challenging alternative school setting, seems to go beyond the necessary in service to community activities for kids.  She sponsors Scouts, keeps the nursery in her church, and boosts the high school band.  I would expect her tacky pleasure to not involve kids in any way, since she certainly deserves a break.  But no, when this world-class chaperone winds down, she turns to the tackiness of Smurfs.  That's right, the little blue midgets with boring wardrobes and shallow dialogue.  She puts in a Smurfs video on purpose and watches.  She simply shrugs.  "They help me unwind," she says, "and I think they're funny."

This was an admittedly gender-biased survey, but I did ask one guy (a football and baseball coaching, hunting, fishing kind of guy) about his tacky pleasure.  There was no hesitation from this fellow, and I believe it was with a great deal of pride that he replied, "My Christmas lights!"  Moving right along . . .

 . . . to my sisters.  One lives in Alaska, so I had to text her with my query.  Her text came back in less than 30 seconds.  I am pleased that tackiness does not stop at the Mason-Dixon line.  Her tacky pleasure in the frozen North?  Marshmallow cream!  Yep. The gooey, sickening sweet nonfood that as far as I know is only used in Fantasy Fudge.  (Because we have to fantasize to believe that recipe actually does make fudge.  But I digress.)  "Get me a jar of marshmallow cream," read her text, "and I am good to go."

My other sister, a resident of Georgia, and only slightly less tacky than her Alaskan counterpart, shared her 3-way tie.  I suppose that means she has so many tacky pleasures that she had to take the top 3.  In order, then:  She loves being the Queen of her Red Hat group, watching Alton Brown "for hours" and topping it all off, buying yard gnomes for her son, my policeman nephew.  She admitted that she bought him his first one as a tongue-in-cheek housewarming gift.  Now, she buys the poor guy a new gnome for every holiday.  At the time of our interview, she had already purchased his Valentine Gnome.

I mentioned a couple of teachers above, and they both had to think a little while before they came up with anything.  But I must admit, they have both pegged the tackymeter with their choices.  The first teaches English, which makes this tacky pleasure all the more admirable.  This beautifully educated, articulate and witty lady likes (and buys!) supermarket tabloids.  She probably owns the one I only glanced at, and she could tell us every one of Jen's Secret Temptations!  The other is actually retired from teaching--she was a professor of communication at a university that I will not name out of kindness to the institution.  The former prof is elegant in every way.  She is tasteful, gracious, and a master gardener.  So get ready--She likes Moon Pies, the "big, fat, chocolate ones."   She will even eat boiled peanuts, slimy though they be. I guess she was mortified to have to utter the truth.  At any rate, she ratted out her equally elegant, articulate, and educated husband.  He likes Stadium Dogs.  "No telling what they put in those things," she worries.  May this couple rest in peace after they die of hot dogs and squishy marshmallow sandwiches.

Odd how things with marshmallow keep cropping up . . .

Confession, they say, is good for the soul, but I admit, I have been putting this off.  I am no less tacky than my Dollar General-shopping, gnome-buying, marshmallow cream-eating, tabloid-reading companions.  It's just that my tacky pleasure doesn't match any of the things my profile says I am.  This proud Navy mom who just became a proud Army mom is also decently educated, a member of a professional organization, and I even studied art history one time.  So how can I confess this without blowing my self-image wide open?  Here goes.

I like Thomas Kinkade.  No, no, I don't collect the cookie jars or the lighted tapestries.  I just like looking at those impossibly lit-up, cozy, thatch-roofed cottages situated by stone bridges arching across babbling brooks.  I was at the local Slapout flea market one Saturday before it closed, and I was elated to find, for a mere $5.00,  a framed 199something Christmas print.  It showed a snowy village Main St., a hansom cab drawn by a horse (probably a tackey), light pouring from shop windows into the lavender dusk, and glowing gas lamps.  No disparagement meant to the artist's effort or success, but I don't do sentimental, and I can't stand contrived collectors' items.  Yet, those romantic cottages, the gardens just wild with hollyhocks, the glow from every window that says, "Come home."  It would make me weep if it weren't so tacky.

So there we have it . . . the tackiness of a dozen or so otherwise rational people poured onto a page that will be read by maybe another dozen or so who have their tacky pleasures, too.  Maybe we can get together with a jar of marshmallow cream and laugh about it.  I will be by the fire . . . in my cottage . . . .by the bridge. . . .over the babbling brook.