Gupta: Keeping those guilty pleasures in check

By Ragini Grace Gupta

I am not a fan of coffee. When my friends talk about their need for coffee or love for… I am not a fan of coffee. When my friends talk about their need for coffee or love for Starbucks, I proudly think about the fact that I neither like coffee nor am I addicted. Deep down I felt it was good to not need caffeine to wake up in the morning because it was unnatural.

Still, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t like the bitter taste of coffee because it seemed cool to love coffee. Not liking coffee makes it difficult to meet people “for coffee.” Questions like, “Wanna meet for coffee” made me feel socially awkward. When I did end up going for coffee once, I ordered some strange caffeinated creation and didn’t like it. No big surprise. I spent $5 on a 10 oz cup of bitter liquid and only drink one-third. I was not happy. Nor did I give myself the chance to be satisfied by asking for a better, sweeter beverage.

A girl on my dance team really loves Starbucks and after accompanying her on runs a few times, I thought I’d give the whole coffee thing another chance. This time I tried something sweeter and it was one of the best drinks I have ever had the pleasure to experience. Great. Now I officially liked a coffee beverage and I was no longer immune to the coffee craze. There are plenty of things I refuse to try because I know I will like them. Sounds counterintuitive right? I wish I never tried that Frappuccino because it was so sinfully delicious. It has sparse nutritional value, it’s sugary and it’s expensive — in all other dimensions, it’s evil.

In similar fashion to my Starbucks experience, one night I tried a powdered sugar brownie. The verdict: It was delicious. I proceeded to have one brownie for dessert every night for a week. Alternatively, once I tried a cherry Danish at an eatery I frequent and, to my delight, it was horrible. You must be thinking I have some kind of problem to be happy about that, but at least from then on I have had no desire to gorge on those dangerous Danishes. Unfortunately, most desserts taste good upon sampling. If I hadn’t tried that brownie in the first place, I wouldn’t have known it tasted so good and I wouldn’t have wanted it every day for dessert. After the brownie debacle, I refuse to try desserts because I know they’ll taste so good.

Oddly enough, desserts and TV shows have more in common than you might first believe. As soon as I started watching “House M.D.” my addiction was instant. I had heard my classmates talk about “last night’s House” all the time, but it never really interested me. Until one fateful night: I accidentally flipped the channel to an episode of “House” and sadly, I liked it — a lot. I love watching “House” so much I’ll give up precious sleep and study time to watch it. A few weeks ago I wanted to watch something to take a break from work and my neighbor suggested “Glee.” I was genuinely scared to watch it. I knew it was popular, plus I love dance. I had a sinister feeling it would be my demise. So, I didn’t watch it.

Would you say I am a cowardly kook or a disciplined person? Is it good to avoid things that give you joy because you fear you will become enslaved to that joy? But you also have to remember life is about having fun and enjoying yourself, even as we’re immersed in late-night library sessions and endless pages of reading. So how do you reconcile the legitimate need to enjoy life with the natural tendency to overindulge in those things? I try to rationalize it by thinking I have a finite capacity to like something. If I consciously like one flavor of coffee or a certain TV show, I recognize a deeper desire to be able to enjoy these things for a long time. Therefore, I can’t partake in these things too much or too often because I’ll stop enjoying them.

But how do you know what’s too much or too often? The easiest way I’ve found is to sacrifice something and later overindulge. I ate that brownie everyday for a week and it still tasted good, but after the second week it didn’t taste all that great. The conclusion: Don’t shy away from the things that make you happy. But at the same time, do yourself a favor and control yourself so you can continue to enjoy the things you love. It’s a win-win enjoying the little things while avoiding overkill.

E-mail Ragini at [email protected]