Dear Alicia Dearn,
I hate the phrase, “guilty pleasure.”
My hatred of this phrase started a few years ago when, in my mid-thirties, I went through a bit of a Britney Spears phase.
Prior to this, my musical tastes were respectable for a woman of my vintage and background: classic rock, 90s alternative rock, and opera. (I really do love opera, because I’m sophisticated.)
What kind of self-respecting opera lover also listens to Britney Spears?
Me. I do.
And it got worse from there. Soon, I was listening to all kinds of pop music. gasp!
I hid this, naturally. I snuck listens alone on my headphones like some kind of junkie.
I called it my “guilty pleasure.”
One day, my husband caught me. He teased me mercilessly.
And I got defiant. Why can’t I like listening to Britney Spears? Millions of people enjoy her music. Tens of millions.
More importantly, as a fully-formed adult, who was I trying to impress? Why can’t I just like what I like? Who are these taste police that I’m so afraid of?
Then and there, I decided: I don’t have guilty pleasures. I just have pleasures. Screw anyone who judges me for liking what I like. I’m not going to deny myself happiness out of fear of some random person’s shallow disapproval.
That’s also how I feel about reading, writing, and watching love stories. Why should anyone be shamed for enjoying love stories (whether it’s romance novels, “women’s” literature—even though men also fall in love and have relationships—or Bridgerton on Netflix)?
By the way, everyone’s doing it.
Romance novels outsell any other genre of book—fiction or non-fiction—by twice as many sales as the next most popular genre (suspense). Rom-com movies and shows like Bridgerton and prime time dramas all routinely do very well.
We all like love stories. Because, after all, your relationships, your family, your love, your sex life, your children—they are the main quest in life. Love isn’t a side quest.
You don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying stories on the one topic that universally matters to people.
I’m no longer feel guilty. I’m not ashamed. My name is Amelia Elliot (ok, that’s my pen name, but that’s not because of shame), and I love to read and write romance novels.