There are some women for whom guilty pleasures are the stuff of novels. These are the women who arrange to meet a man for a headlong gallop that ends in a breathless embrace on a carpet of grass in a forgotten glade. There are those, for whom a guilty pleasure is a couturie re gown whose cost is hidden in the stable and breeding farms accounts.
And, at last count, there was a handful of women for whom a guilty pleasure is spending February on a yacht circling the Mediterranean with no one on board but a gypsy violinist, a French chef, a Swedish masseur and him.
The rest of us make do.
My guilty pleasures are less expensive, but often no less complicated in the bringing off. Here's a sampling:
Eating standing up. Eating in front of the television. Eating at a fast food place. Eating on the floor of the living room while reading the latest copy of Vogue. Eating pinches off a sandwich while talking to a friend on the phone. You will recognize these ways of eating. They are done by a wife whose husband is out of town.
All right. There's more to eating in the guilty pleasures department: Chee-tos with Pepsi, Italian submarines with wine, pistachio candy bars, cold quiche at 10 p.m., cold quiche for breakfast.
The phone. Calls to friends who live about $32.75 away. Calling the very split moment I want to talk, even if it's before 5 p.m. Actually, about this pleasure I feel more outrage than guilt. Just why is it that I have to pay for talking? Why not pay for air? For sunlight? For moonbeams on frosty nights?
Being just contagious enough to be excused from a P-TA meeting, but not too sick to enjoy a new Gregory McDonald with "La Traviata" on the record player.
Sunbathing in the backyard in a swimming suit so as to be lean and bronze by the party next Saturday, willingly forfeiting a perfect skin in my fifties.
Manipulating my kids' social life so that they get invited to sleep-overs the same night, leaving my husband and me alone in possession of the house, the night and the record player.
Chopping up the ice on the front sidewalk during spring thaws in such a way as to make a narrow channel to carry away all the water and putting small sticks and bits of things at one end of my yard and watching them float along to the end of my domain, occasionally helping them along if they get stuck. If a neighbor should ask why I bother chopping when it will all melt away in a day or two, I would rather die than admit it was fun.
Feeding squirrels. There are those in this world for whom excitement in its totality resides in a glimpse of the feathered bodies of obscure birds. To such persons, the feeding of squirrels is an offense, the encouragement of vulgar gluttons who only frighten off the darlings of nature that $85 feeders and $93 diets of lingonberry seeds might just attract. I would feel less guilt if at parties my spouse weren't constantly downcast by his host's winter tallies of least bitterns and Bell's vireos.
Being in my bathrobe beyond lunch. Watching television before nightfall. Having my first glass of wine before dinner. Having dinner at 4. Giving the dog her nightly walk at 6:30. Going to bed at 9 on the dot. You will recognize these behaviors. They are also done by a wife whose husband is out of town.
Pretending to admire Sherrill Milnes exclusively for his singing. John Cleese only for his humor. Alan Bates just for his acting.
Watching "I Love Lucy" reruns with my son for a little togetherness with a growing child and giggling and tittering just for good fellowship, laughing because he laughs and falling off my chair just because I like to show him I'm a good sport.
Dressing up my dog for Halloween. Arguing with various members of my family that dogs don't have such concepts as dignity, invoking Descartes when the going gets rough, in French, that isn't Descartes at all but a few lines of the "Marseilles" said really fast. And feeling all the while like a cool Gallic intellectual.
Going into my kids' rooms at night just to see if they really did clean them, to be sure the light from the streetlights isn't too bright, to find if there are any drafts or if their covers have fallen off and then just incidentally standing still and watching my children sleep.
Taking the first bath in the newly cleaned tub.
Having a sundae at my favorite ice cream parlor alone with my husband, having invited my children with a cheery, "Hey, want to go antiquing with us?"
Eating two artichoke hearts all by myself before adding the rest to the salad. Ditto with strawberries for the shortcake and fried onion rings for the casserole.
Knowing I'm going to have a wonderful Christmas because I peeked at my presents in advance, just to be sure.
Intimating to my best friend that my kids love my jokes, compliment my cooking and consult me about their social life.
Intimating to my kids that my best friend's kids love her jokes, compliment her cooking and consult her about their social lives.
Arranging parties for Friday nights, and gosh darn, that means you kids won't be able to watch "Dukes of Hazzard," doesn't it.
Planting a kiss on the unguarded neck of my teen-ager while he's leaning over to reach for a cup on the sink. Slipping my arm around my preteen-ager while he's on the phone and can't get away. Sneaking a quick pat on the head of the kid who's almost as tall as me before the head ducks out of reach.
What guilty pleasures could possibly compare with these?Linda Robinson Walker is a free-lance writer.