When I moved from New York to Vancouver two summers ago for an internship at The Province I had just gotten out of a five-year relationship.
He headed one way across the country and I headed the other. The break up had been the emotional equivalent of slowly pulling off a band-aid, so I wasn't in a state of shock, but rather consumed by numbness. I moved into a subletted, dingy, top-floor suite in a house in East Van that was advertised as "partially furnished" which added up to some cutlery, an office chair and a closet full of hangers.
I knew I wouldn't be there for more than a few months, so I arranged to buy a mattress from IKEA that the next tenants agreed to purchase from me. There was no point in a bedframe, I reasoned, since I had no guarantee these strangers would actually pony up when I left. The result: I lived, broken hearted, in what looked like a heroin den for the entire summer.
Besides some great friends and good whiskey, what got me through it was the comfort of going home, laying on my mattress on the floor and binge-watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother until I fell asleep.
All I wanted to do was look at images of New York and watch people (roughly) my age navigate the city, dating and 20-something troubles while a laugh track told me when I should open my mouth and make noises that conveyed something funny had just happened.
This is not a TV show I would've typically watched. (A friend, actually one of the smartest people I know, once told me that I reminded him of the rough-around-the-edges journalist character, which sparked my curiosity.) Until now, I have only admitted to two people that I watch it.
It is a guilty pleasure: something I do not want people to know I enjoy because I don't want it inform their perception of me. In my mind, I suppose, it dilutes my more high-minded or obscure interests. I don't want to be mainstream and laughtrack; I want to be smart and critically acclaimed. I want to be 30 Rock, scrappy garage rock, Wes Anderson films.
Most of us have guilty pleasures that we keep secret, whether it's cheesy TV reality shows, bad rom coms or pop music we know is terrible, but love anyway. And with websites like Netflix (for TV and movies) and Rdio (for music) that either force or invite us to share our streaming habits on social media, it's getting harder and harder to keep a secret.
So, maybe it's time to stop hiding. After all, my relationship with How I Met Your Mother might be kind of depressing, but it's part of my history, my story. What makes it any less valid a "like" than, say, House of Cards? I consumed both rapidly and enthusiastically, but I felt better admitting to one over the other even though both probably turned my brain to mush at the same pace.
The same way thriving in both the city and the country can make you well-rounded, maybe admitting to liking high and low-brow entertainment can actually make you a better person: more relatable, diverse and non-judgmental. By so carefully (though often subconsciously) trying to shape our image we're closing ourselves off to connecting with people who might seem different from us, but really aren't.
In an effort to practice what I preach I'm coming out of the guilty pleasure's closet. Here are some of the other things I enjoy, but don't want anyone else to know about: I like to sing fun.'s "Some Nights" in the shower. (I think I know every word, besides the overwrought bit in the middle where the singer talks the lyrics.) A friend and I used to sneak beer into a movie theatre in Manhattan and watch terrible movies, including The Vow, starring Channing Tatum. In the summer, I really like to sit on the beach and read trashy celebrity magazines. Actually, I don't even read them. I just look at the pictures.
And, finally, when at long last, Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother meets the women who will give birth to his children I will probably weep with joy for my secret, fictional pal.