Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Why Is Being Bad More Seductive Than Being Good?

Why do we prize the illicit as delicious?

Why is the lure of the illicit so much more attractive than its alternative? Let’s face it: when was the last time anybody tempted you by suggesting some licit activities?

The sanctioned, the quotidian, and the authorized do not light up our imaginations like pinball machines. It’s the slightly wild, slightly wicked which whet our appetites.

As a law-abiding, happily-married, middle-aged, hyphen-loving  professional woman, however, there are not as many opportunities to traffic in the illicit as there once were.

Which means that I have had to redefine and reorganize the categories of “Being Bad.”

Being wild and indulging in the illicit, therefore, now include the following:

--Sleeping really well only after the morning alarms go off. We set two alarms, my husband and I, so that the clocks on each of our respective nightstands ring within fifteen minutes of one another. The alarms have become the signal for us to sink instantly into the deepest sleep possible for a human being to experience and still be able to  operate heavy machinery within the next 24-hours. The alarms go off, we start to snore. After tossing all night like a couple of salads, we sink into oblivion. It is a sweet, delicious sleep, replete with complex dreams and soul-enhancing R.E.M.. They don’t wake us up--they put us to sleep. We tried setting the alarm for 11 p.m. but that didn’t work. It wasn’t illicit enough.

--Eating what we’ve been told to eliminate from our diets. We oversalt; we delight in creamy salad dressings; we eat full-fat cheeses. I drink diet soda even though studies  have shown that not only will it ultimately make me fatter, it will also increase the likelihood of depression, bad-breath, and gas. Wow, sounds like it’s really bad--bring it on! “Eat what you want,” says a friend, all encouragement and smiles. “You can always get hit by a bus.” Now, that’s the kind of reassurance that makes me smile. Erma Bombeck, my heroine, has the final word on this: “Seize the moment,” wrote Erma. “Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

--Wearing unfashionable clothing and footwear, not to call attention to the arbitrary and punishing nature of a contemporary fashion cartel which has the power to demean and objectify the female body in ways which have resulted in generations of girls deploring and perhaps even debasing their bodies as inadequate, but because unfashionable clothing is comfortable. You see women wearing black pants, blue sweaters, and beige shoes? Are they masking a political statement? Not unless the statement “These leggings, sweatshirt, and sneakers are sort of clean and they fit” is political. (Actually--guess what?-- I think it is.)

--Reading non-uplifting, non-educational, non-footnooted books. I just found a used copy of one of my favorite books from high school, a historical-novel titled GREEN DARKNESS by Anya Seton. Almost nothing could have made me happier. Forget reading the hot new novel from a dispossessed thirty-year-old; forget the newest theory of time, space, or geopolitics. I want a girl in ™love with a priest. I want somebody walled up in a castle. Damnit, I want a moat. GREEN DARKNESS has it all.

I adore this book, a book which I’d first come across the summer I was sixteen. (The lady I worked for that summer, a  vice-principal who’d broken her leg and for whom I did household chores, depended on the romance novels I’d get her from the local library to keep her sane. It was books or liquor, and books were ~cheaper and wouldn’t get her fired if anybody found out.) I intend to savor every word of this book as soon as I finish grading this most recent set of papers, and I’m not going to apologize for it, either. I won’t get the cover off a book on  postcolonial literature and hide Seton behind borrowed robes. Nope, it’s me, the priest, and the moat right out there for everyone to see. I’ll probably wear black pants and a blue top while reading, too.

--I intend to purchase the “best of” c.ds eschewed by those with finer musical sensibilities. And yes, I will still buy c.ds rather than I’m going to buy the best of Mozart, the best of Lena Horne, the best of the ‘8os (I’ve always wanted to own a copy of “Jesse’s Girl” even though I recognize that it is a terrible song and I otherwise detest Rick Springfield), and the best of R.E.M.. (The band, not the stage of sleep.)

Being bad, at this point in my life, is actually pretty good.

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Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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