Monday, November 5, 2012

Candy Coated Shame

This year, in a miraculous convergence of available time and a grocery store sale, I planned ahead for Halloween. My record on Trick-or-Treat is spotty, at best. For a few years in adulthood the magical night was displaced by required attendance at a second job or a graduate school class, but lately, I just don’t care. Maybe it’s because I never had kids of my own. Maybe I’m just truly a witch.

In any event, this year, grocery store flyers were carefully reviewed with attention to the candy. Publix offered 40 ounce assortments of Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Nestle and Crunch bars at buy one get one free. For $9.99 (25% of my grocery bill), five pounds of name brand chocolate candy were secured a week before Halloween.

It was a relief to be liberated of a potential last minute dash to the store the night before, or during my lunch hour, or worse, on the way home from work on Halloween. I was free to lunch and lounge after work up until the first costumed rugrat rapped on the door and whipped the dogs into a frenzy.

Fully aware that my one true, legitimate superpower is making chocolate disappear, I resolved to not open the candy until Halloween. Unfortunately, when it comes to chocolate and me, it’s a full blown OCD – Obsessive Candy Disorder. Once aware of its proximity, I’m compelled to eat it until it’s gone. It matters not if it’s a vending size treat, a king-size bar, a half-pound bag or more. On Easter Sunday when I was 8 or 9 years old I consumed an entire one pound solid white chocolate cross in the narrow slivers of time between the Easter Bunny egg hunting /candy finding rituals, church, and Easter dinner. I just couldn’t stop.

The disappearing chocolate trick has been refined on multiple candy-coated Valentine’s Days when presented with a lovely box featuring a pound (or more) of assorted milk and dark chocolate delicacies which stood little chance of surviving past 6 pm that day and that long only because an eight hour workday usually occupied the stretch between a candy breakfast and the final attack on a chocolate dinner. The span between chocolate feedings was dominated by fantasies of the candy at home. It’s kind of a sickness, really.

As I boldly cut open the first bag of candy about three minutes after unpacking the groceries a full week before Halloween, fully cognizant of my checkered candy past and the looming temptation, I jammed my hand into the bag, closed my fist around a handful of bite-sized treats, and headed to the couch. I rationalized, “It’s just a few. There’s another bag in the cabinet.” This activity was repeated countless times while watching TV. Most of the pieces coming out of the bag were Butterfinger, the least favorite in the bag, but this was not a deterrent.

On Sunday, while enjoying a candy lunch (which had been preceded by candy with coffee and again after coffee), there was hope that the next piece consumed would cause physically illness and a cure for the desire for anything chocolate for a while, and with luck, forever. That’s what happened after the Easter incident of the white chocolate cross when the massive overdose permanently eliminated any attraction to what had briefly been my favorite candy. At 3:00, the dogs and I went to the convenience center to drop off the trash, and around 7:00, while clearing the coffee table of a pile of wrappers, I noticed that the only thing in the clean, new trash can liner bag was candy wrappers. Quite a LOT of candy wrappers. With scientific curiosity I scooped them out to assess the results of four hours of snacking. There were twenty-five candy wrappers in the trash can, which was a little bit appalling. To remove further temptation, the last 6 or 7 pieces were immediately eaten to eliminate the source of my weakness from sight.

Halloween day, in spite of the state of preparedness, I considered not participating in the evening’s candy ritual using the rationale that there aren’t many kids in the neighborhood, and I’m a little bit bothered by the idea that neighbors who don’t even speak to me or return a friendly “hey neighbor” wave would suddenly send their offspring over to bang on my door and ask for candy.

Then there are the dogs. They go nuts every time someone walks on the road past the house, and kick it up to a full blown doggy-hysteria when someone knocks on the door. They jump, bark, pant, and when the door is opened, squeeze between my legs and whatever narrow opening from the door exists to run outside. It would be a chore of ridiculous magnitude keeping them under control for as long as the candy or the visitors lasted, and I don’t think it’s fair to the permanent, four-legged household residents to lock them up in another room in case some kids show up Trick-or-Treating. Prepared or not, I had essentially convinced myself to ignore the whole thing.

During the regular after-work walk with the dogs and even though it was past 6:00, there was nobody out for Trick-or-Treat. As dinner cooked, frequent checks outside for kids in costumes revealed no activity on the street. After weighing the potential chaos with the dogs, the absence of anybody out yet, and my own pure laziness, the final decision was made to abandon Halloween. The scene was set for another showdown with 2.5 pounds of Nestle Assortment.

It's research. Really.
The candy bag was ceremoniously spilled onto the kitchen counter. In the name of scientific research and to test my theory that the contents were weighted in favor of Butterfinger bars, the candy was arranged into neat rows by type, revealing three times as many Butterfinger bars as Nestle or Crunch bars, and 50% more than Baby Ruth bars. Theory confirmed.

The candy sorting was reminiscent of one of my favorite nerd-tastic pastimes during college and again in the late 1980s and early '90s. M&Ms were routinely sorted by color, counted and tallied before consumption. Averages were calculated. The focus at home was half pound bags while work featured vending machine bags from the nearby lunchroom. Once, my boss appeared in my cubicle as I was arranging M&Ms in rows by color from least to greatest number. Not one to be slowed down by anything as trivial as manners (or restroom hand washing, according to some reports), he helped himself to my candy. In a panic I blurted, “What color was that?” He looked at me like I was nuts and maybe I was, but the guy was screwing with scientific research. Not to mention he was kind of rude.

A full 24 hours after the latest ritualistic Halloween candy sorting, the consumption pace was markedly slower than that of the first bag. Four nights later, there were still candy rows on the counter. Perhaps the open display of sugar shame on the counter is helping. Maybe the saturation point has been achieved. I can hope.

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