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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Open Letter to American Mothers
Posted by Jill | 10:57 AM
Dear Moms All Over America,

It's November 1 today. This means that if your children are under, say, seventeen, you have a ton of candy in your house today. Most of it is chocolate (or what passes for chocolate in commercial candy), because unlike when we were kids, no one spends days filling little paper bags with candy corn, wax lips, and other unwrapped candies, nor do they make homemade caramel apples wrapped in wax paper to be deposited into kids' trick-or-treat bags. Today, your kids' Halloween bags are full of Nestle Crunch bars, M&Ms, Milky Ways, Snickers, Kit-Kats, Twix bars, Hershey bars, and Reese's peanut butter cups, because these are what is available at your local supermarket.

There are two kinds of kids: instant gratification kids and delayed gratification kids, and you can tell which is which by how they handle their Halloween candy. Instant gratification kids eat their favorites first. Delayed gratification kids save their favorites for last. I was one of the latter. And I am still scarred by the Great 5th Avenue Bar Theft of 1965. I loved 5th Avenue bars. They were sort of Butterfingers for would-be sophisticates. They had a similar flaky, crunchy peanut-buttery center enrobed in chocolate. And in those days, they had almonds on top. But their very name evoked something more. Instead of evoking what I was -- a clumsy kid who couldn't catch a baseball -- they evoked Audrey Hepburn in a black evening gown in front of Tiffany's, or the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas windows -- a sophistication we always longed for. Peanut butter made sophisticated by the exotic flavor of almonds. A 5th Avenue bar in a Halloween bag was a rare treat. And in 1965, I got one. And in true delayed-gratification kid fashion, I saved the best for last.

And then a few days later, I looked in my Halloween bag and it was gone. My mother had eaten it.

I still remember the visceral feeling of disappointment, and yes, betrayal I felt. How could she eat my precious 5th Avenue bar? But now I look back on that incident as being Mom in a nutshell -- selfish, without empathy, always trying to fill the empty hole inside her with chocolate. That's perhaps why I reacted so strongly to this:

Seriously, Mothers of America, this business about sending your kids out in costume to beg for chocolate so you can eat it in the middle of the night? You can't go to the A&P? What's with that? What, you think if you take your kids' favorite candy out of their Halloween bag, it "doesn't count"? You're afraid you'll eat the whole bag if you buy your own? You're afraid the cashier will judge you?

How about the next time you go to the A&P, pick up the bag of snack-size Hershey's, take it to the counter, look at the cashier, and say "So? What's YOUR problem?" Or, if you're still afraid, go to the self-checkout, like you do when you buy tampons or Monistat 3. It took me decades to realize that NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU. No one cares if you are buying a bag of Reese's. OWN that motherfucking chocolate. Say it loud: "I NEED CHOCOLATE, DAMMIT!" Eat it in public. Walk around the mall with it. Do that, and I promise you -- you will learn how to eat just one or two instead of the whole bag. Because as long as you're sneaking chocolate out of your kid's Halloween bag and eating it under cover of darkness and treating it as something shameful, you're not only giving your kids weird ideas about food, but you're turning a commercially-made concoction of waxy something-or-other and gritty peanut-like substance into something mystical and profound. It's not. It's just a piece of candy.

So stop taking your kids' Halloween candy. If you want to, create a "family candy bowl." Make it a family project. Your kids will learn about limits and delayed gratification. You will show them that you respect what is theirs by letting them keep some to consume when and as they want to. And you can have a piece of candy from the family bowl right out in the open, rather than at 2 AM while steeped in shame and self-loathing.

Your kids never got a chance to read the contract that has the "You agree to give your mother the Reese's peanut butter cups" clause any more than they had a chance to read the clause that says "You will take care of me in my old age." You had kids because you wanted to. They owe you nothing, they agreed to nothing. The relationship you build with them will determine whether they give you their Reese's because they want to, and whether they will change your Depends when you are old -- because they want to. But I am telling you -- extortion in the context of candy easily obtained at the supermarket is not the way to ensure that happens.

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Blogger D. said...
Wait, A&P is still around?

(We were not so much "instant gratification" as we were "If you don't eat it I will," which meant that gratification too long delayed did not pay.)

Blogger Raksha said...
I thought you'd like to know I was eating a Reese's peanut butter cup as I was reading this post. If you want to get technical about it, I was eating the second of the three Reese's peanut butter cups I had taken out of the bag before I sat down at the computer. I still have the third one in my lap as I'm typing this.

I didn't get a single trick-or-treater this year, and I didn't get any last year either. This neighborhood has a reputation (deserved) for being a rough one, so maybe parents are afraid to let their kids go trick-or-treating here.

I live alone here, so who else was going to eat them? At least I don't have to fight over them with my kids!

Blogger skywind said...
"It's just a piece of candy." Word.

Blogger jurassicpork said...
It's funny you should mention this. Last Friday, I was telling Barb about the year my mother sent me out all over Fort Meade to beg for candy so she could eat some of it. It was 1974 and I was 15 and tall for my age. Fittingly, she dressed me as Pancho Villa.

What a greedy, self-centered bitch she was.