True story: This Halloween, a group of sixth grade boys ambled up the steps to my front porch and, while avoiding eye contact with me even after I asked about one of the costumes (apparently there is character named “Slender Man”), the boys rifled through my bowl of candy.
“Is this it?” Slender Man asked me.
I looked into my proffered bowl. There was an abundant supply of individually wrapped peanut M&Ms, Whoppers, Tootsie Rolls, Air Heads, Dubble Bubble, Banana Chews, Atomic Fire Balls and non-brand-specific lollipops. Granted, it wasn’t the greatest Halloween selection. There were no Kit Kats, no Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, no Twix. Those darn generic lollipops had given me pause even when I bought them. It seemed a little chintzy, not springing for the bag of designer Tootsie Pops. Still, watching a group of middle school boys dig to the bottom of a bowl of free candy and snub their collective noses at it, I felt feelings I’d never before associated with trick or treating.
For the past 12 years, I’ve lived in a house that doesn’t get a lot of doorbell action on Halloween. Every year, with optimism and vigor, I buy multiple bags of name brand chocolate. Want a Nestle’s Crunch, or a Butterfinger, or a Peppermint Patty? I’m your gal.
Over the years, however, I’ve had time to do the math: for every fun-sized candy I hand out, I eat four or five at home. My strategy to date has been straightforward: I over purchase, wait for the bell not to ring, and then eat myself into a sugar coma. It’s a terrific holiday.
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. For years I lingered in the candy aisle, fighting the inevitable. I could hear the voice of reason in my head, telling me to buy what I didn’t like so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it. “Put the bag of Skittles into the cart.”
The Skittles would go into the cart, then out of the cart. In. Then out. Ultimately, Snickers and Baby Ruths made it home.
Why was I so weak? The answer lies in the shame of Halloween 2002, when I went trick-or-treating with my then five-year-old blind nephew. Let me be clear: people who answer the door only to discover the cutest little Winnie the Pooh walking with a cane and accompanied by a loving duo of mother and aunt will offer the child anything. ANYTHING.
The trouble is, my nephew didn’t know how to pick the type of candy I wanted. So when I noticed a woman offering a bowl of full sized Almond Joys, and my nephew didn’t pick one, I made him go back and ring the bell again. Oh yes I did.
The woman, though gracious, looked a bit more suspiciously at my nephew’s cane, and then at me. I didn’t care. I got my fix and could move on.
I carry that shame with me every Halloween. And that is why I make certain that I have, in my house, safely in my kitchen, far away from the trick-or-treat candy bowl, something I really, really crave.
Back to Slender Man and the audacity of his initial question, “Is this it?”
“Yes,” I replied, taken aback. “Don’t you like peanut M&Ms?”
Slender Man countered, “Got any Smarties?”
For a fleeting moment I thought guiltily about the unopened bags of Hershey’s Almond Bars and Snickers, sitting on my kitchen table with the receipt tucked safely beneath them. My plan was to return them if, per usual, demand was low.
But the request for Smarties took me by surprise. Without blinking, I admitted that I did have a few Smarties, but I’d already separated them out from the available offerings.
“Really?” asked Slender Man.
“Yes,” I replied. I had cleared out the Smarties, saving them for myself, and I wasn’t sharing. I can’t explain why, but this year’s incarnation of the 2002 Almond Joy fixation had morphed into a jonesing for Smarties.
Then, one by one, his friends came up to the bowl, rifled through the offerings, and asked for the damn Smarties. To a person.
When did Smarties become so hot?
As Slender Man and his group left empty handed, I returned to the kitchen, looked at my stash of Smarties, and then at my husband. “You won’t believe what just happened.”
It took Tim about a millisecond to suggest I Google Smarties.
According to several sources, including the Wall Street Journal, kids have figured out that if they crush the still-wrapped Smarties into dust, they can then mimic smoking a cigarette, inhaling the dusty candy and blowing out puffs of sugar like so much smoke.
What does one think after learning about this ridiculous behavior? Smarties should be banned? Smarties are a gateway candy? Smarties are to cigarette smoking as marijuana is to heroin? Each sentence makes less and less sense.
Luckily, the doorbell interrupted my train of thought. “Trick or treat,” said a group consisting of tiny Minnie Mouse, tiny Tinker Belle, tiny Captain America, tiny Batman, and teeny tiny fluffy chicken. I wanted to nurse them. They were thrilled with my bowl of candy.
The doorbell rang again. A walking Snickers bar, a ninja, a middle-school ying-yang and a Grim Reaper. No Smarties? No problem.
Finally, a tiny policeman accompanied by a dad with a knife through his head rang. They were happy enough with peanut M&Ms. And the mom? I offered her the bowl. She was delighted with some candy that she didn’t have to share.
And me? After shutting off the porch light and retreating to the kitchen, I tucked into those Smarties. No way was I leaving a candy this dangerous lying around the house.