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Having been home alone with far too many pieces of Halloween candy this week—including more than a dozen puffy, crinkly, calling-out-my-name bags of potato chips—I discovered that the mentally exhausting journey of succumbing to temptation is remarkably similar to the five stages of grief and despair.
First there was denial.
This year, I vowed that not a single Halloween treat would cross my lips, which was pretty crazy since I had no personal history upon which to base such a wildly improbable aspiration. In fact, for years, rumours have swirled in my social circle that getting between me and a bowl of chips, in particular, could be a dangerous endeavour.
I [insert your name here] solemnly swear that I will not eat any Halloween Candy, including, but not limited to, chocolate bars, chips, Doritos, caramels, suckers, skittles, candied jewellery, or any other Halloween-related non-nutritive food-type products. Furthermore, I pledge to reward trick-or-treaters in such a generous measure as to ensure that there is no surplus of the aforementioned items on November 1st, lest it add in any way shape or form to my own surplus adipose tissue. Please accept this as my most solemn vow on All Hallows Eve.
A call for will power versus wallet power seemed like a straightforward ask but not a single one of my friends took me up on it.
Sadly, I wasn’t strong enough to do it alone. I suppose that’s the point at which denial gave way to anger. I spent much of the day Monday hating myself for my apparent powerlessness and my long-standing, and mostly dysfunctional, relationship with potato chips.
As soon as my husband and son left the house, my inner child started behaving like Animal from The Muppets—head bobbing up and down, chanting "Want chips! Want chips!" I’m 42 years old for God’s sake. What am I still looking for that I think I’ll find at the bottom of a Mylar bag?
Anger didn’t last long, though. It was quickly followed by bargaining—rationalizing that skimming a few bags of chips off the top wasn’t really so bad and that my son might not even notice they were missing. I was thinking like 2, 3, maybe 4 bags tops—but definitely not more than 5.
It was a slippery slope.
At one point, looking at the yellow sprawl of spent Lay’s bags across the kitchen counter, I thought about Geena Davis’ character from the film Thelma and Louise, and the cashier who advised her to “Buy the economy size” as she amassed a legion of itty-bitty bottles of Wild Turkey whiskey. I tried to convince myself that having devoured one very large bag would have been worse.
From bargaining, I moved into depression thanks in large part to the knowledge that I had, once again, proved myself to be a low-down, dirty, rotten chip thief—and a repeat offender.
That’s right. This wasn’t the first time I’d stolen junk food from an unwitting relative. I used to routinely mooch from my brother-in-law’s neatly-clipped stash of crispy snackables whenever my husband and I visited his family’s home. There, the chips were secreted away in the basement cold room lest Mark’s dad have discovered the food-porn.
Joe Hauser Senior was unapologetically blunt about junk food. In his opinion people who ate chips were “Fat-eaters!” What he never knew was that I was one of them. I may have worn the magical cloaking device of a pair of size 6 jeans, but, inwardly, my dark chip-loving heart burned with shame. I can’t tell you how many times I’d visit that house and make excuses to run an errand or go look for something in the cold room.
Once in a while, I’d even hear them upstairs, wondering aloud where I was. “If only they knew,” I thought, crunching and munching in the cold and damp.
When my son came home on Monday afternoon and saw his noticeably diminished chip supply he wanted to know what happened. The only good decision I made that day was to tell the truth: “Mommy happened, Joe. Mommy happened to your chips.” As I watched tears stream down his face, I knew that my Halloween hangover was now complete.
By all accounts, I should be moving into the fifth and final stage: Acceptance. But I’m not sure what that means in this context.
Do I simply warn my friends and family that I’m untrustworthy? Advise them that I’m no better than, say, a seagull on the beach—driven by her greedy bird-gizzard, side-winding her way towards unsuspecting sun worshippers, feeding kleptoparasitically off the unguarded munchies of careless children?
It’s just not acceptable to be an unrepentant chip-aholic, or to steal a child’s treats.
I probably need a 12-step program, but I’m thinking about giving denial another try. Who will take The Christmas Buffet Pledge—someone... anyone?