Candy: The Dark Side

The moment I tried Kit Kat Dark I fell deeply in love. The bar, which Hershey put out a couple of years ago, replaces the milk chocolate of a standard Kit Kat with a dark chocolate that exudes both a pudding-like creaminess and the slight flavor of French roast. As I bit through this semi-sweet coating, into the crispy wafer, my mouth went into a kind of rapture. The chocolate melted onto my tongue. My bloodstream let out a joyful yip.

The problem was, Hershey had produced this bar as a “limited edition.” I could only find them at a single drug store near my house. And then one day, they disappeared altogether.

Now most people in this situation would probably assume their luck had run out. A few devoted souls might go on-line, to scour candy websites. What I did was, well, a bit more extreme: I called a local candy wholesaler and ordered an entire case of Kit Kat Darks. That’s twelve boxes of 36, or 432 Kit Kat bars. It’s my intention, simply put, to never be without a Kit Kat Dark. And to pray that the folks at Hershey will come to their senses and relaunch the Kit Kat Dark before I run out of my supply.

As you’ll have figured out by now, I have some issues when it comes to candy. And I really wish I could tell you this in a purely light-hearted manner. But the truth is, my obsession has a long, dark history.

For most kids, candy is a forbidden pleasure—moms are always yelling at them not to spoil their appetite or rot their teeth. For me, candy was downright subversive. See, I grew up in a pretty tough family. Not a lot of group hugs. Even the simplest pleasures, like cracking a joke or paying someone a compliment, were frowned upon. So stuffing my face with candy wasn’t just an indulgence. It was heresy.

I can see now, in retrospect, that candy was basically a drug to me—a very special drug, the kind of drug that combined the euphoric buzz of, say, ecstasy, with the calming effects of a powerful mood-stabilizer. Whenever I felt bummed, or bullied, or lonely, I retreated to my room and ate some Hot Tamales or a Tangy Taffy, or a Marathon Bar. There was something very primal about this ritual: I fed the sweetness of life into my mouth and felt soothed.

Though, to be honest, I wasn’t just interested in eating candy. I also fondled it. I sorted it by flavor and color. I ran the pieces across my skin, sometimes even lay down on top of them. I used candy in the same way other boys used toy soldiers, pitting gummy bears against Swedish fish, mashing them together while making silly combat noises, and, of course, gobbling down the bodies of the dead and wounded.

When I wasn’t eating candy, I was buying candy. Riding my bike down to the Old Barrel with a sweaty dollar pressed into my palm—this was my first real chance to be a capitalist. I would spend an hour standing in front of the candy rack pondering whether I should go with the ephemeral joy of Junior Mints, or a longer-lasting Mike n Ikes/Jawbreakers ensemble. If I felt I could get away with it, I solved this dilemma by stealing the Junior Mints.

I should mention that. I did a lot of stealing of candy. I also did a lot of burning of candy boxes and wrappers. It might be said that candy was my gateway drug. I certainly wasn’t one of these Halloween dilettantes who gets religion once a year. I was emotionally involved with the stuff year-round. When I think back to different eras of my life, I don’t remember what album I was listening to, or what perfume my girlfriend wore. I remember the candy I was eating.

When I was about nine, I began to have rather serious anxiety attacks, so my parents sent me to a therapist. But it’s not those therapy sessions I remember. It’s the trip downtown, and how I would stop into Mac’s Smoke Shop and buy myself a Caravelle. The pleasure I took in that bar! I worked my teeth through the sturdy chocolate shell, which always gave way with a distinct, moist snap, through the crisped rice and into the fudgy caramel core. When I was eating a Caravelle all seemed right with the world. Anxiety? What anxiety?

Even after I left home, I continued to seek out candy in times of trouble. I can remember staggering down the streets of Baden Baden, Germany, at dawn. I was twenty years old, hell-bent on acquiring some kind of worldliness. Earlier in the day, I’d met some fellow travelers at a hostel and we’d smoked some hash and there was some girl involved. But I did something uncool (for the life of me, I can’t remember what) and they ditched me outside a fancy casino. What I do remember, vividly, is the elegant vending machine outside that casino, which sold Lindt chocolate bars for a single deutsche mark. I found an outdoor café and bought a roll which I cut in half and buttered to make a chocolate sandwich.

And I don’t think I’m the only one whose memory banks are crammed with candy. In fact, I know I’m not, because whenever I talk to friends about candy, or strangers for that matter, I’m met by a similar outpouring of memories, confessions, opinions, regrets, which simply doesn’t happen when I bring up other obsessions of mine, such as bridge. This is just how we’re wired. Candy is our first conscious oral desire. It’s the sex, drugs and rock and roll of childhood.

If all this sounds like an elaborate rationalization for why a grown man would purchase 432 Kit Kat bars, well, I’m not going argue. But I can assure you I wasn’t the only one out there stockpiling Kit Kat Darks. Because when I went to the candy wholesaler to pick up my order, the receptionist told me her phone had been ringing off the hook all week.

“What company are you with, anyway?” she said.

“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of it.”

She gazed at me for a second, then smiled and began nodding, slowly. “More of an independent operator, huh?”

I smiled back at her and began absently fondling one of my 12 boxes of Kit Kat Darks. “Something like that.”

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