Let’s begin with a little contrast — any kid knows the gold standard for Halloween candy — chocolate bars. The households that gave away Snickers, Nestle Crunch, Three Musketeers and Butterfingers were the most revered.
If you were a little bastard, as I was, you exploited such generosity. I learned early on to carry an extra mask or even a full costume in my trick-or-treat bag, so that I could visit any particular house on Halloween twice. I got called on it once, by a patient woman in my neighborhood who was giving away Three Musketeers; she asked me to take off my reserve mask and suggested that we had spoken only minutes before. My lust for free candy was so strong that I actually pretended to be my own twin brother. At the age of eight, I was the grade-school moral equivalent of a Wall Street banker before the 2008 housing crash. I think the only thing that redeemed my greedy soul every year was the fact that I absolutely did not throw eggs or toilet paper or shoot shaving cream at houses. (We really didn’t resent any neighbors.) I’d like to think that my temperance redeemed my avarice.
I knew all the ins and outs of trick-or-treating. Halloween only arrived once a year. I planned that event with all the resolve and forethought of Rommel, even before I knew who Rommel was. Instead of a store-bought plastic bag, I carried a sturdy pillowcase every year, as it was less likely to stretch or break under the weight of my annual bounty. (It’s all about the tensile strength, you see.)
My carefully selected partners and I would meticulously plan which streets to invade, when to leave, and how to defend ourselves against the older kids’ pranks. (Our own shaving cream arsenals were only for self-defense purposes, but they were well stocked and always within reach.) We were set upon one year by some older kids at the top of my street who were wielding slings made out of socks filled with flour. When you were whipped with them, they left long, white powdery stripes down your costume.
I absolutely was not a tough kid. But Halloween brought something out in me that day, and I retaliated like a goddam enraged Israeli during the Six Day War, or maybe one of the infected from “28 Days Later.” Maybe it was the rush from eating sugar all day. Maybe it was the spirit of Samhain. Maybe it was some deep-seated primal nature evoked into actuality by the wearing of a mask for eight hours. But I nearly took an older boy DOWN after he got my costume all flour-striped. He laughed and actually congratulated me after our melee for being the only younger kid who fought back. He said that made it more fun.
But I’m getting off topic — this is a blog post about sucky Halloween treats. My friends are all adults now, and I am arguably one. So this is an important public service announcement about what NOT to hand out to trick-or-treaters.
There are three things that you need to avoid to prevent severely disappointing a child. Think of them as the Trio of Terrible Treats.
First, “Candy Corn.” The very design of this candy boggles the mind in its stupidity. Candy Corn? What person, not under the influence of bath salts, has ever looked at corn and opined, “You know, this corn is delicious, but would taste even better if it were made of sugary cream?” This bizarre foodstuff manages to be both … sickly sweet and blandly creamy, with the added sensory discomfort of being hard and chewy. Why does such a product even exist? Why is it perennial? Did somebody actually patent this abomination, or is it a generic and strangely cruel tradition — like some weird, timeless holdover from a medieval age the Catholic Church employed candy to punish pagans and heretics?
Second, those little boxes of “Good-n-Plenty.” The boxes were tiny, the candy sucked; I complained loudly as a boy that they were “neither good nor plenty.” They tasted like black licorice that was fermented in ostrich piss. The marketing was strange too. The boxes were … kinda fluorescent burgundy, and the candy itself looked like … pills. Seriously, they looked like pills — check out the photos below. As though homeowners were offering children PCP or “uppers,” because the annual Autumn de facto overdose of pure sugar wasn’t enough. Every 80’s kid knew that “Good-n-Plenty” totally contradicted what we’d learned from the anti-drug PSA’s that were ubiquitous on television back in the day.
Third is a “treat” that wasn’t even candy at all. No, it isn’t apples; people were paranoid enough by the 80’s so that everyone eschewed handing out anything that wasn’t wrapped. I’m talking about toothbrushes and tooth capsules. Handing out toothbrushes on Halloween is the equivalent of handing out copies of Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” at the local church on Christmas morning. The … tooth capsules were downright bizarre. The Internet tonight informs me that they are called “plaque disclosing tablets.” And, though they looked like they could be candy, their flavorless function was merely to stain your teeth in order to show you where you needed to brush more often. I was always unfailingly polite to adults who handed these out (the result of a Catholic upbringing), and I always said “Thank you.” What we all always wanted to ask, however, was, “If I cared about my teeth, why would I be carrying around a 20-pound bag of candy, mother@#$%er?!”
Photo credit: “Candy-Corn” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Photo credit: “Good-&-Plenty-Box-Small” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
Photo credit: “Good & Plenty licorice candy” by Glane23 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons .