Free the Candy

Valentine’s Day approaches. For women, this means that men will give them cupcakes or jewels or even a rose cleverly encapsulated within a blown-up balloon, if they’re my 10th grade girlfriend. For me, it means that the secretaries have begun to adorn their desks with bowls of candy. Which is why I like Valentine’s Day more than your average woman. Look around my office these days and you’ll see a smorgasbord of Valentinish treats, a place where every conversation heart is imprinted with the words: “you know, eating candy would be so much better than writing discovery responses right now.”

bulk-conversation hearts

Run away.  Run, while you still can.

But like everything given on Valentine’s Day, this candy comes with a hidden price. Almost every lady that puts out a candy jar is also a lady I barely know, and almost never talk to. There they sit behind their little counters, acting like they have no idea what’s going on with the candy jar a few feet away. Treacherous ladies. The second I stick my paws in the jar, it’s clear they’re not focused on their work at all. They are waiting for someone to take their candy. It always happens the same way. I fumble with the red hots or mini-candy bars, trying to get enough to make the stop worth it, while not taking so many that I look like a heartless mercenary. She watches me while I struggle, and then it starts. She looks up and gives me that conspiratorial smile, like we’re partners in guilty candy crimes. “Oh, aren’t we naughty candy eaters” it says, and I have no choice but to give the appropriate “I know, I reeeeally shouldn’t” grin, and we laugh together at nothing. It’s a shaming, dehumanizing ritual, that mandatory interaction with the lurking candy hostess. What remains, as I shuffle back to my office, is a handful of the priciest candy you can buy.

It’s not worth the price. Candy is valuable, but not ‘dignity’ valuable. I resort to wandering the halls looking for the rare unattended candy jar. It may take three or four unnecessary trips to the bathroom before I spot an unguarded dish. I never feel right about it, but I pounce on these opportunities, stocking up for the long hours until the staff leaves. It’s funny how a candy jar can sit completely full all day while the particular assistant works attentively nearby, and then, how, while she’s away for ten minutes, the whole jar gets almost emptied out. This is how I can tell I’m not the only one looking for these little windows. There are others like me wandering these halls, waiting for a candy hostess to step away, never seen, but always there, watching.


Some of the meaner ones make you write them a little poem first

Is this wrong? I try to act like the candy is just there for anyone to take as they will. There are no price tags, and no coin slots around. Why can’t the candy be free? Why can’t one just step up and take the candy? But deep down, I know that this candy isn’t just a freebie, and can never be. Taking the candy is a transaction. The goods must be paid for, and the price is a few muttered words of greeting or an agonizing joke about weight gain. These are not easy terms.

But it’s also not easy to sit in your chair, typing those discovery responses, hearing the soft enticements of the conversation hearts just outside your door. Beckoning softly, sweetly. So you turn away from your keyboard, you stare out the hall, and you come up with a little line about “there goes my new years resolution!” . . . And you leave your self-respect on the counter next to the pretty pink dish.

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10 Responses to Free the Candy

  1. Oooh the first comment. Oh my, this was right on and way too funny.

  2. Andrea W. says:

    The image of you saying something like “Oooh, I really shouldn’t” is absolutely hilarious! I LOVE it and feel great about you having to do it. If your not man enough than bring your own candy!

  3. Eliza says:

    Okay first of all, I need some candy hearts NOWSVILLE! Secondly, you are making me appreciate my job as SAHM so much more, no awkward conversations, no one watching how much I eat in one sitting, etc… Forget just being home with my adorable children, this reason alone is worth it. ; ) Anyway great post,

  4. stef says:

    That was hilarious. It is worse when you have it sitting on your counter at home and you STILL have to watch to make sure that no-one sees you eat it because if they do then they will help your guilt come that much faster.

  5. lenox says:

    Rayn- As a lifelong addict I can empathize with your feelings of guilt. Of course, as a true addict, my urges for a fix have long superceeded any feelings of guilt or self respect when it comes to chocolate. However, this year i stumbled upon a whole new approach that has rewarded me handsomely. It seems counterintuitive, requires an offensive-minded approach and a bit of patience but it is a process you will never regret. Simple but effective….relentless ridicule. When office treats first started showing up around here, i was timid and basically turned into Gollum once i was alone in the office hoarding stashes of my precious bounty everywhere in my desk. I would rarely be seen partaking myself but i made sure that everyone knew their own gluttony did not go unnoticed. Soon candy just started appearing at my desk. I would go to the bathroom to return and find my keyboard under a mountain of peanut cups. i course, i had no other choice than to eat my way out of such predicaments but it didn’t stem the tide. What was once seen as cruelty has turned into admiration and now I’ve become a bonafide hero jumping on countless candy and chocolate grenades so that others in the office dont have to feel guilty about those extra pounds they would inevitably gain and i am never afraid to remind them of these immutable facts. Help me, help you. Help me, help you.

  6. Ben Pratt says:

    I’m pretty sure those secretaries are violating several points of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  7. Rebecca says:

    this was really funny. i can totally empathize with you on this. i have had those same exact feelings about those candy bowls. so funny.

  8. Josh says:

    So funny. I can’t count how many candie dishes I’ve raided after hours and feel bad afterwards. Then I feel obligated to stop by during hours for an awkward conversation with the owner.

  9. Braden says:

    You have nailed a really quirky but real cultural phenomenon with your usual clarity and sharpness.

  10. Molly P says:

    Really funny. I can’t believe the Valentine’s candy is already out…I am heading to the store now!

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