There are two kinds of parents in this world: those who will buy sugar cereals for their children… and those who deprive their kids of a sugary upbringing in favor of a wholesome one. My mother was the latter parent, to a fault. Every week, my 3 sweet-tooth sisters and I would beg her to buy us Cocoa Pops, Lucky Charms, Trix, or Frosted Flakes. We wanted anything that would leave us fighting for a prize inside and with a mouth full of cavities.
Nancy, my mom, would sooner hook us up to a Kool-Aid drip than succumb to our pressure.
Ours was a “no-sugar” household. Nancy would buy peanut butter only from the health food store (the chunky, pale kind mashed from fresh peanuts the day of purchase). It tasted funky, like a ground-up monkey, we told her. I yearned for the day when I would be a grown-up with the free will to buy Skippy or Jif. Once a month, if we were good little girls – minding our p’s and q’s and not reporting Nancy to Child Protective Services for her sugarfree tyranny – she would let her four daughters share one can of Coca-Cola. In those days, that would average about 1.4 ounces per person. Or 6 baby-dropper size swallows, if you drank it slow and sparingly.
Christy was the oldest, so she got to pour the can of Coke. We’d pick four identical glasses, and as the second oldest, I'd get to choose my glass first. With my pinky finger in the air, I would gingerly set down the glass on our player-piano in the game room. “Hello Dolly” was on permanent loop, as I’d swig my Coke wearing black sunglasses and pretending to play for my rowdy sisters. To set off the brownish-rouge of my cola, I'd wear a fresh coat of my mom’s Chanel red lipstick to look like an adult who knew how to drink her drink. Lipstick on my teeth, I looked like a blind hooker, but I thought I was Stevie Wonder. Or Ray Charles. I enjoyed my Coke like a once-blind person staring at the sun for the first time.
My sisters and I, not used to the sugar, would easily get souped up on our 1-quarter can of Coke. It was like kindergarten, unplugged. Allyson, third in line, would tap dance on top of the pin-ball machine. Jax, the youngest, would get her finger jammed inside the gumball machine fishing for a freebie (too young to realize that the gumballs were there for decoration only), and that somebody had permanently lodged a foreign coin in the machine so that no gumball could pass through it.
My parents, bless their hearts, thought a sugar-free childhood was the best way to ensure our health and happiness. What they didn’t realize was that we snuck in sugar – in massive quantities – when they weren’t looking. Birthday parties were not about friends and swimming pools and presents, they were about cake, ice cream and piñatas full of Skittles. I chose my friends not on the content of their character, but on the sugar content of their breakfast cereals, that I could enjoy the morning after sleepovers. Nicole had the world’s coolest mother who hailed from Communist Czechoslovakia. Isotta was so mesmerized by the plethora of cereal options in the grocery store, she bought them all for her kids who didn’t realize how good they had it, and for me, who’d hug her knees in the kitchen in deep gratitude.
The first 10 years of my life were spent swearing up and down that once I had my own wealth (from being a world-famous ‘Make-up Artist to the Poor’) I would spend my riches on candy, cookies and cupcakes. The three C’s, the basics in life.
Its only fitting that, today, I would chose to live just around the corner from the finest bakery in all of Copenhagen. Every morning I pass by, and find myself fighting a small urge in my belly to buy a sugary confection that I don’t want or need, just because I can, and because it’s finally allowed.
Today, I don’t like soft drinks or Coke. Gumballs, I’ll take em or leave em. But sugar cereals I’ll purchase a few times a year. When I have kids one day, I’ll stop that habit, so that they can enjoy the privilege of being sweet on their own, and experience the cravings of life.
I guess I’m that kind of parent too.