It’s the day before Christmas. It’s a recent holiday, in 2015 or 2016. Family comes over. This isn’t my family but my boyfriend’s—his uncle and aunt and a few cousins—but family all the same.
They live in the Northern half of California but not in Northern California. They’re nice people. They bring over gifts and candy. I don’t know them so I sit on the floor, petting a dog by the Christmas tree. I’m cordial and polite and ask questions, keeping engaged in conversation while not being a driver in any of the talk.
There is a lull. Grandma is grabbing cookies. The cousins are talking about school. The uncle speaks with my boyfriend about work. The aunt sits, fingering toward a bowl of fudge.
“Would you like some fudge?”
I continue petting the dog. This isn’t intended ignoring but I wasn’t sure that question was for me until I notice the red glass dish enter my periphery.
“Do you like chocolate?” she asks as she gesticulates with the candy.
I take a piece to be polite. “Chocolate is good, yes,” I reply. “Dogs don’t like it though.”
We both laugh.
“I love chocolate,” she says. I lick crystals of sugar off my teeth. “You could say I’m a chocoholic.”
A chocoholic. Like a shopaholic but with chocolate. Like a sexaholic but with chocolate. Like an alcoholic but with chocolate. This is someone who loves chocolate to a fault, to the point that they would admit mania toward the food item. This isn’t a literal state of being but a colloquial taxonomy: “I like chocolate more than normal therefore I am a chocoholic.” It is a definitive characteristic of some people. It reminds me of the cartoon Cathy. I think of women in power suits and sneakers, marching off to work. There are banana clips. You might even hear talk about a pager or Alf.
“When I see chocolate, I just can’t help myself,” she chews. “I just love all sorts of chocolate.”
“I do like milk chocolate the most, I think. Do you like milk chocolate?”
I nod. I actually don’t think I know the difference between chocolates. Not that I don’t like chocolate (I’m a fan of sweets.) but I haven’t cared enough to define my chocolate tastes. I also think milk chocolate used to disagree with me so I’m less included to say that I’m a fan.
“Milk chocolate is great,” I say. “But I probably like chocolate milk more.”
“I love chocolate milk too.”
We both nod, quietly. More sugar on the teeth. Soft gums to pudgy brown sweet. Chewing, chewing, chewing.
“I like chocolate milk more when it’s chocolate ice cream,” she laughs. “I just can’t get enough.”
Chocoholic, I think. A person who is addicted to chocolate. A person obsessed with the sweet. Someone who defines their personality by a food.
“I also like chocolate cake.”
I define myself by wine so I suppose this isn’t that strange.
“Chocolate Kisses are perfect. Anything by Hershey’s is really good.”
Is it better to be a fan of chocolate or wine? Both are the inspiration for articles about the benefits of certain vices, be it a listicle about how Mediterranean persons live longer because of wine or that dark chocolate is brain food: the two co-exist in their being excusable potential problems.
“Did you know Hershey’s makes a chocolate bar that is five pounds? It’s this big,” she motions, across her bust, fudge between fingers.
Is there a chocolate fandom? Do people like the topic of “chocolate” on a place like Facebook? Or does that get absorbed into a brand’s identity like a Godiva or Nestle?
“I saw that on Amazon and almost died.”
There probably is a book from 1985 called The Chocolate Diet that has illustrations of sentient chocholate candies that is extremely decadent but intends to excuse the sweet as a health fad. It was probably sold at novelty bookstores but taken very, very seriously by some.
“I didn’t order it though.”
Do I know anyone who identifies as a “chocoholic”? Did chocoholicism die at the hands of the Internet? Does chocoholicism come with age, the byproduct of a lost dream or more specified taste? If I met someone who attached themselves to this food who was my age or younger, what would I think of them? Would it be possible to take them seriously, to think that they are a modern person, that they themselves aren’t a mall kiosk who frames their identity politics around cocoa beans? Even if that is true, why is that bad? If this person sweeps through discount candy bins to pull out the good mini Toblerones, why is that bad? That is your life and your body and your sweet tooth not mine. Equality for diets. Do not reduce a person’s chocolate love to suburban shopping deities. Do not project judgement on one’s chocoholicism.
“See’s Candy is the best though. They make very classic chocolate.”
What if I am the chocholic? What if my existence becomes a frame for a food item, for something that goes in your mouth and comes out another hole, something for you to process and process and process and never, truly, be able to keep forever? Chocolate like all things is a temporary state for something. It passes through, person to person to person. The food is less of a permanent and more of a state of being. What if that were me? Am I bottle to contain wine? Why do we obsess over food? At what point do these obsessions cross over from the fun or funny to the dangerous? I know this holiday will bring many wine gifts but is this ever problematic that people assume that I define myself by something that I cannot contain, by something that subtly kills? Are we ever immune to the trappings of tastes, both of the palate and of the aesthetic? Are we shackled to that which we will never completely have to ourselves, to that which only passes by in seconds as a drop on the tongue?
“Would you like some more fudge?”
My vision refocuses to the dish, unblurring from the Christmas tree.
“No, thank you,” I smile. “One was enough.”