Chocolate guilt

How a Flake bar changed my life

May 23, 2012
kawther albader
Kawther Albader, Editorial Intern

Flashback to my hometown in Kuwait City, Kuwait circa the mid-1990s.

Every week, my aunts and uncles would gather at my grandmother’s house. To secure a bit of grown-up time and temporary peace of mind, the adults would round up the children and give us all about a dinar each (worth about $3 U.S. dollars then and, at that time, a fortune). And we were off.

Some poor older cousin was given the arduous task of driving seven very large and very noisy kids to the supermarket. He then patiently watched and waited as we all ran to our favorite aisles. I swear there was no more integral part to my mathematical education than those times spent in the candy aisle trying to see how many pieces of chocolate I could squeeze out of a one dinar bill.

One day, I was checking out at the cashier with all my stuff in a basket — a bag of chips and a new toy — and I was satisfied.

But as I was waiting in line, right there next to the cashier in the place where I now know manufacturers place “impulse buy” items (and oh, God do I hate them for it) — there was a shiny, glimmering yellow-purple chocolate bar.

Flake, that crumbly piece of Cadbury melt-in-your-mouth chocolate goodness that I swear my mom must have consumed when she was pregnant with me since I recall craving that taste before I came out of the womb. It’s the chocolate my taste buds took an oath to the very first time they tried it, and till death do I and Flake part.

I looked down at my basket and knew there was no way I could afford it; I had calculated the prices of all my treasures down to the fils.

But man, was I really craving that Flake bar.

That was the first and last time I’ve ever stolen something.

The guilt set in a week or so later. I think I remember eating the chocolate and being fine, but for some reason, something just did not sit well at the bottom of my stomach.

The feeling stayed with me for a long, long time. I stopped buying Flake bars — just looking at them made me want to cry. I remember I couldn’t even bring myself to watch “The Goofy Movie” with my sister because there was a scene where Goofy’s son, Max, envisions himself going to jail for lying. Part of me wanted to put on Max’s jail gear and be sent to prison where I belonged and the other part wanted to just curl up underneath my covers and make it all go away.

But it didn’t, and I ended up confessing a year later. Or maybe it was shorter — you can never tell with child time, but it felt like a year later. One night, while my dad was tucking me in, I spilled everything. He must have been confused, but he still brought himself to promise to go to the supermarket the next day and pay for the stolen candy bar.

A week later, I asked him if he ever went back and cleared my name. He said he did, and that was the first time in my life that I felt immense relief.

Looking back now, I can probably say that my dad never did return to the store and explain that one year ago, his daughter stole a candy bar, and that he was there to pay off her ginormous debt, apologizing profusely on her 3’2’’ behalf.

But that is my earliest memory with chocolate, and it’s one of my most impactful childhood experiences.

Sometimes we don’t realize that something can affect us in a way we never could have expected. Chocolate has given me happiness, consolation and — during those really awkward teenage years — really bad acne (and I don’t care what science says, there is a correlation). But it also gave me a pretty valuable life lesson, one that humbled me and helped me mature.

A lot of us, especially children, are willing to go to great lengths for a piece of chocolate. Maybe sometimes, cravings need to be fulfilled, no matter the cost. Weeks and months of guilt definitely put me back on the straight and narrow. Or maybe my parents didn’t do a great job at teaching me that stealing is wrong.

Sometimes chocolate just calls to you. When it does, all you have to do is listen — and always, always make room for it in your basket.

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