On our last voyage to the grocery store, Mom ensconced a flat of vanilla cream sandwich cookies in her full cart, and I watched them lustily as they made their way to the kitchen pantry. The sugar and the fat are the problem: I am determined to stay unheavy and unfat and unflabby and to not come down with diabetes. The first night I was valiant in resisting the temptation of sweet creamy crunch. The second night I snuck two, which was allowable because my childhood allotment was three cookies so two could not possibly do me any harm. The third night I carried off three to my bedroom, breaking off tiny nibbles to extend the pleasure. Three was acceptable because the childhood allotment has long since taken on moral weight as the universally correct number of cookies for a human being to consume in one sitting. The fourth night I lifted four, a guilty excess of the universe’s cookie threshold, and I knew I was in trouble. If one could not stop at three, after all, when would one stop? On the fifth day, I carried the half-consumed package to Mom and explained, “Mom, these cookies are causing way too much trouble.” She looked worried. “They are just too good, and I’m going to eat all of them if you don’t do something with them.” That is the way it works for me: if I can resist buying them and bringing them home in the first place, I can abstain. But once they are in the house, I am powerless. Mom grinned and promised, “I will hide them from you.” I swear, I will not hunt them down as my sisters and I might have done in decades past. I felt instant relief that the exquisite cookies would tempt me no longer, and instant remorse for having to say good-bye.
Following our routine after selecting the week’s produce, Dad waited in the deli area while I finished the grocery shopping. My cart heavy-laden, I circled back to gather Dad and his cart and to head together to the register. As we passed slowly by a stack of boxed pastries, Dad picked up the top box and looked longingly at the apple fritters. “I sure would like to have an apple fritter,” he lamented, teetering on temptation’s edge. I understood the angst with which he contemplated the moist deep-fried fritters covered with white sugar icing: I, too, ached for a bite of blissful sweetness. We stood in silent solidarity, Dad with his fear of diabetes and me with my fear of being fat. He put the box down with genuine sadness. We squared our shoulders and walked toward the register, leaving desire behind us. “When we get home,” I offered, “I’ll make us some French crêpes rolled around sliced fresh bananas, peaches, and strawberries, with dollops of stevia-sweetened whipped cream.” “That sounds wonderful,” Dad said. “Let’s do it.”