Sunday, November 4, 2012

Princess Alice and the Beets


There Smarty Pants.  Admit it.  The very word is tantalizing.  See if you can resist the real thing.  

I know, I know.  You’re not supposed to buy your favorite candy for the Trick or Treaters.  You’re supposed to buy something you yourself, the self-possessed adult, won’t eat.  Like liver.  Or beets.   

Because honestly, I’d have eaten candy corn if I’d bought it instead, even though it has plummeted from one of the happiest Halloween acquisitions of my early youth – so fun for precision consumption, from white cap to orange body to yellow tip – all the way to the pit of disdain, in the misguided “strategic” thinking of one trying to delay the inevitable.  

These are the consequences of severe, self-imposed restrictions:  One will binge when in the possession of Halloween gold.  So I bought the Butterfingers.  As a mature adult, I refuse to over-eat bad candy. 

Halloween’s a once-a-year holiday after all and the Trick or Treaters will never miss the fun-sized bites I snarfed down in batches of three or five over the very few days between my ill-fated trip to Raley’s and All Hallows Eve! 

And what’s the fun in giving out candy that even I don’t like?  Kids assess things pretty quickly and when they’re disappointed, they can be vengeful.  Especially the little ones.  One pouty faced Tinker Bell can ruin your whole happy time. 

I don’t want to be known as the neighborhood health nut either, though currently that scenario seems remote. 

This whole Halloween thing puts me in mind of a troubling tendency among adults for trying to explain themselves by conducting investigative studies with children as the subjects.  Consider the “Marshmallow Experiment”:  A test supposedly created to measure youngsters’ ability to delay their gratification.   

Making the research rounds for over 40 years, I call it a classic method for shaking off the doldrums when life slows down in the torture chamber.  Hey watch this!  Will this hungry little kid eat one Sta-Puft now or hold out for two later?  

Another experiment shown on CBS Sunday Morning recently demonstrates how a child’s inclination to cheat can be ameliorated by an invisible being.  Oh yeah.  That’s some sick scientific shenanigans. 

First a group of six-year-olds are shown a Velcro dartboard and given little Velcro balls to toss at it.  The rules of the game are that they must stay behind a line on the floor, turn their backs and throw the balls onto the target over their shoulders.  An almost impossible task designed by fiendish “scientists” to thwart and torment the innocent.  

The “researchers” then observe through a one-way mirror as one-by-one the kids become frustrated and cheat.  Almost to a sweet tiny person, they face the target, step across the line, and in some cases walk right up to the dartboard to plant those sticky orbs, creating a perfect bull’s-eye. 

Then, and here’s where it gets really interesting, the lab geeks change the scenario.  They place a chair in the room and tell their next group of torment-ees that Princess Alice is seated there.  She’s invisible, you understand.  You can’t see her.  But she’s going to watch the game.   

Now the kids are skeptical, bless their cheating little hearts.  They immediately approach the chair, inspect the air around it, run their hands over it and tell their captors that as citizens of a democracy they owe no allegiance to royalty.  Yes I know, says He in Control.  But she’s there. 

Then, the kids each have their turn alone in the room with the dartboard, the balls and the chair.  And guess what?  They don’t cheat anymore.  

Weird, huh?  But cool in a way.  

I like it except as it applies to me and my pagan holiday.  Why do I feel guilty about my Butterfinger transgression?  It’s Princess Alice! 

She sees me when I’m sleeping.  She knows when I’m awake.  She knows if I’ve bought Butterfingers or beets, so get beets for heaven’s sake. 

There it is.  A grown person can’t even enjoy her own personal bull’s-eye of an evening without Princess Alice shaking her head and saying “tsk, tsk.” 

Fine.  My husband will spirit the remainder of the chocolate-coated flaky peanut butter morsels away to his office.  We’ll see if the Princess has gone corporate.