My mom is very smart. When my two brothers and I were kids, the only cereal she’d buy was Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Chex, then Grape Nuts for my dad (do Grape Nuts even exist anymore? If so, mail me some). Maybe if we scored A’s on book reports or managed not to get too many time outs, we’d get Honey Bunches of Oats or Honey Nut Cheerios.
But we’d never, ever get sugary cereal. “It’s not good for you,” she’d say. Then she’d talk to our uncle who’s a dentist. Mom would tell him to tell us that Frosted Flakes cause cavities. Dr. Uncle explained that while those high-fructose corn syrup creations delight your mouth, if you eat too much sugar, you go to the dentist’s office and will taste the bubble-gum flavored Novocain while a drill grinds your teeth and mercury is poured into the holes.
Who cares? I’d befriend kids whose parents bought Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, hoping they’d invite me over for a sleepover. Then for breakfast, I’d get a beautiful bowl of diabetes and tooth decay.
Eventually, I moved out of my parents’ house into dorms with a dining hall. I lost it. I went from the easy stuff like Rice Krispies to the hardcore bowls like Cap’n Crunch. All-you-can-eat Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats. I’d be up to four or five bowls a day.
I’d tell myself that all that extra weight I gained was from beer. Not cereal. Cereal has milk in it. Milk is good for you. Cereal can never be bad.
Then I graduated. I became a big boy and realized how expensive this habit was. I also learned that my uncle wasn’t full of shit. My dental X-rays looked like a minefield. The fun, games and prizes at the bottom of the box were over. I needed to quit. I also still wished cereal had prizes at the bottom of the box, but that’s probably like Marlboro Miles — it’s just another reason to sucker somebody into a bad habit.
Now I buy my own groceries and try to follow a relatively strict food budget while trying to follow a relatively strict diet.
Cereal, especially sugary cereal, doesn’t fit into my life any more. Instead, I buy oatmeal. I can eat that with a spoon and the sensation feels similar. I pour it into yogurt and pretend I’m eating a wonderful bowl of Honey Smacks.
That hunger always comes back, though. I can’t help it. I’ll walk through the supermarket, and the cereal aisle calls to me. Those boxes whisper sugary sweet nothings into my ears.
I look away. I look down. I’ll pretend to look at the Cream of Wheat, but the generic bags swoon, “Look at us. We’re so cheap. And you know you’ll love us. We’ll love you. Buy us. You know you want to. We’ll make you float. We all float down here.”
Every now and then, I’ll crack. Maybe there’s a two-for-$5 sale and I’ll pick up a couple of boxes. Of granola. Because that has nuts and fruit. Those are healthy, duh.
I get home and tell myself, “I’m limiting you to just one bowl.”
But it never works out that way. Never ever.
“That bowl wasn’t big enough. Look at all that extra milk. You can’t just drink it, you should add more cereal to it. You could cook some actual food … or you could just eat another serving. Now that you had three bowls of cereal, fuck it, you may as well just finish the entire box.
“Who’s going to know? You live alone. So alone. But we, we’re here. We make it happen. We make you chase the rainbow. We’re grrrreat. You should go back to the supermarket tomorrow. Otherwise you’ll be hungry. So hungry. Nobody likes to be hungry. Especially you.
“You’ll never be free. Our toucan claws and tiger paws are too deep to ever let go.”
If you need me, I’ll be holding a Rice Krispie Treat bake sale so I can afford dentures and my next box. It’s just one more box. Just one. One.