Something Really Old VI: Chocolate

This was from my Fresno Bee column, in (I think) 1995.

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Chocolate is God’s way of reminding men how inadequate they are. I am vividly confronted with this fact every time my wife and I go out to a restaurant. When it gets to dessert, my wife usually orders the most chocolate-saturated dessert possible: It’s the one called “Unstoppable Double-Fudge Chocolate Mudslide Explosion” or some such thing. I always wonder why anyone would want to eat anything that promises a catastrophic natural disaster in your mouth.

The dark brown monstrosity arrives at the table, and my wife takes the first bite. Before the fork is even removed from her mouth, a small moan escapes her lips. Her eyes, previously perfectly aligned, first cross slightly and then faze completely, pupils dilating in pure chocolate pleasure before the eyelids clamp down in ecstasy. The hand not holding the fork clenches into a fist and starts pounding the table. The silverware rattles.

After about six minutes of this, she finally manages to swallow the bite, realign her eyes, and take the next shuttle back from whatever transcendental plane she’s been visiting. Slowly, her sphere of conciousness expands to include me, her husband, her life-long mate, her presumed partner in all things ecstatic.

“Hey, this is pretty good,” she’ll say. “You want some?”

No, I don’t. I want nothing to do with an object that does to my wife in one bite what I’ve worked for an entire relationship to achieve. It wouldn’t do any good, anyway. Men just don’t have the same relationship with chocolate that women do. It’s not even close. I wandered around the office today and asked men — “Chocolate. Your thoughts?” — and the result was always the same. First, a confused look as to why they’re being asked about something so trivial, and then some lame, obvious statement: “Uh…it’s brown?”

Ask women the same question, and you get responses like “The ONLY food group,” “ESSENTIAL to life as we know it,” and the ultimate casual swipe at every member of the Y-chromosome brigade, “better than sex.” Ouch. Some women will try to make up for that last one by quickly adding that chocolate is supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Uh-huh. Chocolate certainly increases desire; problem is the desire is usually for more chocolate. The best a guy can do is buy a box of chocolates and hope he’ll be considered somewhere between the cherry truffle and the strawberry nougat.

Don’t get me wong. Guys like chocolate just fine; it’s just not essential to life as we know it. Respiration is essential to life as we know it; chocolate is simply one of those nice little bonuses you get. We won’t usually pass it up if it’s offered, but I don’t know too many guys who would get substantially worked up if it were to suddenly disappear from the face of the earth (ironic in a way, as back in the days of the Aztecs, only men were allowed to have the stuff). When I eat a chocolate dessert, I enjoy it, yes. My world view doesn’t narrow to include only the plate that it’s on.

Maybe we’re missing something. On the other hand, we don’t have to pick up our silverware from the floor after we’re done with our tiramisu. Life is about trade-offs like that. All I know is that come Valentine’s Day, chocolate will be among the things I offer my wife. I can’t truly appreciate it, but I can truly appreciate what it does for her. Which is close enough.

49 thoughts on “Something Really Old VI: Chocolate

  1. No, it’s not a chromosome thing – because I love chocolate, and Tammy…doesn’t, really. She doesn’t hate it or anything, she can just take or leave it….

  2. I think it’s that women are taught that we’re supposed to treat chocolate like it’s essential to life – look at all the commercials for chocolate, the way women react to chocolate in movies and TV. And probably also that women are taught we’re allowed to (maybe even supposed to) show off the ecstatic experience of eating something delicious. My friends and I went to a Michelin star restaurant in Vegas, and all the women were making those moaning noises over everything we ate (foie gras, how I love you), while the men were much more reserved in their pleasure, even when we were eating steak, the “manliest” of foods.

  3. Eh, I am not so much with the sweets. Chocolate tastes good in small doses, but I don’t get ecstatic about it.

  4. I must be really in touch with my feminine side, because I consider chocolate a necessary part of life. That said, I do seem to be in the minority among my male friends…

  5. “Chocolate is God’s way of reminding men how inadequate they are.”

    Awww, don’t feel that way. It’s a rare woman who thinks she can compete with an actual cheesecake.

  6. Well, I think there once was a very wise man called John Crichton, Astronut:

    “You say you want to go back to this planet of pain and suffering!”
    “Well you guys don’t have chocolate.”

    I think I believe him more than your little survey…yes, i do. *coughs*

  7. Chocolate is God’s way of reminding men how inadequate they are.

    Why do you think I learned to cook? Okay, not really, I learned to cook because I’m a picky eater, but the icing on the cake is that I can be the Source. This morning I skipped class (prearranged with my awesome prof who was bribed with promised chocolates) to prepare the specially ordered Swiss and Belgian chocolate I picked up last night. She definitely saw the candles, but I don’t think she suspects the chocolate. After I take her out for Sushi, I’ll bring her back for homemade chocolates, cementing my worth in the relationship! Besides, I like chocolate too, and I’m totally cool with being the second desert :-)

  8. This was vintage Scalzi? Then I was a fan long before I heard about OMW via Penny Arcade; I saw this circulating around the web in the late 90’s, unattributed, and printed it out as annual fare for Valentine’s Day. Thank you, sir; it made her day for several years.

  9. “Chocolate is God’s way of reminding men how inadequate they are.”
    This story sounds like every date with my wife…. :(

  10. I wonder how much of women’s reactions to chocolate is purely social indoctrination… Yes, it’s delicious, but when all we hear is that chocolate is heavenly/better than sex, how much of that slips into the subconscious and ramps up the interest?

  11. Part of it’s cultural, definitely.

    But part of it’s chemical. Some folks have the right biology and chocolate causes an endorphin release. Not everyone has the gene, hence some folks (myself included) being near-orgasmic over chocolate and others being unimpressed by it.

    The last time I had some really high-quality drinking chocolate, my pupils dilated and I felt high for about half an hour. It was awesome. :D

  12. My wife has no weakness for the thing known as chocolate. She likes it just fine, but it is up there with a like for cheese or avocado. She definitely doesn’t moan or even ever crave it. Maybe I should be happy that she doesn’t start pounding the table and squealing in delight over food. I would be, except it isn’t like I am anymore successful at this. I have made her moan, but it usually comes after a rather poor joke or notifying her that I mixed the whites with the darks in the washing machine again.

  13. The best thing posted today in all the internet! Not that I’ve had the time or the omnipresence to peruse the entire internet, but from what I’ve read today…definitely the most amusing and uplifting thing. :D

  14. Now there is a big fuss about incredibly dark chocolate with cocoa content above 80% and I know an enthusiast who says that most chocolate, being milk chocolate just isn’t good. I find that while I do frequently like dark chocolate, that some of these really dark offerings aren’t so much food as an ingredient.

    My wife likes chocolate very much, but her favorite candy store offering doesn’t contain chocolate.

  15. I agree with Jesi and Allison; women are expected to act orgasmic over chocolate, so they do. It’s certainly a more fun way to be feminine than the fainting that was expected of us in the Victorian era.

    I like chocolate just fine, but at my age (53), I no longer bother with the orgasmic fakery. Over candy, that is. On any other subject, I’m not talkin’.

  16. Mike – Milk chocolate may be eaten without accompaniment, while for the complete experience, any dark chocolate over 70% must be taken with a robust red wine.

    (Foot massages are optional but greatly recommended.)

  17. As it happens, I have been prescribed chocolate for pain related to a condition I have. Seems it has a lot of magnesium in it, which is the intended medication. This is how I learned that I don’t like chocolate as much as I thought I did. Also that I like Ghirardelli’s better than other easily available brands.

  18. Interestingly enough I am the chocolate fiend in the house (though my two boys are a close second) and my wife by and large could care less. I think this goes beyond a male/female thing, some people just are that attached to chocolate irrespective of sex.

  19. Nah. Come on, John, stereotyping isn’t something you usually do. Around here it’s my husband who’s the chocoholic; he’s the one who orders the Double Chocolate Fudge Mudslide with Chocolate Syrup desserts. I tend to forget we even have any, and then three months later it’s still there in the fridge. As far as I (female) am concerned, it’s brown, it’s sweet, it’s OK, and it’s overrated.

  20. Yeah, I’m with Jesi and allisonmonkey – women are taught early on that this is how they’re supposed to react to chocolate. It actually took me until my twenties before I realised that I am not, actually, that fond of chocolate, and in particular not fond of chocolate on its own – that I like it in combination with certain things, but I’ll still usually prefer a nice apple crumble or cheesecake, and “Unstoppable Double-Fudge Chocolate Mudslide Explosion” is right out. This was a mind-boggling realisation, honestly, because chocolate is coded as OMG So Delicious (especially for women); the idea I might prefer other sorts of desserts and sweets to chocolate just never entered my mind for the longest period of time despite my tastebuds telling me “not actually that enthusiastic”.

    Or maybe this is just another one of those things that shows I’m genderqueer. (<- joke)

  21. @Pallav: there’s the archive, and there’s the Random Whatever button! (At the bottom of the list on the right. I resort to it occasionally :).)

  22. I like it, but chocolate quite often remains in the fridge for months without either of us eating it. Trevor can take it or leave it, but will buy it for himself, and I like it but usually prefer crisps.

    Hog roast, now….

  23. Female: I kind of like chocolate, but I prefer milk chocolate – the 80% stuff tastes like Baker’s cooking chocolate, not good. I have met people who are such addicts that they will binge; they have to avoid chocolate entirely for their health. I would really like to know more about that chocolate-reacting gene, as obviously I don’t have it.

  24. (male, if it matters) The other thing I’ve noted about deserts, and chocolate in particular, is that this is the only context in which “decadent” is considered a term of merit rather than disparaging. Those “Unstoppable Double-Fudge Chocolate Mudslide Explosions” always have “decadent” somewhere in the longer description of the ingredients.

    The implication of this is that chocolate and its advertising are directed at women who want to indulge their desires. “Decadent” carries that slightly erotic overtone without explicitly saying “it’s OK for women to enjoy sex,” so it’s a safe outlet that avoids the censure of the self-appointed arbiters of public morality.

  25. wow.

    my favorite thing about chocolate? is that it’s actually almost as goot as phenegrin or zophran in dealing wth my opiate-induced nausea.
    which kind of sucks – don’t really like most chocolate. and even then, i don’t really like it ALONE. [fan of hot chocolate if there's a LOT of vanilla-flavored creamer. sometimes a reese's cup or peanut butter M&M. not STRAIGHT!]

  26. Hi, I’m htom and I’m a chocoholic. I don’t make a lot of chocolate things, because I’d consume them before they were finished. People (both men and women) do react differently to chocolate. Yesterday I had made two flourless chocolate cakes and served them to various groups. I’ll guess a third of the guys passed, and one or two women. Several of the men, and most of the women, are in one reaction group, their eyes close, they sigh, dip their head, lick their lips, they want and ask for seconds; most of the men, a few of the women, in the other group, taste, smile, they’ve had enough. There’s a similar thing with scotch and bourbon, except the other way.

    W1: Did you see how W2 grabbed that last piece to take home to her husband?

    W3: Do you think he’ll even see it?

    W4: I’ll see him at work tomorrow. Should I ask him?

    W5: What is important is getting your recipe! This is so good!

  27. I found the “ladeez, amirite?” tone of this one a little confusing, until I decided that it must have been reposted to show us all how far Scalzi has come in the past 18 years. Well played sir! I appreciate the you of today even more now.

  28. I have the gene. I’ve been known to use chocolate to deal with physical pain and depression. Actual chocolate, not diluted or substitutiony stuff. It doesnt have to be tasty. It doesnt have to be savored or even enjoyed. It just needs to be *internalized*.

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