Something Really Old VI: Chocolate
This was from my Fresno Bee column, in (I think) 1995.
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.