One of my colleagues at work just came back from the USA and brought back a bag of Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups to share around the office.
I opened the bag and ate six of them before anyone else even knew they were there.
I did it out of love. I love Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups. Deeply love them.
I was about to eat six more, but other office people came around and I didn’t want everyone to see me eat 12 Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups. That would be embarrassing. But maybe I could get away with it. I was confident no one loved Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups as much as me, so I felt I had some right to them. And those other office people didn’t know I had eaten six already.
But even if no one knew about the original six, clearly eating six Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups in the middle of a busy office is not going to look good when those Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups are there for everyone to share. Maybe I could take three now and then three more later once a reasonable amount of time had passed. Then after a couple of hours – no – one hour – no – a half hour – I could have 3 more. Three at a time wasn’t too many. Right? If I could space things out, I could have three at a time every half hour until all the Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups were gone.
Did I mention that this was 9.30am in the morning? I was immersed in a deceit-filled plan to eat 21 or more Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups three and a half hours before lunch.
This is what love does to you. The thing you love the most, you must have it. But more than that, you must destroy it. I started to think about this as I stared at the bag. I loved Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups, but I wasn’t enjoying eating them. It’s not like I ate them slowly, savouring the pleasure that Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups give to you. No – I devoured them in gigantic whale-like gulps, barely even tasting them as they dropped down my gullet like plankton.
I had to have them until they were gone. Then the need to have them would be gone and I could wait around for another six months until someone else I knew went to America and brought back Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups. Then I could be happy again.
The whole thing just made me feel bad. I don’t know if I was a little sick from eating Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups for breakfast, or if I was just feeling philosophical. But I sat there with chocolate and peanut butter on my mouth and I said to myself: “To love something is to feel bad, at least until you destroy that thing.”
This is what you do if you are a fan who loves something and then a movie or a TV show comes out based on your favourite novel or comic book or whatever. You find out everything you can about it the production in advance, to ruin any surprise the movie might hold for you. You don’t want to rediscover the joy the original work gave you when you first read it. You love it too much for that. You need to crush the feverish anticipation you might feel. When the movie finally comes out, you don’t set aside a quiet afternoon to enjoy the film in comfort. No, you must be first in line at some uncomfortable and inconvenient midnight screening.
Then after you have seen this film, based on something you love, you don’t let it sit in your imagination, the way you might digest a satisfying meal. No, you critique it. You catalogue how it has pleased you and disappointed you. In conversations and social media postings, you take it apart like a team of sharp-eyed accountants doing an audit on a tax cheat. You watch “making-of” videos about the film, deconstructing your favourite scenes. You look for Easter Eggs, read essays about the film, re-read the original source material. You rip apart the thing you love like a dog trying to get to the centre of a chew toy.
You destroy it, just like I destroyed those Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups.
People do this with other people they love too. They find someone they fancy and they feel a fever if they are not with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They date, they get engaged and they get married, until they are finally used to each other. Then they feel better.
All of this philosophy was what I was thinking about as I sat there eating my 15th Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup, preparing to eat three more. After I had eaten a few more of these Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups in front of me, maybe I would make a change. Maybe I needed to make a change.
I thought to myself, better to just like something. Enough with this Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup passion. I should spend more time just on things I like, such as a Twix bar or maybe a Kit Kat. Nobody loves a Kit Kat. You like it. You break it into pieces, and then you eat it in reasonable small bites. It tastes okay. It’s nice. This way you enjoy it. A Kit Kat is better for everyone involved.
So at the end of the day, after I had eaten 21 Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups and watched a few Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups go to other office people in between my bouts of three, I go home to my wife and my daughter, both of whom I love very very much. I look at them and I don’t see Kit Kats. I see Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups. This makes me forget all about my guilt from the 21 Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups I had eaten that morning and all of my new resolutions dissolve away.
Maybe I’ll just try to chew a little slower.
1 thought on “The Reese’s principle: the counterintuitive impulse to destroy the things we love”
Well, Reese’s is made by Hershey, and we know how the Limeys feel about Hershey chocolate. I think you were safe in hoarding them.