From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Sundae Confessions:
Breaking the Ice Cream Rule

I worry about scientists discovering that lettuce has been fattening all along.

Erma Bombeck

As the hottest days of the year approach, my thoughts turn to ice cream. For me, ice cream holds the fascination of illicit sex.

My mother, a zealous nutritionist, held all refined sugars in the category of unmitigated evil.When I was a child, she would call the hostess before I arrived at friends’ birthday parties. “My daughter isn’t allowed any cake or candy,” she would warn sternly. I would sit alone at the end of the table while the other girls gobbled their goopy treats. When the hostess offered me an apple, I tried to look happy and avoid unwanted sympathy. I didn’t want to cry.

My mother’s goal was to raise pure, untainted children. Avoiding sugar—and the resulting flab and tooth decay—was more important than life itself. She would prophesize with morbid glee: “When you’re lying in your grave, you won’t have a single cavity in your mouth.”

For my sister, Lisa, and me, breaking the rules was the superglue that held us together. When we weren’t fighting for scraps of parental attention, we were scheming to sneak candy and ice cream.

On Halloween, our mother allowed us to harvest trick-or-trick candy if we handed over all the contraband upon arriving home. Always practical, she would give it back out to the goblins and astronauts who came to our door. One year, Lisa and I contrived to hide half our hoard under our beds. At night, we gorged ourselves on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and miniature Snickers bars.

Even as teenagers, sugary treats held more allure than drugs or sex. Ice cream sundaes, the most evil of confections, offered a sensual pleasure without the risks of intimacy or pregnancy. I first learned the dangers of sex from my mother. In sixth grade, on a long walk, she told me about all the rubbery and plastic forms of birth control and the importance of using them when “with” a man to prevent pregnancy. As a prepubescent girl, with no whisper of breasts or sexual urges, I was terrified.

Although we are both happily married, Lisa and I still take great joy in breaking the rules and indulging in the sensual depravity of ice cream sundaes. On a summer visit to our parents’ house, we decide to sneak away to Friendly’s. At the counter, with the sinful delight of the deceitful, Lisa and I contemplate our sundaes.

“I’m considering hot butterscotch and fudge with Swiss almond crunch and butterscotch ice cream,” I tell Lisa. She is lost in thought, staring up at the selection of ice creams. I suspect she is trying to decide between chocolate chip mint ice cream with hot fudge, or vanilla with caramel sauce and chocolate jimmies.

The waiter, a bored high school student, brings the glossy sundae menus. The bright scoops slathered with sauces reel before my eyes. “Are you ready to order?” he asks. He is looking toward the entrance, perhaps expecting his girlfriend or his gang. He could care less about our high moment. He is tall and thin with brown hair falling over his pimply forehead.

“Let me ask a few questions,” I say in a feigned voice of calm. “Does this sundae have two scoops or three?” I hold back an urge to order the super-duper five-scooper. My mouth is watering, my hands are cold, my speech is high-pitched and wavering.

The waiter slowly gets into the spirit of the thing as I press him with questions about the temperature of the hot fudge and the saltiness of nuts in the Swiss almond fudge. Lisa wants to know if the mint ice cream is very minty or mildly minty. Our taste buds are whipped into frenzy.

The waiter leans over us jotting notes on his pad. He carefully explains the types of sauces and options for whipped cream, leaving to check on supplies in the kitchen. After finalizing our orders, he asks: “How about if I just go wild on these sundaes?” We agree.

We fidget until our sundaes finally arrive: pure bliss. With my long spoon, I plunge through the frilly whipped cream and the hot sauce covering the frozen scoops nestled below. It’s sweet, cold, hot, all at once. We trade tastes, making sure we scoop equal amounts of ice cream and sauce on each spoon. We gorge ourselves until our spoons clink on the bottom of the thick glass dishes. I see the waiter looking over at us. We sigh contented. No need for cigarettes.

Andrea D’Asaro

“Look, why don’t we save ourselves a lot of time
and trouble. You give us all of your candy,
turn out your lights and go to bed, and
we’ll be honor-bound not to go to any other homes.”

CLOSE TO HOME. © John McPherson. Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. All rights reserved.

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