On being … a rhetorical question

By Ingrid Sapona

Talk about a no brainer. I mean, really. Trick or treat? Who chooses trick?

Though Halloween isn’t until tomorrow -- Halloween candy has been in the stores since Labour Day, so I’m sure you have yours by now. I’m told we don’t get kids coming to the door here, so I didn’t buy any. The fact that I “helped” my mother pick out what she’d be handing out -- you know, just in case there are leftovers that I might have to “help” her get rid of the next time I’m home -- doesn’t really count.

Every year there are two things that surprise me about Halloween candy: how early it appears on the store shelves, and the tremendous variety produced. I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit this, but over the last month I’ve spent more than a few minutes perusing the Halloween candy aisles. I love checking out what variations of the old standards they’ve come up with. This year, for example, I noticed Mint 3 Musketeers and Dark Chocolate Rocky Road Snickers. What will they think of next?

The process of choosing what Halloween treats to hand out is interesting. I couldn’t believe my mother was indifferent to what she gave out. She grew up in Europe so she never developed a taste for Snickers bars, Reese cups, M&Ms, or any of the other North American favourites. But even so, I couldn’t believe she didn’t care what she handed out.

My approach to choosing Halloween candy is very much like my approach to gift giving: if you know the recipient really well, by all means, give them something that is to their liking. But, if you don’t know the recipient well (and of course, anonymous ghouls and goblins knocking on your door generally fit in this category), I’ve always believed you should give something you’d like to receive.

I’m not sure when or how I developed that philosophy, but it’s been the rationale behind my giving for some time. (As I write this, I can’t help wonder how many of you have just mumbled, “well, that explains why she gave me -- (fill in the blank)!”) Anyway, regardless of what you think of that philosophy, vis-à-vis Halloween candy there’s little down side to it applying it – and a potential up side if there’s any left over.

My recent forays into Halloween candy land got me thinking about what I consider a treat. Like many, for me there are certain foods that always constitute a treat. As odd as it may sound, the first thing that comes to mind in this category is fresh figs. To me, there’s something divine about them. I often wonder whether part of the reason they’re such a treat for me is because I don’t live in a fig-growing climate, which means they’re relatively rare here… In any event, without a doubt, if I’m somewhere and figs are available (whether for sale, or on a menu, or whatever), I’m a happy woman.

But treats aren’t limited to food items. There are many non-food things that qualify as treats to me. Something as simple as a shower after a weekend on the boat, or a mid-afternoon nap, can also be wonderful treats. Interestingly, the extent to which I appreciate something as a treat has nothing to do with the cost -- it’s about how it makes me feel.

I don’t remember when I realized this, but once I did -- it didn’t take long for me to figure out that -- unlike when we you are a child -- as an adult, you don’t have to rely on anyone else to provide you with treats. Indeed, one of the great things about growing up is the fact that raising your spirits is often as easy as treating yourself to a little something. Doing so is empowering on many levels.

Of course, there’s no denying that there’s something extra special about being treated to something by someone else. But even in this regard, my appreciation of what constitutes a treat has evolved. As I get older, the types of treats I appreciate most from others usually don’t involve an object or anything that costs money. Instead, the best treats have to do with the person spending time with me, or doing something for me that I may not like doing.

Well, there you have it -- my two cents on treats. Not only do treats can come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours, they can take the form of an act or action. The key is that their effect is as a little pick-me-up that helps reminds us of how sweet life can be. So clearly, as between a trick or a treat -- the choice is obvious.

That said, I have one last word of advice on the topic. On Halloween, if someone dressed kind of funny asks you: “Trick or treat?” don’t bother with a lengthy answer -- they’re asking it in a strictly rhetorical sense. Instead, give them some candy and they’ll be gone. Trust me.

© 2008 Ingrid Sapona


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