A recent research study conducted on lab rats by students and a professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut has found that Oreo cookies are just as addictive as cocaine. In the experiments, rats were given Oreos on one side of a maze while on the other side they were fed a control of rice cakes. In a comparative study, rats were given cocaine or morphine on one side of the maze and saline on the other. Researchers discovered that when given a choice, the rats fed Oreos spent as much time on the “drug” side of the maze as those given cocaine or morphine.
The results of this study are no surprise to me. In fact, the only surprising thing is that the purchase of “America’s favorite cookie” hasn’t long ago been relegated to back alleys and furtive handoffs. It is an opinion forged through long, personal suffering.
My tragic story goes back to my college days and, like thousands of others, began innocently enough. The specter of Oreos, I realize now, was always in my consciousness. I grew up, if you remember from my first post, in South Florida, where Oreos pour into the state through the easy access of highways, byways, and waterways like mosquitoes after a rainy spring. The police and Coast Guard do their best to thwart these operations, but it seems there’s no limit to the desperadoes willing to risk it all for the big bucks, flashy cars, gaudy jewelry, ostentatious mansions, and freewheeling lifestyle Oreo trafficking provides.
Despite the pervasive temptation of these sweet treats, I survived my childhood and teenage years unscathed, preferring the comforting sway of iced tea and Chips Ahoy. I see, now, that I had been kidding myself and was already on the slippery slope, awaiting only the freedom of college to be undone. All the backgammon games, racquetball matches, pep rallies, football games, coffeehouses, poetry slams, trips to the mountains, trips to Knoxville, movie nights, and—oh, yes—reading, papers, and exams took their toll. How to cope?
I had heard “help” was available, but I was naïve in how to procure it. And then one night, during a friendly game of backgammon, my roommate pulled out a suspicious package and placed it between us. I was shocked, having always believed her only vice was the Swisher Sweet cigars she smoked while making reeds for her oboe.
I have to admit, however, that the pack’s alluring blue wrapper curiously attracted me. Without ceremony, my roommate ripped it open and pulled out what was to become my obsession and my nemesis. With practiced efficiency she separated the two chocolate cookies with a single twist and licked up the white creamy center. I was at once repelled and fascinated.
“Want one?” she asked, waggling one in front of me.
What I should have done was run from the room. I should have prayed for strength. I should have Just Said No. But I had two backgammon checkers on the bar and my roommate had already removed three from the board, and in a moment of weakness, I said, “Sure.” Actually, I said, “Sure!”
She handed me the cookie and I took a bite. “No! Not like that!” my roommate cried out. Immediately, I again felt the sting of the uncool. My high school career came flooding back to me in a hallucinatory rush. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be that geeky girl with the glasses, permed hair, lucky knee socks, and straight A’s in Modern European History anymore. I wanted to taste all life had to offer. I grabbed the top and bottom of the cookie and twisted.
The smooth, creamy filling was a revelation. I felt energized, invincible. I reached for another one and attacked the game with new verve. A quarter of the bag later, I had won in a series of frenzied, inspired moves. I was hooked.
The years sped by in an Oreo-fueled haze. I fell in with a bad crowd, dragging my sister along for the ride. We spent weekend nights trolling the dimly lit aisles of Food City, pooling our money for a much needed fix. At first one bag was enough to meet everyone’s needs, but soon only an entire bag per person satisfied our cravings.
No all-nighter was complete without the motivation and inspiration those chocolate rounds supplied. We didn’t care if we woke up in a pile of strewn wrappers and crumpled row dividers; we hardly noticed the thick cream that matted our hair; and we felt no shame in picking crumbs out of the carpet for breakfast. We knew we would Ace those exams, and we knew what to thank for it.
You might think someone would have intervened, but I was wily. The Tab kept me thin, I always carefully dusted myself of any lingering crumbs, and I kept my grades up. In fact the saccharine stimulation only made the Old English of Beowulf, the Early Modern English of Shakespeare, and the Modern-But-Still-Incomprehensible English of James Joyce all the easier to understand. Even the hair style managed by the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls made sense.
Finally, though, I hit bottom. All my friends deserted me, and I realized in feverish horror that I had racked up substantial debts and could no longer afford my decadent lifestyle. When I got clean and the sugary demon no longer fogged my brain, I discovered this was called “Graduation.”
It’s been many years since those unfortunate days, and I’ve never looked back. At Stop & Shop I’m never tempted as I stroll down the cookie aisle, even if my eye does wander over to the shelf of designer Oreos now available to unsuspecting consumers. I’ve dedicated myself to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I’m on my way to the gym right now for a game of racquetball, and on the way home I’ll stop off for a Mocha Frappuccino.
That’s okay, right?