Aricle: The Candy Man Can

I can recall how it smelt. Even before entering the door, the scent engulfed my senses. I swear, it was a nasal orgasm. Not to mention the color, the selection and the opportunity for pleasure. The place was no bigger than a large closet. But when I was there, I didn’t notice the tight quarters. I was too busy thinking about the delights that awaited me. How much loot I could stuff in my little white bag.

The candy shop in the small Midwestern town where I went to college is one of my fondest memories of those four years. Think pre-Dylan’s in Manhattan. Or pre-I-have-to-give-a-shit-about-nutrition from the days of our youth. This place was divine. A real treat. The type of shop I had no idea even existed. And then, there it was. Blocks away. Right under my nose. Mine for the taking. All I wanted. Just for me.

When I am working with couples, I often think about this little candy shop. After we have diagnosed the ineffective relational dynamics and worked to stop the repetitive injury, then the fun begins. I get to teach the couple how to be connected at a deep emotionally intimate level.  And you would be surprised how many look at me with an expression that says – what the hell are you talking about? I will then point to the partner sitting next to him or her on the couch and tell them how lucky they are that someone loved them enough to drag them into therapy. I then get more stares as if I am totally nuts. But I go on. I tell them about this little candy shop outside Chicago that they have never been to. That emotional intimacy with another human being – in all its mess and all its glory – is the candy of life. And unfortunately, they have never tasted it, much less relished in it. They have never had the opportunity to fill up their little white bag to their heart’s content with the best stuff around. This realization brings its own sadness … what a waste of years. Yet, it also brings opportunity. The candy shop awaits.

I will never forget the first time I gave my daughter sugar. She must have been about 18 months old. Sitting up in her highchair. Fully satisfied with her meal of strained peas and mashed turkey. But, I could not resist the beautifully decorated holiday cupcake from the grocery store that morning. And there it now sat, right on her tray. She gazed at it with wonderment. What is this monstrosity? One bite and she was sold. Hook, line and sinker. Within a minute, she was covered in blue icing. Sugar! She was a gonner. No going back. No way, no how. I had given her the goods and now she would tolerate nothing less. Such is the way of intimacy. Once you have known its gold, there is no substitute. Anything else holds only emptiness and dissatisfaction.

Have you been to the candy shop? It awaits. Blocks away. Right under your nose. Yours for the taking. All you want. Just for you.

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