24 May Don’t Mess with My Peeps
Spring has arrived in our fair city, bringing with it all the familiar seasonal expectations. For some it’s the return of leaves on the trees. For others it’s the sight of new flower buds shyly reaching toward the sun after months of hibernation. But for me, spring is all about the onslaught of Easter candy.
The thought of plastic eggs filled with pastel jelly beans makes most people salivate with glee. But for me, just the sight of a chocolate bunny fills me with fear. The truth is this: I am afraid of Easter candy. More specifically, I am terrified of Peeps.
The root of this phobia can be traced back to my childhood—as most longstanding traumas can—and to a towheaded boy in my second-grade class named Keith Stoops. Keith was an interesting kid. At age eight, he knew more curse words than my Aunt Denise (and she worked in a prison). He would run around at recess hurling obscenities at anyone in his path, including the janitor, the lunch lady and the librarian. (I was so naïve I thought he was speaking French.) In addition to obscenities, he was also very adept at hurling dirt clods. That kid had an arm like Felix Hernandez.
Keith didn’t like me—or perhaps he did—and the only way he expressed it was through a series of humiliating pranks. He tried to color my freckles with Crayola markers. He liked to lather my pencil in rubber cement. He also broke into my Wonder Woman lunchbox one day and taped up the bottom of the straw on my thermos. I spent an entire lunch period sucking on a taped straw, trying to get a sip of milk. To this day I’m convinced Keith’s thermos trick is responsible for my overbite.
But perhaps the most egregious prank was on Tuesday, April 14, 1981, when—unbeknownst to me—Keith placed two yellow Peeps on my desk chair. I didn’t even feel the chick-shaped marshmallows adhering to the back of my romper, where they stayed for the rest of the day like very quiet hitchhikers. Nobody came out and said anything, but there were hints. Sarah Benner kept pointing at my romper. Brian Wong laughed really hard when he stood behind me to line up for recess. Dana Worley wanted to know if I’d been spanked by the Easter Bunny. But it wasn’t until I got home and my mother asked me why I was carrying two pieces of candy on my backside that I realized I had been the victim of what is now referred to in my family as “The Great Peeps Caper.”
From that day on, the sight of Peeps has filled me with a terror heretofore only reserved for bees and Brussels sprouts. Even now, when a Peeps commercial comes on television I instinctively check for marshmallow residue on the seat of my pants. I spend a lot of March and April with my hands on my backside.
Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. I’m a survivor. I’m sensitive, but I’m no wimp. I exacted my revenge on Keith several months later. You should have seen what I put on his seat for Thanksgiving. I won’t go into detail but I will share this: cranberry sauce stains corduroy.