Addiction Story #17, Pearly Gates Climbing Rose: Goodbye, Girl Scout Thin Mints
I am 60 now. It’s finally time to bid farewell — with a tip of Sis’s old green felt beret — to the annual Thin Mints. I’m not a girl anymore. Here is #17 in my flower-titled story series about sugar and overeating addiction.
I don’t like saying goodbye. Not to Dumont High School when it was time to move onto college, not to my mother when she died, not to Douglass College/Rutgers when it was time for real life.
I stood on the green Ravine Bridge near Voorhees Chapel, feeling its sway, knowing I’d miss it, miss the energy, fun, freedom, friendships….college had changed me, been a bridge to a new me. I had walked those wood planks many times, hurrying to a women’s studies or philosophy class by Antilles Field, or to sit on blue cushions at Sunday Mass. That bridge was a gift from the Douglass College Class of 1926. I stood and contemplated the plaque, the peeling green paint on the wood suspension bridge.
Time passes, people move on.
And the sweets in my life, the killer cookies, brownies, cakes, donuts, candy and crumb buns, can move right along now, too.
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
— “MacArthur Park,” written by singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb. When I was #17, I loved singing along to the 1978 version by “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer on the car radio.
Let’s honor the Girl Scout Cookie for what is is. Tradition in a box. Retro. Classic. Old-timey. Yummy. Treat. Comfort. Special recipe. Small-town and city delivery by hand. Memory. Girl helper. Business model.
My mother was a Girl Scout leader for Sis’s troop in the sixties. I was a Scout from second grade through ninth grade (thank you, Mrs. Roche, Mrs. Finn, Mrs. Fuhrman, Mrs. Santos, Mrs. Guth, Mrs. Radicia* — and Mrs. C., for camping with us). The few years Figgy was a Scout, I was troop co-leader — with Susan and Mary Ann. Skippy was a Scout for a year, but sadly, that troop disbanded.
Selling Girl Scout Cookies is a cherished girlhood memory. The envelope with the flap, the cookie images printed on it — customers penned orders on the lines, and we put the money inside. It was fun. I was independent, trusted to sell and deliver door to door. I was a future food writer. I loved talking about food. On my honor, I honored cookies of all kinds.
At 12:45 a.m. today, I got up with our doggy, our #17 yo mostly blind, shaggy white Sugar. That tiny Bichon Frise (we once dressed her up as a Girl Scout, with a sash) was barking to go out.
Dan and I take turns. It was my turn. I wanted to sleep. We had a nice day at Sandy Hook, by the beach, and a seafood dinner to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
I was not hungry. I was sound asleep. I was dreaming.
I am a sugar addict.
After taking Sug out, while the neighborhood slept, I went to the kitchen to give her the two Blue Bits heart-shaped treats she expects. I then opened and ate a full box of Thin Mints at the table. (The 9-ounce box contained eight servings of 4 cookies/160 calories/9 grams added sugar. So I consumed 1,280 calories and 72 grams added sugar.)
Sugar nibbled at her Kibbles. I was tired, wanted to go back to sleep, but she barely eats her dry food, and only at the weirdest times, so I stayed by her.
My overeating impulse had been triggered. I then had two slices of Provolone, raisins, walnuts, the burnt cheese off a couple leftover frozen pizza slices (threw the rest out) and a glass of milk. I left the empty cookie box on the counter, near the coffeemaker, and went back to bed, carrying Sug in my arms — she can’t walk upstairs.
“What were you doing all that time?” Dan asked.
“Sugar was eating her Kibbles,” I said.
“Love you, good night.”
Darn, I thought, as my head hit the pillow. Now I have to write another Addiction Story tomorrow. I have to admit to this in print.
I thought, with shame, that now a lifelong family friend, M., who had been reading these stories, and sent supportive comments, would know what I had done. I think M. came to mind because I had told her I was on a road to recovery. I want to believe that, and I want M. to believe it, too.
My therapist says that as time goes on, an addict needs more and more of a substance to get the hit.
I barely tasted the 32 cookies in those two plastic sleeves, except to think they tasted kind of fake. That they were not satisfying. As I popped them whole into my mouth, knowing I would eat every last one, I read the box. It says “chocolatey,” not chocolate. But the disks, the time-travel flying saucers that took me back to the sixties, are still made with peppermint oil. Nice touch.
I dropped a few on the floor and picked them up before Sugar would eat them. Chocolate/chocolatey is bad for dogs and besides, I wanted all.
I remembered Mom saying she liked Thin Mints. I thought of the old cookie order envelope and of Scouts in the troop I co-led, the parents, some projects we had done. I recalled making a dessert at one meeting with the girls — a big trifle, in a bowl with whipped cream and Thin Mints. My idea, found online.
That was pretty stupid, I thought, shaking my head.
I mean, we could have made something healthful, right?
This morning, I told my angel in my recovery program. She asked if I would stop purchasing sweets, period — for myself, for my family, for gifts. I said yes.
I ordered those seven boxes in January for my family, not me. For Skip, Sis, Fig (Thin Mints are vegan ) and Dan. I was happy to see the notice on our neighborhood Facebook group that even in this dark pandemic, the Girl Scouts were powering on. A little girl up the block, someone I know from the schoolbus stop, took orders online (with her Mom).
Next time, to honor Scout tradition in three generations of my Garbarini/Hurley/Marquez family — Mom, Sis, me, Figgy and Skipper — and to support girl goals and dreams, I will order cookies to be sent to the troops (Army bases, etc.). In the past, before I was a Mom, I gave some boxes to homeless people I passed on my walk to the Port Authority.
This morning, Dan saw the folded box.
“What’s this?” he said. (I had asked him to hide all the other boxes, except the three for Sis and Fig.)
“I ate it,” I said.
“At 12:45 a.m., when I got up to take Sugar out. Leave it there. I’m writing about it.”
“At 12:45 a.m.? But where did you get it?”
I told him. He asked where the two boxes for Sis were, and took them to live with the others. I told him I wouldn’t eat them, but he took them up. Probably better.
Goodbye, Thin Mints. Our relationship has been long and bittersweet. You no longer serve me well.
And now it’s time for a late lunch — salad, and the part of the lump crabmeat cake Dan couldn’t finish at dinner yesterday. (He said I could take it home with my uneaten vegs.)
Thank you for keeping me honest and accountable.
Above, the Pearly Gates Climbing Rose, another old-fashioned tradition, like Girl Scout Cookies. Image from Spring Hill Nurseries in Ohio.
Today’s lesson: Girl Scout Cookies are a sweet memory now — like the green Ravine Bridge on campus. You can remember the bridge, even revisit it, but you cannot keep eating Girl Scout Cookies and recover from sugar addiction.
*I unearthed my Junior Girl Scout handbook from fourth grade — and saw the names of more troop leaders written in my penmanship, including Mrs. Burke and Mrs. Brown. Thank you.
I published my first story about sugar addiction, “#1, Buttercup: I Know an Addict When I See One,” on January 31, 2021. My next will be “#18, Marigold.” I’m giving the stories flower names, from the tiniest bright yellow bloom I saw as a girl on a summer night in Bedford Park to big, wide-open garden varieties, which I hope will signify my journey to self-knowledge on this sweet and sour road.
Alice Garbarini Hurley has been writing since sixth grade and lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her family. She worked on staff at Seventeen, Good Housekeeping and Sesame Street Parents magazines, and freelanced as a fact checker at Cigar Aficionado. She has blogged daily at her website, Truth and Beauty, since 2010. Alice is in a recovery program.