We often underestimate the role that objects play in our lives. The things that occupy our homes, shelves, closets and garages can become extensions of our beings, evoking strong memories and feelings. The Featured Object series explores our connections to the simple and banal objects that populate our lives, inspiring stories, thoughts and meditations.
“BE MINE.” “U R A QT.” “LUV U.” Though there has never been a national vote, Sweethearts are the unofficial candy of Valentine’s Day. The phrases and flavors have changed over the years, but the nostalgic sentiment remains the same. Tinged with humor and plenty of sweetness, author Andrea Seigel, art director Jaspal Riyait and writer Ann Friedman contribute their personal musings on this iconic candy, reminding you that it’s all about “TRU LUV.”
I’m of a generation raised on a deep suspicion of unwrapped Halloween candy, so I already came to Sweethearts with baggage. It’s not like I thought my classmates were painting them with liquid acid (we were GATE kids), but there was still something about loose candy rolling around in the bottom of a Valentine envelope that skeeved me out. I guess it was partly the chalkiness, partly the pockmarked surfaces, partly the homemade looking edges, and partly the super sketchy caps font, which had the uneven intensity of a prison tattoo.
Mostly it was that conversation hearts forced you into a false intimacy with your most undesirable classmates (the alluring ones never went for this kind of naked communicative effort), who you now had to think about handling the candy with nervous, sweaty fingers while opening an emotionally masturbatory dialogue with you in their minds as they drizzled their come-ons into your envelope.
Even a “FAX ME” could bring about the curdling sensation of being trapped in some kind of pending obligation with a kid who you wouldn’t ever borrow a chewed pencil from, even if your math test depended on it. And even if, in fact, the hearts had come straight out of the box, that didn’t matter — they still bore the personalized heaviness of coming out of someone’s warm, gamey pocket. This wasn’t a generalized OCD reaction on my part. I’ve never had any problems taking M&Ms from someone’s living room candy dish and, to this day, I’m still not super bothered by the idea of a waiter angrily spitting in my food in a restaurant kitchen. The impression was specific to those hearts, to the image they conjured of my fifth-grade stalker in his pungent home chanting, “KISS ME. SWEET TALK. CUTIE PIE. I HOPE. TRUE LOVE,” obsessively through his head as he slowly licked my envelope shut. And when I received that envelope, I’d think, “Dude, you should have gone with the pre-wrapped red heart sucker.”
In recent years Necco has tried to extend the popularity of the Sweethearts candy beyond Valentine’s Day, releasing special lines for Memorial Day (“Proud,” “Love the USA”) and the premiere of Twilight (“Bite Me” “Bedazzle”). I have some other suggestions as to how the wafer company might diversify its product line.
Sweethearts© Tough Conversations Edition
Sweethearts© Outdated Technology Edition
Sweethearts© Hipster Edition
Sweethearts© Style Blogger Edition
Sweethearts© Jersey Shore Edition
Sweethearts© Office Romance Edition
—Ann Friedman wants a personal set of conversation hearts that read SHAME LUST, BONE ZONE, and CORE LADY.
Photo by Jaspal Riyait
Growing up in a traditional Indian family, where laying eyes on a boy was strictly forbidden, Sweethearts were the next best thing to being in a relationship. The words “Kiss Me” and “Be Mine” meant more to me than the cheap, factory-imprinted messages, and I savored each letter, enduring the chalky, Pepto-Bismol aftertaste. Hey, I took my candy boyfriend seriously and I remembered the fear of receiving a defective worn away message, or worse yet, no message at all, which was the equivalent to opening a fortune cookie with no fortune. Was this the a cruel way of telling me I would never find love? (All pity date offers welcome.)
With social media overtaking our lives and eating away at our capabilities of human interaction, it was only a matter of time before new messages appeared on Sweethearts. Sayings like “Tweet Me” and “Text Me” are the new cyber love notes of the millennium, a far cry from “Fax Me,” the first updated saying in the early ’90s.
This year, I will once again visit my childhood memories by rekindling the flame with my heart-shaped boy-toy, and for at least five minutes out of every year, my cavity-induced sweetie will let me believe I “Look Good” and am “So Fine.” Maybe this year he’ll utter those two words he fails to say the the other 364 days of the year… “Love Bites.”
—Jaspal Riyait is the art director at O, The Oprah Magazine. During the day, you can find her scrutinizing over typography and design, but at night her passion for food is in full force at platoputas.com, her daily food blog.