October 27: marshmallows

In the school where I sometimes work the Principal has a little speech to the new students at the beginning of the year which she ornaments with marshmallows. She explains the idea of deferred gratification through deciding to forego on an immediate pleasure, presumably the enjoyment of a marshmallow, for a later but greater pleasure, probably passing your exams at the end of the year. I’m not quite sure how the explanation fits together but I’m sure you get the gist. The marshmallows are therefore set up as a pleasure to be passed over. What happens then is that the dish of marshmallows is put in the hall downstairs for anyone to just take and enjoy as they pass through the school. What always surprises me is that none of the kids seem to take them. Either they are still under the influence of the speech about deferred gratification and think that eating a marshmallow would refelct poorly on them, or, more likely, they are upper middle class kids who have never seen a packet of industrially produced pink marshmallow and look down their noses at them. I, of course, as an ex-working class kid of the industrial north, can think of nothing more extravagant than a gelatin-laden cancerogenic marshmallow, and I multiply my trips through the hall to stuff my face with the heavenly pink and white mush. Oh yes. No matter how you try to hide your roots, your past; no matter how distant it all appears to be; no matter how you look to cover it all up with opera and string quartets and fancy literature, the truth will always out. Picture me, as scarlet-faced as Mr Bumble, stuffed to the gills with the spongey, vile confectionary – marshmallows make no attempt to portray themselves as anything other than pads of toooth-decaying squidge – attempting to be taken seriously in front of a set of seventeen or eighteen year olds just back from their summer break in St Tropez. And so begins the instruction of these young minds. The truth will always out.


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