The Twinkie Offense

It just isn’t fair.  Thanks to the vicissitudes of corporate life (an unresolved labor dispute, or merely executive greed?), a whole generation of Baby Boomers is now in mourning for a gummy dessert most of them haven’t let past their capped teeth in years.

Maybe this is the Twinkie’s long-delayed execution.  That scarily yellow cake has been on Death Row since Dan White accused it of killing Harvey Milk.

Of course, most of the people now known as Twinkies don’t remember Harvey Milk—or, for that matter, much of anything that happened before the advent of smartphones.  Take Tristan, for example.

First of all, 20 years ago was anyone named Tristan?  Until recently, the only Tristan I had ever heard of sang himself to death on stage next to Isolde.  (Sorry, Twinks, you probably won’t get that reference.  But there’s only so much I can do without calling up the ancient past—or, as you whippersnappers call it, B.C., Before Cellular.)

Tristan was the first sign that I had reached middle age.  When you start getting chased by twinks, you know you’re officially old.  In fact, Tristan was the first—and, I suppose, only—man I’ve ever slept with who was technically young enough to be my son.  We met at a party, and I thought he’d just be a good friend.  Until the next day, when he texted to tell me he’d dreamt about me.  Texting quickly turned into sexting (oh, how the neologisms fly in the digital age).  The interesting thing, of course, is that men of Tristan’s age communicate almost entirely through text, as if telephones were never intended for voice.  Even email was apparently too old-fashioned for Tristan.

When you’re in bed with a man nearly 20 years younger, it’s hard not to think back to your own youth.  Is this what I was like? I thought, as he arched his back and revealed ribs where, on my 40-something body, only a round belly was in view.  Was that my energy level at his age?

When it was finally over, I lay back and tried to catch my breath.

“What’s this?” he said suddenly, the hint of a surprised chuckle in his voice.

I rolled over to see him gazing at the nightstand, the flickering blue numbers on my digital alarm clock.  His eyes were riveted on the machine as if it had landed from Mars, as if he thought little green men were going to spill out of the speaker at any minute.  He genuinely had no idea that such things had ever existed.

“Um, that’s a clock,” I said.  I couldn’t have been more taken aback if we were still in the dining room and I’d found myself saying, “Those things placed around the table—they’re called chairs.”  Or like Annie Sullivan at the end of The Miracle Worker:  “W-a-t-e-r:  it has a name!”

Okay, so I’ve had the clock since the 80s.  It has a very 80s vibe, in fact, the sort of design that screams “futuristic,” as if the manufacturers assumed it was ahead of its time and would fit in better in the 21st century.  Little did they know that the 21st century would give a whole new meaning to minimalism.  Tristan probably used his cell phone as an alarm clock.  If he wasn’t too busy texting on it.

So for him that oversized clunker on the nightstand marked me as old, its blue numbers counting out my age with every dropping minute.  But at least it was still working.  In 1980, planned obsolescence hadn’t yet become a principle of manufacturing.  That clock radio has lasted me through at least 2 cell phones, 5 computers, 3 DVD players (and yes, gulp, a couple of those artifacts known as VCRs), and 3 iPods.  And it probably cost me 10 bucks.

In contrast, Tristan has probably never owned any single item for more than a year. While Twinkies cakes have an infamously long shelf life, the gadgets of their eponymous humans do not.  (I’m not sure I can say the same for that clock radio:  after the apocalypse, it’ll probably be playing dance music for the cockroaches.)

Of course, in actuality, even the Twinkie—human or spongy—is susceptible to the ravages of time.  The shelf-life story is apparently a myth.  Someone on the news yesterday said that Twinkies actually can survive for only a month before starting to turn stale.  For the human variety, I think it’s closer to a decade.  When Tristan turns 30, the first telltale signs of gray will appear at his temples and he’ll probably start moving a chunk of his expendable income away from electronics and toward skin-care products.  Even a Twinkie’s priorities change over time.

But in the business world, all is seldom lost, and where there’s money to be made, someone will step up to the plate.  According to the pundits, the liquidation of Hostess will perforce include selling of its assets—the recipe for Twinkies chief among them.  Soon, those luscious yellow cakes may start pouring out of another oven, and the mouths of America can start watering again.

Never fear, my friends:  Twinkies always get picked up.

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