By Sophia Goodwin-Rice
This may be one of the most controversial things I’ve ever said, but I actually really love candy conversation hearts.
I know that they’re basically colored chalk cut out into the shape of hearts and that they make your mouth feel like you’ve been chewing on dust for a while. I also know that they’re probably horrifically bad for you and that those bright colors can’t come from any natural source, and that once you’ve eaten too many of them you start to wonder why you even started in the first place. But my love for this candy, as well as Necco Wafers, falls in line with my love for candy corn; it’s objectively terrible, but it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without it.
Candy and Valentine’s Day seem to go together almost as much as flowers do with the love-oriented holiday. As elementary school students, I’m sure many of us were obligated to buy or make Valentines for everybody in the class, and then drop them off at one anothers’ desks or in little handmade boxes. I also remember that in a lot of ways, this holiday was almost as super-hyped as Halloween, except for one signature difference: almost all of the candy on Valentine’s Day was red, excessively sugary and made out of something that probably shouldn’t be consumed on a regular basis. Among this array was, of course, the stupid wonderful conversation hearts, all packaged up in their cute little boxes with “to” and “from” filled out on the back. After all, what second grader doesn’t want tiny little candies with messages like “fax me?” It was the best of times.
As a now slightly older person who is realizing that Valentine’s Day means more than just sugary dust and pink cookies, I started to wonder what the deal really was with conversation hearts. It seems as though consumers are divided: either they count down the days until February or they want to incinerate every box of candy hearts that is created. The majority of the population appears to be on the latter side.
So why do they still exist? Why were they even created in the first place, and how have they not gone out of business yet? Even though I like them, I’m not about to buy enough to support the candy heart economy.
According to the Huffington Post, who were apparently wondering the same thing, the story dates back to the mid-1800s, following the creation of candy lozenges (Necco Wafers), when a pharmacist realized it would be possible to print words and fun sayings on those candy discs. It wasn’t until years later that they became heart-shaped, and the sayings, which began as long-winded and old-fashioned pickup lines, were shortened over the next century. Nowadays, consumers can slip each other phrases like “be mine”, or even their own customized sayings, with reportedly eight billion individuals candies produced annually. Needless to say, they don’t appear to be in a decline.
The debate over this so-called “chalk” candy is intense, much like debates concerning marshmallow Peeps and pineapple pizza, but perhaps we’re forgetting the true meaning behind such controversial foods. As toxic as they may be, candy conversation hearts invoke memories of childhood Valentine’s Day parties, handmade cards and, maybe in somebody’s mind, memories of buying inscribed lozenge candies from the local drugstore.
Valentine’s Day is about a lot of things, like love and friendship and appreciation, and doesn’t always have to focus on romantic relationships; maybe it could even be centered around those fond memories of getting all that red candy in your Valentine’s Day mailbox.
All in all, conversation hearts don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so maybe instead of threatening to destroy every package produced, we should embrace the traditional candy culture that our American society has created, as a reminder that not all types of love come with flowers and jewelry.