Candy Is Dandy, but Bacon Is Better

“Thank you for being my bacon,” my friend Sherrie said to me recently. I’ve known Sherrie since 2006 when we met as teachers in the same building. She and I taught many of the same students, so it was natural that we’d always find something to talk about. It wasn’t long before we became close friends.

We came up with the idea of “bacon” representing a long-term, fulfilling relationship and “candy” representing a short-term quickly-enjoyed relationship as we were discussing how people influence the choices we make in our lives. We concluded that most stable people choose to keep others in their lives who add dimension and love, our “bacon,” and eschew those who don’t, our “candy.”

I have an acquaintance who has never had a bacon relationship. I’m not talking just about a romantic relationship, I mean one like I have with Sherrie. She is so comfortable she can walk into my house unannounced, help herself to a cup of coffee, and be sitting on the couch when I come down from the shower—and all she says is, “Oh, hi!” There’s no, “What are you doing here?” or, “How dare you?”

This acquaintance, whom I’ll call “Heather,” has never become close to another person. On the surface, this choice may seem to have some advantages. Heather lives free and easy; she is not tied down to anyone and she has the freedom to stay out as late as she wants partying. She can stay wherever she wants, hang out with whomever she wants, and do whatever comes up. She is not accountable to anyone. As a woman in her 20s, she spends her days working as a waitress, but only long enough to pay a couple of bills. After that, it’s all about where the next party is.

A typical day goes like this: She wakes up at nine-ish and wanders into work, where she spends a few hours waiting tables or bartending (the restaurant doesn’t matter; she’s had so many of these jobs it’s hard to know where she’s working now). Once the afternoon hits, she starts asking customers (or gets texts from acquaintances) about where the next party is. She’ll entertain a few offers, then choose the one she thinks will be the most fun. (Translation: which party will have the most drugs she’s interested in that day.)

The party she goes to depends on her mood. She goes home, finds an outfit for the evening, and leaves, after having exchanged several texts to discuss the party. She then parties all night with the hope of a “hook up.” I don’t know why she bothers looking for a hook up because she won’t remember it anyway. The next morning, she wakes up not knowing where she is, whose house it is, or how she got there. That’s when the people she was texting last night get a phone call or text asking for the missing part of the story. It’s kind of like an alternative version of The Hangover. She then goes home (sometime she can’t find her car, but she figures that part out later) and gets ready for another day at work.

Heather may be afraid of commitment, but to some people that’s a good thing. She wants to hook up for a night with no regrets, no consequences? Why not? Heather fills her life with these caricatures of people so she can avoid committing to anyone, but like candy, these one-time good-time hookups just don’t sustain her the way a long-term lasting relationship could. I don’t think she’s ever had a bacon-style relationship, because if she did, she’d want it all the time.

She’d want that security of coming home to someone who cares about her, who wants to hug her and tell her she is loved and cherished, who can’t wait to be with her. Heather has never experienced that, so instead of surrounding herself with a few people who can be her relationship bacon, she’s surrounding herself with fake, short-term candy-people. She cycles through more and more of those quick relationships because it takes more of them to fill her up. Just one solid bacon relationship could fill her tank right to the top, but she avoids the longer-term investment in relationships because there is too much responsibility in committing herself to another person.

As I approach the golden age of 50 I have been looking back to evaluate the relationships I have in my life. When I was younger, candy was great; it was the focus of my choices of the day. Now, though, I am much more discriminatory about whom I choose to add to my life. I think: “is this person potential bacon?” I also have let most of the candy go, because although it is sweet in the short-term, candy relationships are very high-maintenance. I don’t have time for that anymore.

Sherrie has added herself to my bacon list because I know I can rely on her for anything I might need. She knows I will reciprocate. We share many friends on our bacon lists, and our lives are fuller because of the sustaining power of trusting, long-term friendship. Candy is dandy, but bacon is better.