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Postmodern Village
est. 1999
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Snickerdoodle Dandy: the Selling of the Dough America and the (Re)Packaging of the Male as Snack Food
By Mary Chino-Cherry

To see them there in their hard, fat rolls, in their flesh-colored packaging, is to know true temptation. We say this is so, commonly, of women in this country, but a good many men succumb as well: a bit chunky, perhaps, but packed full of buttery goodness, tubular bliss, calling out from the sudden urges of the atavistic Eve, whispering “take me into you; I need to be in your mouth.”

They Come

They come in a variety of flavors, from feigned plain but deeply sweet vanilla to dark-chocolate double-threat, to all kinds of shades and variations in between, some carameled, some candied, some ginger, some spiked. The variety of skins can be intimidating at first, but they hide a certain vulnerability, a deep desire, in themselves, to yield and be encompassed by a hungry mouth, the hungry fingers that hold them.

These tubes of cookie dough are practical product-placement, of course, sunk in among sensible sacks of frozen noodles, knocked in next to the Lean Cuisine. They are meant to attract the wandering eye of the otherwise responsible wife and mother making right choices for the husband and the dependent brood back home. There is something furtive, contrabandoned, about them, raw and fleshy as they are, imprinted with these glorious names: Amos, famous and strong; the scintillating forbiddenness of fondling something belonging to Mrs. Fields; the cozy, yet errant bliss of being snacked-up in the Toll House. The conscience is willing to let all this go, to handle only the socially acceptable but singularly unappealing and lumpy packet of frozen peas. But oh no—the come-on is unmistakable; cookie dough awaits, melting inside us though we know the dangers of the exposure to raw eggs.

A few men fall in with us, dig deep into the obvious but unspoken display—perhaps more than will be willing to admit. But studies show it's we women who go for the raw dough. Some of this is, perhaps, genetic: women have keener senses of taste and smell, and so men are more likely not to detect the subtle hints of flavor. They may be destined only to appreciate the chocolate bits, the butter and sugar and cream, when ultra-concentrated by a simple heat. And then there's the higher tolerance for the inchoate, the ambiguous that perhaps remains a woman's place in society. Men are trained to like certainty: the definite thingness of a crisp snap of the baked piece. Sadly still, a man is; a woman is becoming.

What Shape's Got to Do with It

But the flattened form of the finished cookie is more likely to appeal to a man as well through its association with the circular hole-someness of the vagina, the form easily dominated, bitten of. For women, the firm pillars harboring mouthwatering ooze must be coaxed to release their flavor, a more complex form of control, a having by being had. She reverses the hegemonic notion of the male-superior position by willing the inanimate into efficacy with her fingers, her mouth, her mind. The dough may own the moment, but she owns the process, paring away the layers, delivering the “goods,” keeping them in the “oven” until done. But that she just as often consumes without completing the process shows just how far we've come, baby. The way is long.

Plumbing the Depth of the Case

The emergence of the frozen tube of cookie dough as a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s tracks well with what Susan Bordo has noted as a new age in the packaging of the male body as sex object. She teases out the meanings thus: the liberation of the gay man allowed marketers to present the male form as a product which, by accident as much as by extension, gave newly liberating women their own opportunity to gaze. The effect has been twofold: heterosexual women buy most of their men's clothes, so an underwear model should appeal to gay men (buying for themselves) and straight women, and straight men when unattached. Bordo ascribes this movement to Calvin Klein:

Klein's genius was that of a cultural Geiger counter; his own bisexuality enabled him to see that the phallic body, as much as any female figure, is an enduring sex object within Western culture. In America in 1974, however, that ideal was still largely closeted. Only gay culture unashamedly sexualized the lean, fit body that virtually everyone, gay and straight, now aspires to. Sex, as Calvin Klein knew, sells. He also knew that gay sex wouldn't sell to straight men. (179)

The net effect has been that now straight men, once socialized to look askance at the “dandy” and to provide a studied indifference to their looks, have become aware of their own images as men, their own socialized demand to yield to the gaze. With more straight men single longer, they have had to become aware of their own self-as-image. Temptation, now, to own and to be presented, hangs both ways at once.

Phat Package = Fat Package

Folded into this is the very Puritanism of the body America: temptation as gustatory fulfillment, the salacious turned salivary. Post-sexual revolution, the liberated woman has become free to use her body as she sees fit but has become, simultaneously, trapped in that body as her ownership of it has turned back toward the self-as-market-commodity. She can have who she wishes but cannot be what she wishes; she is caught between sluttery and gluttony and can find solace neither in her command of her sexual self nor in her pressure to be the body that is expected of her. The shape becomes the substance for the marketing executive. Her sexuality is thus infused with the tasty naughtiness of poor nutrition which makes her vulnerable to the packaging of her two passions, the raw cookie and the cock uncooked.

We have seen this before, and it was a trick played on men by men with the sultry curves of the sports car. His mental space is invaded by the lines of the Jaguar XKE, the long curves urging him forward, even the shifter an elegant stem. The body is aerodynamic, of course, but more; it's eros-dynamic, and with a woman at the wheel has all the straight-male appeal of girl-on-girl porn. By the '90s the Boomer women became powerful and professional, established and in control. With their ice-boxes filled with frozen phallus, they climbed up on their square-shouldered SUVs, a simulation of the safety to command such a rugged and capable thing. But, like a bad boyfriend, they had a tendency to flip on them, and now they're back to their smaller, more sensible Camrys and Accords. These are patterns both encouraged by and in violation of our foundational Puritanism. We seek liberation and even act on it, always to be slammed back into the dark interior by collective guilt played out in individual selves. As a nation, we are simultaneously the site of the most robust experiment in human liberation and the Holy Land; we occupy both Las Vegas and the Shining City on a Hill. To pursue happiness as a Yank has therefore always been both a liberation and a trap, a physical movement into freedom and a mental movement deeper into the conscience. She can have her dough, but it will make her heavy both in body and soul.

The man had long been a step more free, his double standard to stray on Saturday night and repent on Sunday morning a way to manage his role in the American contradiction. But now, he too is a body, both dandy and butch, a commodity packed, frozen, and plastic-wrapped—candy—and a man of pottered flesh and sluggish blood, just as he always has been.

Still, the feeling for the femme, of peeling away that layer, of having that stuff so available from the tube, is a feeling unaccountably dear. The male model, posed a quarter turn from view, is frozen in time, exposed to the gaze, but still reachable. He is firm, semi-turgid, beneath just the thinnest of layers—almost bare but there for the taking. Is he a bit too perfect, a bit too much to compare to the poor men we knead with our daily bread? Perhaps, but that's what we get when we consume: the dream of ourselves too sweet.

Work Cited

Bordo, Susan. The Male Body. New York: Farrar, 2000.