Life is like lots of jelly beans

With the country becoming more divided by politics, hot-button issues are popping up everywhere. In fact, anything can be a hot-button issue. Even the Easter holiday comes with its own touchy topics.

To eat jelly beans one at a time or to eat them by the handful? That is the question.

Seriously, who really eats just one jelly bean at a time?

“I do,” my wife said.

My neighbor said she did, too, as did her kids.

“One at a time sounds good to me,” said a friend. “If I ate candy, which I don’t because it’s bad for me, I’d probably eat jelly beans one at a time so I could savor the goodness of the individual flavors.”

“Well, you don’t count,” I said, “because you’re not a candy consumer. We candy devourers are clearly not interested in what’s good for us, and come Easter, after celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I’ll be shoveling down jelly beans like popcorn.”

And then came the rain.

“That’s disgusting, Dad,” my 12-year-old son said to embarrass me in public. “It’s better to eat jelly beans one at a time so you don’t get a bad one in with the good ones.”

I tried to shush him. I didn’t want anyone hearing the words coming out of his mouth.

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” I whispered. “Life is like a handful of jelly beans—you never know what you’re gonna get. God—who created life—wanted us to not know what we’re gonna get.”

“Yeah, one day at a time, not by the handful.”

That was neither here nor there.

“What’s really disturbing,” I said, “is your inability to sound and act like a man. Real men eat jelly beans by the handful. End of story.”

“My friend’s dad eats one at a time and he’s principal of a school.”

“Ronald Reagan ate several at a time and he was president of the United States!”

“He was probably creating a recipe,” my son said.

“Exactly,” I told him. “We’re all creating recipes. It’s like free-form jazz, though. We’re mystery mixing. Any other way of mixing jelly beans to create a flavor is called work, and it’s also called defeating the purpose of candy, which is to be fun.”

What would Rambo do? That was my next question.

Can you picture Rambo running through that forest in the beginning of the first movie of the film franchise, cops on his tail, going into the survival kit in the handle of his knife for needles and thread to stitch up his wounds, and downing only one jelly bean at a time to nourish his body? No way! He’d dump a handleful into his mouth. Because Rambo is a man.

“Dad, I’m still just a kid,” my son said. “And 70 percent of kids eat jelly beans one at a time.”

Folks, it isn’t as bad as it seems. My son isn’t a teenager yet—he’s still a work in progress. I’m working with him, shaping him.

Shortly after his “70 percent” statement, I established Manhood Mondays. Every Monday now, whether the kid likes it or not, the two of us will do things like wash the car, perform random acts of amateur pest control with a can of Raid to protect our dwelling from break-ins, and eat man food like pork ribs and jelly beans by the handful. Already I’m seeing the results: He’s becoming old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.

“So, women aren’t allowed to eat pork ribs?” my wife asked.

Clearly this was an example of my being wrong.

“These are my man rules for the kid and me, no one else,” I tried defending myself. “This isn’t a feminist issue. This is a he-needs-to-grow-up-to-be-tough issue.”

“I know this hot-button issue is only just heating up,” my wife said, “but there’s a real hot-button issue in the oven.”

“A hotter hot-button issue than proper jelly bean consumption?”

“Easter’s coming up,” she said. “And that means our child is gonna do the one thing that pushes my buttons most. He’s gonna argue with me about wearing shorts instead of a suit.”

“Not like the kid ever wins that one or even has a leg to stand on,” I said.

“Mom, Dad,” our son interrupted. “I’m almost 13 and I’m not gonna argue about wearing shorts anymore.”

“You’re not wearing sweats, either,” my wife shot back.

“No, I’m gonna wear a suit,” he said. “Because, over these last few days, I’ve become old enough to know I’m never gonna win with you people.”

He was for real. Manhood Mondays were paying off—he was becoming a man.

“I’m proud of you, son,” I said. “Now down a handful of jelly beans for me, please.”

This story appeared in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in March of 2018. You can find other stories like it from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at

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