If you are what you eat, pass the circus treats

Ben Patterson

In Norris University Center the other day, I noticed a girl buying circus peanuts. I asked myself, what kind of a girl buys circus peanuts? A tall girl? A short girl? A girl who Hula-Hoops? Answer: A girl I’d like to meet! I needed to know more. But I’m not about to break the social code of Northwestern, much less a safety rule taught to me by my parents: “Don’t talk to strangers.” And because I didn’t have any leads, no name, no friends around to ask, and Ph-ing “activities” yielded no results for circus peanuts, I was stumped.

But maybe, just maybe, if I learned more about circus peanuts, I might peel away the layers of The Girl with the Circus Peanuts, hereafter referred to as CP Girl. What does her love for circus peanuts tell me about her?

Let’s begin with the obvious. Unlike the circus peanut, she was not born in 1941. She is not orange, nor does she taste like bananas. She most definitely is not made from pig gelatin, allowing her to hold air when whipped. She isn’t kosher. She doesn’t measure two inches in length or have upwards of 75 dimples to give her that peanut look. She might have dimples. I didn’t see her smile, but if she does have dimples, they don’t make her look like a peanut.

The director of marketing for Melster Candies Inc. says that circus peanuts “break a lot of rules.” So she’s naughty. I can live with that. It’s endearing.

She’s certainly not being co-opted by the giant display of Fritos ‘n’ Chili that sits behind Norris’ convenience store register. She might like the circus. Or peanuts. A lot. But since circus peanuts don’t taste like peanuts or the circus, maybe not.

I’ve never been to the circus. But we could go together.

She’s a study in opposites. Circus peanuts are a summer candy. Northwestern is a winter school. If I had to choose, I’d pick summer, too.

It’s difficult to find circus peanuts. They aren’t sold everywhere, and they don’t get the prime shelf space. Searching for circus peanuts is like searching for buried treasure. It’s probably there, you just have to know where to look.

She knows what she wants, and gets down to business. She’s committed. One does not stumble upon circus peanuts, they are not an impulse purchase. They do not occupy space on White Hen’s counter next to Cadbury Cream Eggs.

CP Girl is not “WCAS undecided,” nor does she “listen to pretty much every type of music. Except country.” No, she knows just what she wants and how to get it. Her tastes are specific and refined, carefully cultivated and expertly defined.

On the rare occasion that she finds herself at BK, it’s her way, right away. Sherman gives her no lip. No breakfast at night? Well, she’ll take a Whopper, and “make it like french toast sticks.”

I don’t know Circus Peanut Girl. I may never meet her. She may be ethereal, mysterious and magical. But somewhere she exists, and some summer day as the school year nears its close, I may bump into her in Norris, on Sheridan, or on the lakefill. I’ll know it’s her because she’ll look busy but approachable, be alone but wave to all and share with me a secret smile.

And she’ll have a sack of circus peanuts.