Doritos and Me: A Lifelong Love Story

Old School Circus27 Comments

People who have known me a long time, short time, very well, or not so much, all know this simple fact: I love me some Doritos. But what they may not know is that like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn, Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal, Doritos and I have a passionate AND complicated relationship.

My first memory of my True Love dates back to first grade, when my mom, sister, and I lived with Grandpa MacNamara for a couple years. Prior to moving in, we had been living for a short while in an abandoned trailer, in the middle of BF dairy country, with no running water or electricity. This is when we had the sweet experience of peeing and pooping in a plastic bucket, storing our food in an Igloo cooler, fetching our water from a nearby spring, and keeping warm on chilly fall evenings by way of kerosene heaters. I had fun imagining for a time that I was Laura Ingalls, living the prairie life, but my fantasy got totally annihilated one night when I woke up at midnight to find our trailer surrounded by a herd of mooing cows. And they weren’t “mooing” in a cute little fluffy baby cow kinda way—they were mooing in a pissed-off “This POS trailer’s in our way, now mooooove it” kinda way. My prairie dream was over, and I’m pretty sure my mom was disenchanted too, because the next morning she packed us up and made the four-hour trip to her father’s huge, warm, well-lit house complete with a real gosh-darned Frigidaire and four operational commodes. All of a sudden, we were living high on the hog. And that brings me back to Doritos.

I noticed right away Grandpa had all kinds of kid temptations in his pantry, and one of them happened to be a shiny red bag with a clear oval window at its center, previewing and promising nacho cheesy triangular goodness. I eyed the bag for a few days, showing herculean restraint, really, for a kid who had never enjoyed processed food. I’d seen this bag plenty of times, on a smaller scale, in the lunch boxes of schoolmates in last year’s kindergarten class. My mom couldn’t afford those kinds of extras, and I didn’t complain because I really didn’t know what I was missing until that fated day in Grandpa’s pantry. I waited for my mom to go upstairs, her footsteps echoing on the wooden steps, and I reached up and ripped open the bag. My first bite could be compared to what a newly-sighted blind person might experience on the Fourth of July. My second, third, and twenty-third bites were just as euphoric, and soon I had devoured the whole bag as if my six-year-old life depended on it. I was happy, VERY happy, until they were all gone and then. . . I wasn’t. I was pretty nauseated, actually. I couldn’t eat my dinner, and I got a spanking when my mom discovered the empty bag still slick with my piranha saliva. But in no way did that deter my newfound obsession.

I soon realized that whenever I was sad, or lonely, or sick, or scared, in the back of my mind, the image of that big, red bag blinked like a neon sign through the dirty window of a dive bar. My mom caught on pretty quickly too, because after Grandpa passed away and we moved to Steubenville, Ohio, I seemed to be begging for Doritos all the time. I missed my grandpa, so I needed Doritos. I missed my dad, so I needed Doritos. Someone made fun of me at my new school, so I needed Doritos. I had a cold, so I needed Doritos. My mom was hanging out with a bunch of religious weirdos, so I needed Doritos. We were moving for the trillionth time, so I needed Doritos. They became my salve to the stress, my calm to the chaos, and my sane to the crazy. Unfortunately, though, money was tight, and my habit became relegated only to special occasions like holidays, weekend visits to our dad’s house in West Virginia (he kept them well-stocked), and my mom’s occasional moment of weakness, when she’d give me the precious $.89 to walk up to the neighborhood market and soothe my soul.

Once a family-sized bag was in my hands, no one was touching them unless they wanted their fingers bitten off with razor-sharp, cheese-coated teeth. Even after Mom re-married and I had all sorts of siblings running around, I felt no obligation to share with their grubby little mitts. By that time, however, it was even harder to get my own mitts on them, because with more mouths to feed, my new step-father considered them an extravagance. My mom and he would get into fights whenever he’d shut down a Dorito request, and I can still hear the insistence in her voice when she’d argue, “They make her happy!” By that time, I was almost ten, and our family was collecting welfare money and using food stamps from time to time, whenever my step-father was out of work, which seemed like an awful lot. Child support from my Dad helped, but was only enough for the two kids that were actually his own—Alyson and I. I knew we were struggling, so instead of nagging, I took to daydreaming about them, drawing pictures of them, and I even did an entire school art project on them. It was a diorama of a town I named “Doritoville, USA,” and if I could’ve shrunk myself down to the size of an eraser, I would’ve happily lived in that Utopia for the rest of my life.

I was yearning along and enduring this long, pathetic Dorito Dry Spell until the night of my tenth birthday. My family was having a birthday party for me, and Mom made a chocolate cake. I wasn’t expecting any presents; those usually came from Dad and his side of the family at a later date. But lo and behold, right after blowing out my ten candles, a huge wrapped box was presented to me. I ripped off the paper in wild anticipation, and a large, moving box was revealed.  What could it be?  I wondered. A stereo? An Atari? A puppy (even though the poor thing would’ve suffocated by now)?  It turned out the contents of the box were even better. Ten, sparkling, red, unopened, family-sized bags of crispy, powdered-cheesy deliciousness were inside, and even though I noticed my mom’s eyes were teary and downcast, I couldn’t have felt happier.




Afraid you’ll miss a new Big Top Family post? Don’t be skeered! Click here to get every new post in your inbox!

I’m in a hilarious book!! Order I Still Just Want To Pee Alone by clicking HERE!

Doritos and Me: A Lifelong Love Story

27 Comments on “Doritos and Me: A Lifelong Love Story”

  1. Rachell S.

    A woman after my own heart!

    Ashley, I am astounded by the vividness in which you portray your little girl self. It is as if you have gone back in time with every detail in perfect sync. The expressions you use are also very funny and quaint, “…No obligation to share with their grubby little mitts.” My favorite part was your self-soothing imaginative “Doritoville, USA”

    Signed, Mrs. Chester Cheetos

  2. Uncle Wiggly

    Sister, you got POP! Your entertaining scribbles are my Doritos. Crackly, chewy and o-so-tasty. I’m giving up the garlic popcorn for YOU! Long may you scrawl. You made my morning!

  3. Stephanie "Sister Dorito" Laws

    This made me laugh out loud. Thank you!!!! I needed that today. 🙂 Doritos are my favorite too!!!!

    1. Ashley

      Oh, wow, Lena, thanks for the support! If that ever happened, Mom would be thrilled. (Heavy on the sarcasm). Maybe after I tell her it even exists, I can go market to the networks! Am waiting till after the holidays; didn’t want to ruin Christmas for her. :/ She doesn’t exactly see the Past as open for interpretation. Thanks for reading, friend. 🙂

  4. Bethy Gallagher


    As I am home on a nasty wet cold Saturday night, I was looking through Bookmarks and saw the link for your blog. You have such amazing talent in your writing. This story was awesome and Doritos should give you a life time supply. Well done.. 🙂 xo


    1. Ashley

      Aw, Bethy, thanks! Thanks for all of your other comments too. This is the most I’ve written in years, and it’s scary to publish it sometimes, put myself out there. It helps motivate me when I get such sweet comments. Thanks so much for taking the time to read.

  5. Foxy Wine Pocket

    The other night I texted my husband, “I just finished the bag of Doritos. I don’t know what you’re having for dinner.” Though I can’t trace my love back to anything as heartbreaking/warming. I love your stories. I love the descriptions of the places, the people, the emotions. Wishing you endless bags of Doritos. xoxo

  6. Laura Jo

    Ashley, I’m a big fan of your writing. Great details, but not too wordy. The perfect balance. Found your blog through BlogU attendees group.

    1. Ashley

      Wow, thank you so much, Jess! Your praise means the world to me. I can’t wait to check out your blog! Thanks so much for pimping my post, and I will definitely be returning the favor. 😀

  7. Drew Clarke

    Dysfunction, chaos, disappointment sadness and fleeting moments of joy seem to typify your childhood and adolescence as it did mine. The one thing all that dysfunction and chaos could not stifle was our childhood imagination and sense of adventure, discovery and wonderment. As children, we used what tools were at our disposal to escape the insanity around us. You had your Doritos. I had sports, especially football. The one luxury I enjoyed that regrettably you did not was familial stability during my formative years. Sure, my mother was draconian, passive/aggressive and generally pissed off all the time and my dad was a functional alcoholic, but while living under my parent’s roof, we moved twice and they both had the same job when I was two years old until my dad died in 2003 and my mom retired in 2005. My older brother and I grew up poor. My two younger brothers grew up in the upper middle-class. I don’t know if you remember Williams Bakery while you lived in Hanover but that is owned by my family. I remember that Jay and I ate doughnuts for two weeks because we had no money and that was the only support my mom’s father was willing to provide. As a result of being poor, we lived in a shitty part of the city and getting into fights was a normal activity for me. Sports saved me. I was able to take all my rage onto the field. I was a talented defensive back and I played to hurt people, though I regret that playing philosophy today. In some way, it contributed to my present health woes. But, I did hurt people. I tackled with the intent of knocking the person out of the game. I broke opponents bones and my own bones. I knocked three quarterbacks unconscious in one single game and sent two other players to the hospital.

    More on our childhoods later. I have another quick story about embarrassing moments. This wasn’t really embarrassing; more shocking and awkward. When rafting down the New River, there is a class V rapid about a 1/4 of a mile before you dock. The guide will challenge everyone in the boat to “Ride the Bull,” which involved sitting on the very back of the raft, holding a single piece of rope with one hand and trying not to get tossed in the river as the raft went through the rapids. I have ridden the bull seven times and only fell in once. The last time I rafted down the New River was in 1999. My raft had an attractive female guide. When i volunteered to Ride the Bull she said that if I stayed in the raft, I’d win a prize. Well, I stayed in and as we were pulling the raft onto the beach at our final campsite, I asked her for my prize. She said she would bring it to me after dinner. I was with three buddies. We went and set up our tents and instead of eating what the rafting outfit provided, we grilled some steaks we brought with us to celebrate the end of the trip. As we were eating, our guide walked up and loudly said, “Excuse me everyone. I need to make an announcement. Today, one of my rafters successfully rode the bull for the sixth time. I promised him a prize and it’s time to give it to him.” She asked me to stand. She was wearing this little sundress. In front of everyone, she removed her panties, placed them on my head and said, “See you in my tent.” Everybody cheered and I heard a few guys say, “lucky fucker.”

  8. Ashley

    Gulp, WOW. Even I am shocked, and that doesn’t happen too often! Well, congratulations. 😉

    Never had any idea about all that regarding your childhood, but of course we wouldn’t have shared that when we were teens, would we? So much to guard back then. :/

    1. Drew Clarke

      No, we would not have talked about things like that although we should have. It was my observation that most teens have a layer of superficiality around them that guards their feelings and thoughts. We were image builders, more concerned with what others thought about us when we actually would have been happier and closer friends had we opened up and talked about what was really on our minds. I’m not talking about you and me specifically but about most high schoolers. There are a handful of people I wish I had gotten to know better back then and you and Alyson are on that list, particularly you. I noticed early on we shared a similar sense of humor amongst other things.

      Anyway, back to the female guide on the New River. I had never dealt with a woman being that forward with me. I’ve had plenty of girls/women come up and start a conversation with me at a bar or party. I even had one girl come sit on the floor next to the chair in which I was sitting. I didn’t notice she was there. A few minutes after she sat down she yelled, “Pay attention to me!” I was like, settle down brat.

      Dude law requires that I make the following joke: I had no idea that the end of that rafting trip would have such a “happy ending.” My lewdness knows no bounds.

  9. Amy Denton

    Love this one. It’s one of my favorites of yours. It just breaks my heart for the little you. When I lived in Texas I worked in a title 1 school for trailer park kids. (A far cry from CCE!) There was a little girl who loved Polly-O cheese sticks but said her parents couldn’t afford them. I would bring her one in my lunch every day. If I were your teacher I would have brought you Doritos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *