hot takes

In Defense of Conversation Hearts

Photo: Cj Gunther/EPA/Shutterstock

Hello, my name is Olivia, and I have been a hopeless romantic for 30-plus years. I’ve also been tragically single. But, while Valentine’s Day, a holiday all about love and romance, seems to be specifically designed to make me feel bad for myself, I have persevered. Why? Because on Valentine’s Day, I get to indulge in my favorite holiday-themed treat: conversation hearts.

I’ve loved heart candy, a.k.a. conversation hearts, a.k.a. Sweethearts, since I can remember. My first ever email address was Heartcandy9@[REDACTED]. At the time, there were only two things I was certain of in this world: I loved heart candy, and I was 9. And though my email has changed over the years, my love of candy hearts has not wavered.

There is no question: Conversation hearts are the best thing about Valentine’s Day. It’s not about the taste, which I have been told is pretty universally described as “gross” and “inedible,” though I maintain that they are sugary deliciousness (except the white flavor, which is a weirdly underwhelming mint that is neither sweet nor minty enough to validate its existence). For me, it’s the gimmick that really makes conversation hearts great. Traditionally, conversation hearts are printed with personal and romantic messages like “XOXO,” “Kiss Me,” and “Email Me.” More current examples include “Text Me” and “Bae.”

Perpetual singledom has taught me a few key lessons: how to eat alone at a restaurant without feeling bored or awkward and that you should always, always treat yourself on Valentine’s Day. I don’t care how many times you tell yourself that it’s a made-up holiday popularized to boost the greeting-card and chocolate industry, a little treat never hurt anyone. And there are three very specific things that make candy hearts the only Valentine’s Day treat you need.

The Taste

Okay, I’ll admit, conversation hearts don’t really taste like anything. Eating a candy heart is like biting into a vaguely sugary piece of chalk with a few drops of artificial flavoring thrown in. Sounds kinda gross, but it’s also light enough that you can eat a full box without feeling sick. Not to mention the fact that you can save the white hearts and eat them last if you want to use the mint flavor as a breath mint, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The Love

I’ll never forget the absolute thrill of being 9 years old, opening a box of Sweethearts, and eating a heart that said “Kiss Me.” Over the years, the messages on conversation hearts have gotten less romantic and more platonic. “Call Me” has become “UR Great” or “Go 4 It,” and candy hearts have generally lost whatever seductive oomph they used to possess. But it’s 2022, and I’ll take any encouragement I can get.

The Price

This is the United States, where any single person can go to a local drugstore and get a box of Sweethearts for a dollar. A box of good chocolate is at least 10 to 20 times more expensive, and, depending on your tolerance, will give you a stomach ache if you eat it all in one go. Not so for conversation hearts, which come in neat little boxes you can completely empty and basically still feel like you’ve eaten nothing.

The bottom line: Candy hearts are a love poem you can (a) give to yourself without shame or regret, and (b) eat. There is literally zero downside.

In Defense of Conversation Hearts