The Last Best Summer Ever
New Yorker contributor Jia Tolentino recently confided in a piece on Girls that since the election, she’s been allowing herself to add milk to her coffee, previously undiluted. In recent months, personal finance blog the Billfold has published pieces dealing with changed attitudes toward money and consumption in the wake of our collective national trauma. The little things don’t seem so important anymore, and the quiet pleasures that keep us going don’t seem so shameful.
It’s in this spirit of disclosure that I confide to you that I have been drinking Frappuccinos. That’s right: the slightly too sweet, not-really-coffee-at-all glorified milkshake that keeps a giant multinational corporation afloat and tortures baristas with an onerous assembly process (I have been a barista; I know). On a recent late morning, I ordered one after getting off the bus, and drank it in public as I walked to my office, licking whipped cream from the green straw for all the world to see.
Before Donald Trump became president, I claimed to not believe in guilty pleasures. But unless I knew you well, you would probably know nothing of my occasional hungover visits to the McDonald’s drive-thru for a noontime Egg McMuffin and watery coffee; the pleasure I take in a Cheesy Gordita Crunch consumed with messy abandon; the Ann Rule true crime paperbacks I sometimes prefer to literary fiction; Carly Rae Jepsen’s high rank in my end-of-the-year Most Played list on Spotify; or the evenings I spend eating a slice of grocery-store sheet cake in my bed while watching a Lifetime Original Movie or some equally terrible form of streaming entertainment.
But perhaps most of all, I wouldn’t have let you know of one of my greatest sources of summertime delight: the shame beverage. Be it a Frappuccino (the Midnight Mint one is good, BTW), or a Maraschino red or unnaturally bright cerulean slushie (not the boozy kind, this is not about being cool), the summertime shame beverage is my go-to liquid-adjacent oasis for when my air conditioner-less room becomes musty and oppressive, when my legs stick to the upholstery in my car, when the dog days dictate that I forsake sunny wooded trails for a treadmill in the cool, dark basement that is my gym.
A clinical social worker recently told me that the midst of political upheaval and communal fear is no time for crash diets and resultant airy thinking, but for pleasurable consumption without shame. The idea is that if you’re not eating enough or if you’re wasting time feeling guilty about what you do eat and drink, you’re expending precious energy that could be used to call up your senators or write angry op-eds or deconstruct the word salad of the current administration’s “policy” “ideas.”
We must feed the revolution. Our continued survival as a democracy depends on it.
And so, this summer, no matter what fresh horrors await on your Twitter feed, don’t forget to feed yourself. And if you feel so inclined, I hope you’ll join me in enjoying shame drinks without apology. The time for action is upon us. The time for guilt is over.
And tip your barista.