#Problematic: Pumpkin Spice Latte Mania & The Backlash Against It

Hi, Angels. I hope you believe that something beautiful is always about to happen. I hope you’re free and beautiful just like the sea. I hope when life puts you in tough situations, you say “try me,” instead of “why me.” The things you take for granted someone else is praying for. You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Be who you are, not what the world wants you to be. Only those who care about you can hear when you are quiet. Be a girl with a mind, a woman with an attitude, and a lady with class. Congratulations you just read a paragraph of inspirational quotes I found on Pinterest. Now onto this week’s problem, one so big that this week it’s all I want to fucking talk about.

Pumpkin. Spice. Lattes.

A handful of years ago, I had a writing professor who on the first day of class gave us a list of words we were forbidden to use in our work. One of those words was “meme,” and the reasoning behind this was that no one had ever been able to explain to him what a meme was, so they weren’t a thing worth discussing. I look back on that time the same way that parents probably look back on a time when their children weren’t barking at them to stop using Facebook. Because just a handful of years ago no one really could put their finger yet on what a meme really was, what they were for and why they existed. Now we live in a meme-centric world. And nothing could be better evidence of that than the conversation currently surrounding a season and a seasonal coffee drink.

Ever since September winked at us, and you found yourself suddenly draped in a transitional sweater, the internet has been abuzz with ramblings of fuck fall. On the one hand I understand the sentiment. The autumn equinox was on Wednesday, or as the less cosmically connected refer to it “OMG first day of fall!” And the Instagram hashtags and Twitter trends subsequently fired up with a hell mouth of leaf-covered crafts and things that can only be described as cozy. To anyone lacking that kind of lust for life, this is all very annoying—mostly because it speaks to the corporate commodification of absolutely everything (and unbeknownst to a lot of said crafters, those fall wreaths and table squash offerings are Pagan as fuq).

Enter the PSL—as it is now chalked all over Starbucks placards because everyone wants to stick their dick in the English language and give it a few thrusts—otherwise known as the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The drink has spawned a feverish obsession this season, and now any company that can conceive of it, is attempting to seize on the market that Starbucks created for them, and flavor everything with pumpkin spice, from hummus, to M&Ms, to car air fresheners. Hence the aforementioned memes making fun of this autumnal phenomenon and the kind of people who can’t get enough of it. But are we just making it worse by filling up the space in between with so much attention and disdain.

The central criticism seems to be that fall crafting and an appetite for pumpkin spice are hallmarks of white privilege and oblivion. And there is truth in this, in that the frivolity of indulging in such seasonal delight requires one to be unfettered by oppression, disenfranchisement, marginalization, you know, the rampant social ills of the world. You can even see all of the the adoration and disdain boiled down into one scene in the season premiere of Ryan Murphy’s new “Scream Queens,” when Emma Roberts’ insufferably rich, mean girl character Chanel throws a hissy fit at a coffee shop. Unfortunately when those scenes were filmed months ago, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the over-saturation of the internet with mishegas about the drink, so for the show’s purposes the joke fell pretty flat, but for mine it’s a great example! To drive it home even more, on an episode of “Q” that NPR aired this week, the host invited two female writers on to argue for and against pumpkin spice lattes. They devoted a whole segment of a radio show to a debate on the merits of a seasonal drink. Do you get how out of hand this is?

As usual there’s always a backlash to the backlash. There’s been a lot said on the ramifications of critiquing pumpkin spice fever as a specifically white trend. The argument is that in labeling the whole thing as a symbol of whiteness, you’re isolating people of color from participating, while simultaneously white washing the food system and historically, the spice trade. This is absolutely fair and astute. But frankly, it all just becomes so tedious when there is a critique of a critique of something everyone was tired of in the first place.

The thing is that regardless of race, people who love the fuck out of pumpkin spice and fall are annoying. They are the same kinds of people who incredulously say, “I can’t believe it’s already winter!” or “I can’t believe it’s already Thursday!” But maybe these people have such poor grasp on the passing of time, because they’re not just living in the moment, they’re entrenched in it. They are the ones who bring office cupcakes. They are the ones who will send you a card to say congratulations on getting a new dog. They are the ones who all be the first to show up to your birthday dinner, and while you kick your significant other underneath the table as if to say “Ugh, she’s so annoying,” you’re secretly happy she’s there. They speak to the basic human in all of us. And you know what, pumpkin spice lattes are kind of good, if you maybe have only one a year. So why are we arguing over the legitimacy of a season and the things that go with it? You’ll be missing fall when you’re shopping for cinder blocks to drown yourself with during winter because it’s so fucking cold.

And if you really want to bitch about white people…Tom Hanks officiated over Allison Williams god damned wedding, and if that’s not a summit of the white aristocracy, teeming with unfair advantage and distorted patriarchal themes, I don’t know what is.

Here is a video of a chimp taking care of baby tigers as a thank you for getting this far with me! Happy apple picking!