Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Basics

The weather is turning slightly cooler, more comfortable. When we put away our jean shorts and crop tops in exchange for leggings and leather jackets, another harbinger of sweet sugary doom comes out to play: the sucrose-laden, whipped-cream covered, fall-flavored drink–the pumpkin spice latte. We all know it, we’ve all tried it, and, most likely, we all like to act like we hate it.

How many jokes have you heard about the fall drinks? How many people have said to you, “Pumpkin spice lattes are for basic bitches,” rolled their eyes, and then continued to make a disparaging remark about Starbucks? We know the joke; I’ve personally heard it so many times that I hate it even more than I hate sugary coffee. Over and over again, the topic of pumpkin spice lattes and dumb women gets brought up. More often I find myself wondering about the latte: why do we care? And why can’t we admit that they are delicious?

If you’re like me, which I’m guessing you are, a lot of your friends have made that joke. I’ve made that joke. The internet makes that joke over and over–-in memes, in viral Tumblr posts, in think pieces. If you Google, “basic bitch pumpkin spice,” the first few articles are: “Don’t Call Me A Basic Bitch…” and “25 Things White Girls Do During the Fall,” as well as, “Why I Won’t Stop Talking Shit About Basic Bitches.” For whatever reason, this seemingly harmless delicious treat has somehow earned the hatred of many-–male and female alike.

But why? Why do people hate this drink so much? And why is the drink attached to women? When I asked my good friend Paul how he felt about the inanimate object and inconsequential drink that has no bearing on his personal life, he responded (in two separate texts) “Utter. Disgust.” When I asked him, then, to describe a person who gets that sort of drink regularly, he said, “Probably owns a lot of Hollister and eats at Taco Bell regularly.”

What do I think about Hollister and Taco Bell? I don’t like them, but I know some people do. What do I think about super sugary, fatty, over-flavored drinks? I don’t like them. What do I think about Starbucks? It’s okay, but the coffee is always burnt. These are my preferences. That is fine.

What bothers me the most about this hatred of pumpkin spice lattes is the decidedly gendered aspect of the hatred. A narrative has been created via the internet that leads all of us to believe that only boring women like this drink. That’s simply not true. I had a drunken conversation at a party with two men who flat out told me they love pumpkin spice lattes, and that fall is their favorite time of year because it becomes appropriate to indulge.

Another thing that I think becomes apparent within the stigma against sugary coffee is that it’s not “real” coffee. Real coffee drinkers (embarrassingly, like me) who go to Third Rail or La Colombe or Stumptown for three dollar cold brews, black, tend to look down upon those who go to the massive chain coffee shop at every corner for a whipped cream confection. “Real” coffee drinkers like “real” coffee, which is dark and bitter and strong. “Real” coffee drinkers don’t like flavored syrups and blended Frappuccinos.

But here’s the deal: those people who are ordering their latte on a fall morning, excited for the treat they love, aren’t any less “real” than their human counterpart down the block sipping espresso. In fact, they might actually be living, breathing, intelligent human beings! They just want sugar, and they know where to get it. And that’s badass.

Feature photo courtesy of Takeaway.

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