When you were little, did you ever pour some Pepsi or Coke (or maybe even Shasta Cola) into a "World's Greatest MOM!" mug and then, taking deliberately grown up sips, pretend like it was coffee?
No? You lie.
I drank "coffee" whenever I could find five minutes to myself without my mom looking and reveled in the deception. For me it was all about practice. Practice for when I finally got old enough to do the real thing. Most importantly I wanted to make sure I looked good, parroting perfectly what I'd seen grown-ups do. Taking that first sip then closing your eyes and leaning your head back in bliss. Or jetting through the house mug in hand taking quick rapid fire sips while grabbing a backpack then taking the whole mug to the head right before hiding out the door. Man, I had it down.
Of course when I finally drank my first cup of coffee in college, the shit was gross. Nothing like how I imagined.
"This is what ya'll have been drinking this whole time!" I wanted to shake my first in fury at all the grown ups who'd tricked me -- like the time my mom said ironing clothes was "fun." But instead I just chalked it up to the game. Coffee was thrown on the pile with all the other grown up rituals that previously seemed romantic but in practice was just a let down.
Adults HAVE to make their lives look fun otherwise we'd all just be kids, right? Maybe not.
Fast forward a decade or so to another drink that could go both ways. Grape juice. I haven't had a glass of grape juice in probably 11 years, maybe more. I remember it being thick and violet-tasting. Remember that one line from "Under the Tuscan Sun" when Frances writes on a postcard, "I eat a hot grape from the market, and the violet sweetness breaks open in my mouth. It even smells purple." That's exactly what I recall about grape juice.
As some of you might recall I attempted to participate, if tangentially, in Lent this year. My initial plan was to give up wine. My sweet sweet friend wine. I remembered the tiny plastic cups during the communions of my youth and figured a glass of Welch's could curb my oral addiction if only for a month.
So just like the mornings of pretend coffee drinking of my single digits I settled in to a night of pretend wine drinking and Smash. After the first timid sip I thought, "OK not so bad, grape juice." Then I kept drinking and drinking and the familiar dry mouth of too much wine crept in, along with a slight headache, followed by a sugar high-induced rant on sequestration that could almost match my more ridiculously drunken tirades.
What the fuck? All this from grape juice? The stuff we let kids drink and play on?
Upon further inspection, which required reading what was right in front of me, I discovered that a glass of my new fake wine has 36 grams of sugar -- about 5 or 6 times as much as a 8 oz serving of real wine. After a few glasses of this stuff I'd been sufficiently smashed. I've never felt older in my entire life.
Well that's not entirely true. I felt pretty old when a middle schooler on the bus called me ma'am and after this experiment I'm positive he'd been knocking back grape juice without an care in the world, so yeah I've been sufficiently shamed out of the juice aisle.
A part of me wants to go back and drink all the things! I want to throw down with all manner of the devil's brew that made up my pre-pubescent liquor cabinet. I'm talking Tang, Capri Sun, Squeeze-its and Mountain Dew. But, I know now, that the lies we tell children about the awesomeness of adult stuff like coffee, beer and wine and akin to the lies we tell ourselves about childhood swill. Maybe not lies so much as perspective-hinged truth.
Either way I'm off the purple stuff for good.