In a few short weeks, Americans will be casting their votes in the 2018 midterm elections. Yet the most divisive issue in our country this fall is not our politics, but our coffee.
The return of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) and its copycats continues to be a seasonal lightning rod, pitting brother against brother and sister against sister. I believe the PSL hate is representative of a larger problem in our culture and in the spirit of autumnal unity, I would like to offer a solution.
Let people enjoy the things they like.
To my knowledge, Starbucks has never forced anyone to consume a Pumpkin Spice Latte against their will. Based on some reactions to the mere mention of “Pumpkin Spice,” you would think that Howard Schultz himself is waterboarding people with Pumpkin Spice Lattes on his national book tour. Fortunately, that is not the case. If you don’t like the drink, all you have to do is not drink it!
The attack on Pumpkin Spice is just one of the culture wars currently ravaging the national discourse. Astrology, the Oxford comma, IPAs, crunchy peanut butter, Bloody Marys and many other ideas and products inspire similar reactions. This is due to tribalism which tells us we must pick a side and defend it, even in debates that aren’t very important.
Social media tells us we must perform this tribal identity over and over and over, even though no one asked for our opinions. Make sure to mention that you LOVE Oxford commas in your Twitter bios, so fellow nerds know you’re one of them. If a friend brings a six-pack of IPAs to a party, let them know immediately that you think they taste like urine. Feel strongly about the type of peanut butter people eat. Call Bloody Marys “Alcoholic Marinara Sauce” or “Spiked V8 Juice.” Conversely, call people who don’t like Bloody Marys “babies,” “uncultured swine,” “toddlers with underdeveloped palates.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. We possess an oft-forgotten power, and it is called Minding Your Own Business and/or Beeswax.
I first unlocked this power roughly five years ago when I found myself in the middle of an argument about which drugstore is better — CVS or Walgreens. While my friends were name-calling and debating the merits of store flow and receipt length, I then noticed I didn’t have an opinion on which store was superior, and I didn’t need one.
There are millions of worthwhile causes and pursuits to feel strongly about in this world. However, the grammatical choices and brand loyalties of others are not.
Give pumpkin spice lovers the space to sip their drinks in peace. Listen to amateur astrologers incorrectly guess your zodiac sign with mild bemusement. Walk past the creamy peanut butter in the grocery store, order a flight that doesn’t include an IPA.
People can shove whatever products they want in their pie-holes, and usually, you don’t have to be involved!
“Letting people enjoy things” goes beyond food products or ideas. It extends to all of social media.
Think a movie looks stupid? You don’t have to see it. Think The Office is overrated? Unless someone asks you specifically for your opinion on the NBC mockumentary, you don’t have to comment on it. Hate a new song? As a follow-up, are you a critic for Rolling Stone? If you’re not, let it be!
I believe we are sufficiently divided in most areas of American life. So let’s give each other a break.
May this fall initiate a new era of freedom in our pop culture. May we wear our Uggs and drink our coffee without the fear of being called basic. May we root for our favorite new shows, our picks for Best Picture and our football teams without losing friends.
Let’s reserve judgment and let’s enjoy things, unapologetically and enthusiastically.