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As an extremely powerful social media influencer, I have a moral responsibility to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends. So when it became apparent to me that the pumpkin spice phenomenon is really having a moment, I knew it was time for me to try this hot, hot autumnal staple before I got kicked out of the kindergarten drop-off lane.
Just kidding. My kindergartener goes to Waldorf school. We’re required to personally escort her to her classroom and there’s an old-timey steampunk klaxon alarm that goes off if you try to bring a corporate logo inside the building.
Also, because if I’ve learned anything in 15 years of blogging it’s that approximately 43 percent of people have no sense of humor: I am aware that the pumpkin spice latte (or #PSL, for all you VSCO girls) is not new. In fact, it was introduced to Starbucks stores nationwide the same fall that I launched my first blog, so it’s within the realm of statistical probability that they were switched at birth and I’ve actually been typing into a coffee cup all these years.
To begin my pumpkin spice adventure, I set the pumpkin spice mood. I stopped at the Starbucks drive-thru on 108th Street after preschool gymnastics, the optimal setup for a PSL fix, according to everything I know about #momlife. A Pinkfong animal song played on my car stereo as I ordered. By the time I pulled up to the window, it had shuffled to Lana Del Rey, which is the kind of music people my age listen to as a way to prove we’re still hip and with it. I wore distressed pull-on jeans and a cardigan duster. I paid with my Starbucks app because I gots to get those stars. And then I pulled over in the parking lot because an occasion as momentous as a first-time PSL seemed to warrant more attention than a quick sip at the next red light.
The first thing that happened was that I got a mouthful of whipped cream. This cannot possibly be correct, I thought, because a latte doesn’t have whipped cream. Yet this one did, and indeed there appeared to be a pumpkin-scented, pumpkin-colored, coffee concoction of some kind beneath the layer of out-of-place whipped topping, so I soldiered on, sipping until I detected something approximating a coffee beverage.
Surely there was some mistake. This wasn’t coffee; someone had accidentally served me a piping-hot cup of limited edition Autumn Harvest bath and shower gel topped with whipped cream and nutmeg.
I took another sip. It tasted like hot dirt mixed with walking open-mouthed through a 100-degree Yankee Candle outlet the week before Halloween.
I kept drinking as we drove toward a semi-suburban home that will soon be decorated with Pinterest-inspired festive Halloween yard decor because that’s the kind of thing you do when you have small children and a yard and Pinterest. And the more I consumed, the more baffled I was by this beverage.
It didn’t make me feel like my tastebuds had taken a stroll through the pumpkin patch. It made me wish they’d perished in a terrible habanero accident.
And so, PSL fans, I am asking you: Explain what I’m missing here. What is it about this horrible sugar soup that has you marking its release date on your calendars each year? Why does this caffeinated stew of molten Bath and Body Works make you light up like the inflatable front-yard pumpkin for which my children will almost certainly beg when Target finishes setting up the seasonal aisles? Does it require a scarf and booties to enjoy? Because I tried putting on my plaidest, blanketiest plaid blanket scarf and sitting on my closet floor surrounded by suede booties and it still tasted like Thanksgiving dinner at the match factory. Do I need to wait until the leaves turn? Will that make it taste more like fall and less like drinking the contents of a seasonal Scentsy warmer? Am I misunderstanding your #PSL posts and you’re all actually huge fans of the revolutionary Marxist group Party for Socialism and Liberation, which I can actually get behind more than the steamy bean poison I was served at the West Allis Starbucks drive-thru this morning?
I realize I’m dangerously close to making Hot Takes About Beloved Fall Foods my personal brand here, but I have to speak my truth: The PSL is not a good drink. Fight me. Wearing this many scarves, we can punch each other all day and never feel a thing.