My first real job was scooping ice cream at a little artisanal ice cream store in Chicago. I say “real” job because this is the first job where I was supporting myself, where my paycheck went to rice and internet and whatever else I needed to survive at the age of 22. The phrase “artisanal ice cream store” sounds cacophonous in 2017 of all years, but keep in mind this was a little while ago, and honestly? It was heaven. My coworkers and superiors were predominantly women, predominantly working (if only part-time or for no money) in the arts. A lot of us were queer! It was a happy and accepting place to be where we scooped and ate ice cream a lot.
What was interesting about working in an ice cream shop was that a significant amount of time was spent discouraging customers from feeling bad about themselves. “I shouldn’t do this,” they’d mutter, looking over the flavors. They’d ask about calorie counts (I had no idea) or fat percentages (beats me). “I’m gonna have to skip dinner,” they’d say. Sometimes they’d look at me and say, “if I worked here, I’d just eat ice cream all the time.”
“Oh, I do,” I’d tell them.
“God, how are you not, like, 400 pounds?” they’d ask. This was a hard question to answer, because I didn’t really know the answer other than, “well, I eat two scoops of ice cream a day and I work on my feet and I mostly otherwise eat rice.” These conversations, generally, were tedious and difficult. It would have been curt and rude of me to say, “just eat the fucking ice cream.” What I said most of the time was, “you are allowed to have two scoops of ice cream,” because it was true.
I have since left that job in pursuit of a stable career in the media industry (lmao), but it was not until this past calendar year that I experience the same, if not greater, magnitude of “just eat the fucking ice cream” with the relentless coverage of Halo Top, which is now the best-selling ice cream in the country. Halo Top, you know it, of course, it has very few calories—so few that you can eat a whole pint in one sitting! They’re always coming out with new flavors which you can rank as you see fit, and now they’ve even opened a store.
It should be obvious to you that I don’t think Halo Top tastes good. Bobby Finger wrote this far more eloquently than I could over at Jezebel earlier in the year. Beyond its taste—empty, muted, with a horrible mouthfeel—I have to admit I find Halo Top a net bad. If you have dietary restrictions that mean you have to only eat Halo Top then, well, God be with you on that journey. But, the rest of us, we humans, we mortals, we late night freezer-dwellers, we should be eating ice cream.
Please do not think I am the type of person who never feels bad about herself. Trust me, I feel bad all the time! But years of telling people to not to feel bad about ice cream has ingrained similar sensibilities in me. Simply put: I never feel bad about ice cream. I don’t count it as anything in my diet. It’s a given. It’s tradition.
The self-delusion in what we allow ourselves to have is insane. Forgive me in thinking maybe we were over this? Halo Top does not taste good and it does not feel good, because ice cream is supposed to be bad for you. It is made of sugar and cream and fat. I know this; we know this. These things are not good for you, and to try to access them in a roundabout, garbage way is a useless battle. What I said back then and how I feel now, with regards to ice cream, is that once you’ve walked into the shop, you’ve lost. Same with opening the freezer door at the grocery store. If you’ve gone in for the ice cream, you’ve gone in for it. No use in a paltry alternative. A fake. Your body knows what it wants. So allow me to say it, in essay-form now, you are allowed to have two scoops of ice cream. A big thing of Breyer’s French vanilla in your freezer (my go-to), Americone Dream, Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip, Jeni’s Salty Caramel. Whatever. The nights are dark and cold these days, and you can have ice cream as it’s meant to be.
FAKES is The Awl’s year-end holiday series for 2017. You can read the whole collection here.