Thanksgiving!

If you were on I-95 anywhere between Providence, R.I. and Secaucus, N.J. last Wednesday evening, you knew there was a lot of traffic. What you didn’t know is that this traffic consisted entirely of my extended family, aka every second-to-fourth-generation Portuguese-Italian who can trace their roots to the Greater Newark Metropolitan Area. Including me. My accent grows steadily more Jersey the farther from Boston (sorry, “Bawstan”) I get, so by the time we hit Yonkers, N.Y. it’s like I’ve swallowed Season Four of “Mob Wives.” It’s gonna be a party. And, like any reality show set in New Jersey, there will be wine.

Yellow Tail Shiraz

(My uncle: “It’s more than four dollars; can you still review it?”

Me: “It’s still less than four dollars if I don’t pay.”)

There are 42 people at Thanksgiving, and they are all currently asking me what I plan to do when I graduate. This drives me to drink. Yellow Tail Shiraz is here for me. Its wry, dry, sophisticate-on-a-budget taste bears no resemblance to the current scene. It’s an hour into the party, and my sister and I are already Pinteresting “Santa-themed fake nails.” We are interrupted by my cousin, who is holding an enormous grocery bag of tampon samples like it’s Christmas. The tampons are packed in ornately-constructed cardboard boxes, presumably to suggest that menstruation is delicate and expensive. It is certainly the latter, which is why I hide eight boxes under my coat. On my other side, Grandma has started talking about an article she’s read on gay youth.

“It’s so sad what they do to these people. They should accept them. We accept everyone,” Grandma says.

“I know we do,” I tell her, thinking about the time my mother outed me on the family email thread. Grandma doesn’t know how to email, and I’m unsure if anyone brought it up. “I know you’ve always been.”

Prosecco, some purple liquor thing, some other purple soda thing

(From the family coffers)

My cousins and I used to sneak drinks from Grandpa’s crystal two-buck chuck decanter. But we’re real grown-ups now, and my aunt is pushing cocktails like they’re gel pens in 1999. This cocktail is sweet and bubbly, with notes of black cherry and women talking about their feelings. Over at the kitchen table, the aunts and cousins—The Ladies—have begun debating the relative merits of various pubic grooming methods. Waxing at the salon costs 95 freaking dollars, and why would you spend that kind of money when you could get, like, 30 fake nails instead? (We are considering blinged-out snowflakes.) Waxing yourself is so effing painful, but do you ever get comfortable with a razor that close to your cooch?

“Maybe we should accept the broad diversity of lived pube experiences,” I say.

“But after I got a Brazilian I was just constantly cold,” another Lady says.

At this point, my cousin’s seven-year-old son, who has inherited the task of tampon-distribution from his mother, comes around like a petite, aggressive campus rep. “Take them,” he enjoins me, dropping six or seven boxes—this brand sans applicator!—at my feet. “Take more!”

Red wine? Unclear. It’s Thanksgiving!

(Who even fucking knows at this point?)

I am probably not the only tipsy one, since The Ladies are now considering which we’d prefer to have on a desert island: blow drier or IUD.

“IUD,” I say. “Obviously. You never know who you’ll meet.”

“I don’t know,” my aunt says. “The merits of a soft curl…”

“Reina doesn’t really need an IUD though, does she?” someone else chimes in. “How’s the girlfriend?”

I blush a little, then mutter, “We’ve broken up.”

There was that one time when I wasn’t there and some relative’s boyfriend started trashing gay marriage at our house. When I heard about it later, my stomach kind of curdled, like, would they all have looked at me? Would they have spoken up? A little thing, but big enough to hurt. I heard later that my dad had gotten angry—yelled at the guy, nearly chased him out. My father, who hardly raises his voice, who looks like a minor character from “The Godfather,” who hugged me awkwardly when I came out—he had gone to bat for me.

The evening is almost over, and The Ladies are debating the minutiae of the groomed brow: Waxed, threaded, or plucked?

“But seriously,” I’m saying, “I looked like a freaking princess after I first got threaded.”

My aunt objects, “But you know how much that hurts?”

And then it’s over, and we’re carrying out the extra rice pudding, and me and my sisters and our 124 tampons pile into the warm car.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson.

Yes, I said Yes, I Will, Yes

It’s Halloweekend, folks, and fuck if I’m paying for my own alcohol. Also, I spent my work-study money on lingerie, because this Halloween, I’m going as Molly Bloom. Molly Bloom, a character in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” is a fierce bitch, and the novel ends on her “yes” of orgasmic affirmation. She is an artist and a badass motherfucker who eats sausages for breakfast. She is also way cooler than Penelope, the dutiful let’s-weave-our-feelings character from the Odyssey on whom she is based, and she spends the novel’s last chapter in bed masturbating because she gives zero fucks about your opinion on her sexuality. Also, one time this dude I liked told me I was too Molly—vulgar and excessive feelings—for him to want to date me. And this is exactly why Molly Bloom makes the perfect Halloween costume: what’s spoOoOokier than female appetite?

Gaetano D’Aquino Pinot Grigio

Grifone Sangiovese

(Free; pregame)

Like former lovers, past bottles of wine pop up tonight with alarming frequency. My old flame Gaetano d’Aquino makes an appearance at the pregame. He’s here with Grifone Sangiovese, who my friends later reassure me is a bitch far more basic than I. (No one will feel better as a result of this interaction, but the attendant insecurity will motivate us all to buy plenty of mascara, so score one for capitalism.) I take a shot of peppermint Schnapps, which tastes like toothpaste.

“Who’s your Blazes Boylan?” asks the pregame host, one of the people in my freshman “Hamlet and Ulysses” seminar I did not sleep with. That, I tell him, is the question of the evening. There is no bottle opener at the pregame, so someone tries to lob off the tops of the wine to unfortunate effect: The corks are still stuck in the necks of the bottles, but decapitated. The best wine, I tell myself by way of consolation, is the wine untasted.
Franzia Crisp White

Franzia Chillable Red

(Free; party)

Oh Franzia Crisp White, oh Chillable Red, we meet again. You have followed me here even though I have indicated no interest in you, just like the dude who keeps dancing up on me as though he’s going to get pussy for disregarding my personal space. My friend, seeing the unsolicited attention and stepping in as Active Bystander Champion, says, “We’ll make you a gay sandwich!” He and my other friend (in sparkles) groove into formation; I am the queer lettuce. Undeterred by the shield of fabulous, Aggressive Dude grabs my waist.

Me: I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but it is not okay.

Dude: What’s your Halloween costume?

Me: I am MOLLY BLOOM. [Storm away in feminist fury to the other side of the dance floor.]

Consent—it’s like oxygen: If you think you don’t need it, you’re a douchebag. Luckily, at this point Aggressive Dude leaves and that song everyone likes comes on, and I’m jumping around in ecstasy with my friends, and everyone I love, and my roommate. Well fuck me against a wall in Gibraltar—this shit is beautiful.
Franzia Fruity Sangria

(Free; party)

Franzia is pulling no punches with the targeted advertising: I have half a red Solo cup of this stuff, and I have never felt fruitier. Also, literally everyone I have ever had a crush on is at this Halloween party, in a hot clusterfuck of intoxication, pastiche, and feelings. I embarrass myself utterly with some inept flirting (today’s four dollar wine is brought to you by the letter “Personal Space”—to be respected by all genders!) and decide it is better for everyone if I head out. I exchange greetings with the guy I always pass on the way home, who is about to go to sleep on the sidewalk. Memory of Aggressive Dude sharp on my brain, I flinch in expectation of words about my exposed flesh, my cleavage, or belly. But our greeting is friendly as always: “It’s getting cold out,” he says, and I say, “It’s getting cold out.” And then I think it’s stupid if this is going to be the limits of my feminism, if all I want is the right to say “yes” to sex and my great-grandmother’s ripped fur and my $80 of lingerie, when power is everywhere and fucking complicated, and the world is a big, unjust, loaded “maybe.” The cold presses my nipples against the stupid fabric of my bustier, and it is November already.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson.

Get Wise

This week in the oral surgery industry, I get my wisdom teeth taken out. This was never supposed to happen; my dentist originally justified the ordeal as medically necessary because a “rite of passage,” which just didn’t seem to cut it as a reason for a surgical procedure. Then the teeth actually grew in, and I stopped being able to eat tortilla chips. The upside to removal: A parentally, medically, and school-sanctioned drug experience! The downside: “Reina,” my father says on the phone. “You realize that if you’re on painkillers, you can’t drink cheap wine.” So this time, four dollar wine is about my wisdom teeth.

Laughing Gas

($160, insurance; Oral Surgeon)

The oral surgeon says that I will feel the laughing gas soon, and that I should not be nervous. I am zero nervous, considering that someone is about to use a large metal instrument to pull bones out of my head. The air coming from the nose mask is cool and tastes vaguely of plastic, with notes of holy shit my head is buzzing somewhere near the ceiling, who even am I anymore. Lights blinking. The oral surgeon says, “You will feel a lot of pressure; keep breathing!” I’m breathing like I’ve climbed six flights of stairs, or had an orgasm, or had an orgasm after climbing six flights of stairs. There is a pulling sensation—holy fuck—and (keep breathing) (oh my god keep breathing) I think my teeth are being—holy fuck. “Keep breathing!” the oral surgeon repeats, cheerful as all hell. Breathing! I’m breathing! Jesus, drugs are cool. The grownups tell you not to use drugs, but what they really mean is you should only use drugs when grownups tell you to use them, and if you don’t have health insurance, you’re shit out of luck. Drug laws are a tool of social control that oppress disparately along race and class lines. Nancy Reagan lied. “All done!” the oral surgeon is saying, standing over me with my teeth clutched in her gloved hands.

Vicodin

($6.50, insurance; Walgreens in Central)

There is no place on this earth bleaker than the Central Square Walgreens. Except maybe the Harvard Square CVS, which was a shining beacon of light until the very kind pharmacist informed me they were not currently carrying Vicodin, and that I could try walking to Central instead. I wept. I then fast-walked to Central. The goddess pharmacist at Walgreens glows in the industrial light/tail end of nitrous, and I thank her with genuine love. I’m walking back to Harvard Square when a suit-clad man on the side of the road decides it is a good idea to catcall me. It is not a good idea. “Hey, baby,” he says, a strange epithet considering that my stature, swollen cheeks, and obvious secondary sex characteristics indicate I am not a small child, but rather a cranky, nitrous-addled bitch you do not want to mess with right now. I give him a big, sweet, open-mouthed smile. I hope he sees the gauze. I don’t actually take any of the Vicodin.

Chocolate Milk

(About $4; CVS)

Five fun tips to make your wisdom teeth recovery fabulous!

1. Having difficulty talking? That’s great. Women should be seen, not heard.

2. Don’t think of your inability to eat solid food as a hindrance; think of it as a diet! Because it’s totally not fucked up that people always tell me I look better after I’ve lost a few pounds due to illness.

3. Prevent boys from even gazing upon your swollen face by telling them beforehand that you’ll be out of commission for menstrual reasons. They’ll run!

4. There’s nothing painting your nails can’t fix, including the fact that you can’t fucking close your mouth, Jesus Christ my jaw.

5. If you’re going to subsist exclusively on chocolate milk for the next three days, drink it out of a wine glass.

This post originally appeared on The Harvard Crimson

AMERICA!

This week I am so many emotions that a book about a lost bunny rabbit I read while babysitting made me cry. In order to drink and forget midterm season/impending autumn and its attendant anxieties—Is it now too cold to go braless? Does my neck look weird in this? Do you want to snuggle with me tonight?—I and my posse are off again to Cambridge Wine and Spirits for more jugs of cheap, industrial-sized wine. May this harvest season bring you autumnal Sam Adams dioramas and rivers clogged with rowers, and may all your commodity fetishes be pumpkin spice.  

Carlo Rossi Chianti
($6.99/1.5 liters; that’s $3.50 a bottle!; Cambridge Wine and Spirits)

Cambridge Wine and Spirits Guy is a lovely soul, and I twitch my eyelashes at him frenetically because I have been socialized to think that suggesting sexual interest will get me access to shit: free drinks, victim blaming, extra milkshakes at B. Good. Today I am feeling like a fly piece of Cantabrigian femininity; on the way here drivers in the Square kept craning their heads to look at me being alluringly eco-friendly on my bicycle, such that I was somewhat worried they would crash their trucks. Cambridge Wine and Spirits Guy suggests Carlo Rossi—a name shared by both the preferred wine brand and childhood bestie of my grandfather—and I can only imagine my grandmother’s fear at what I have become. The wine itself, I discover later, has notes of artificial maple syrup, with brief wisps of pomegranate. It tastes like good balsamic vinegar, or rather, like good balsamic vinegar’s freshman year sexual performance: still an awkward mouthfeel, but with promising hints of what aging might bring.

Liberty Creek White Zinfandel

($7.99/1.5 liters; that’s $4 a bottle!; Cambridge Wine and Spirits)

In lieu of a review of Liberty Creek—a wine that is as delicious as it is a tool of American hegemony—I’ve made some improvements (they’re bold) to the initial label.

At Liberty Creek we craft our wines upholding the ideals of a bygone time. A time when traditions were esteemed and principles were hard-won and women and people of color couldn’t vote, and homosexuals were tried in secret courts and kicked out of Harvard.

Our long tradition of winemaking is rooted in the rich soils of California, which were taken from Mexico in 1848, because our nation is an imperialist power and Manifest Destiny a white supremacist myth. And every bottle of Liberty Creek rings faithful to the principle we hold true—that quality wines should be accessible to allformer Reagan voters. Our White Zinfandel is refreshingly sweet with cranberry and watermelon fruit gushers flavors and lively notes of the flavor formerly known asfresh strawberry and cherry. Enjoy chilled. Pairs perfectly with all types of foods from the crisp salads that make women smile to spicy Asian or Latin cuisine—so ethnic!

Livingston Chablis Blanc

($6.99/1.5 liters; that’s $3.50 a bottle!; Cambridge Wine and Spirits.)

This is delicious. It is juicy and pleasant and tastes like crisp green grapes sprinkled with sparkly pink sugar, and is almost yummy enough to make up for the fact that I haven’t gotten laid in a month. Almost. Do I TMI? Very well then, I TMI. (I am large, I contain multitudes; this is sometimes socially stigmatized.) Livingston Chablis Blanc is mild and luscious and lovely, almost as lovely as biking back with my roommate from Cambridge Wine and Spirits. We crackled over the newly fallen leaves raising moss-scent, notes of dark chocolate, hints of imminent rot. And I was thinking it’s now, it’s here, it’s this moment, and isn’t that unendurably sweet. Like low-end white wine. The kind of night that feels like butter, melts down gut-hot into your heart or your soul or your stomach and makes you deeper, rich. We cycled through the muffled-velvet streets of Cambridge, her in front and me following after, and I was guided by her blown-back hair. And I loved her so much I could hardly look at her, in that way that hurts a little, in that way that you love your friends.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

I Throw a Party

It is scenic autumn in Harvard Square, and today my friends and I decide to take a booze trip to Cambridge Wine and Spirits. The aim is two-fold: 1) My roommate has just turned 21, and still feels that legally acquiring her own alcohol makes her a self-actualized woman, and 2) We are throwing a party. We have 40 people to intoxicate; my bank balance and the level of fucks I give are both so low, the wines I choose are named after serving suggestions.

Franzia “Chillable Red”
($15.99/box—that’s $3.198/bottle)

The liqueur aisle at Cambridge Wine and Spirits is stocked with lethal, sexy, fruity, jewel-toned serums baring their rich purple innards, messy as a crush of blackberries passed between young lovers’ tongues. The shining evil bottles pout on the shelves like glossy cats, silky and dangerous and just waiting for me to stroke them with my super-glam nails. (This week, said nails glitter with pink and gold confetti; “They look,” says my friend and editor, “Like you fingerfucked Aphrodite.”) I, however, do not choose any of these sirens, because they are not Franzia, and when I, like God, saw Franzia, I said, “Yea, it is affordable and of bad quality; therefore it is good.” And here it is: a bag in a box is hardly enough to contain this red’s bouquet of vinegar and plum juice. When I finally arrive home and sample this beauty, its notes of synthetic vanilla and red Capri Sun saunter across my tongue. We do not chill the Chillable Red; neither our mini fridge nor our hopes are big enough.

Franzia “Refreshing White”
($14.99/box—that’s $2.998/bottle)

Count on queers to turn a roomful of confused drunk people into a party. It is 11:45 p.m., and my friends have descended in a pack of non-normative feelings. Also, Nicki Minaj. I distribute Refreshing White to everybody, because we are in need of refreshment. The first sip blisters my tongue. The wine is crisp as an apple slice after a day in a ziplock bag, with similar gestures towards nutmeg. It has low notes of whiskey. At this point, my good friend and several people I have never seen before decide it is an excellent idea to play “slap the bag” with the packet of Refreshing White. It is not an excellent idea; it is like trying to play beach volleyball with a Stadium Pal at the end of a long, bathroomless day.

Purple Moon Chardonnay
($3.99/bottle. Trader Joe’s; reviewed weeks ago and abandoned half-full in my common room, put out at the party in the hopes it would be consumed; it wasn’t.)

I awake with a moderately serious hangover and visions of the sexual encounter I walked in on the night before dancing like horny sugarplums through my head. Because I am incredibly proactive and energetic, I commit to cleaning the common room. I successfully recycle the alarmingly empty vodka and gin bottles, but Purple Moon—like me at a seventh grade dance—is sitting weeping with a bad haircut on the sidelines, untasted and unloved. I no longer want to deal with its feelings, so I chug the last two gulps and discard. The pleasant sweetness of the wine’s youth has turned bitter, much like I will be as a single woman in my mid-thirties as I sit drinking mom wines while jealously hate-liking my friends’ wedding photos. Its previously firm bubbles have sagged to the floor like my future breasts. To ward off the inevitable, I dress for brunch in wedges.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

Zero Dollar Beer

Beer is gross. My editors, it turns out, are also gross, as they have decided to devote an entire issue of our magazine to it. But I am a communist, and thus oriented towards taking one for the team. As an act of protest, however, and because I do not believe in market economies/have $13 in my bank account, I am only reviewing the beer I manage to get for free: at parties, and, in an act of virtuosic mooching, from my roommate’s supply. It’s not pretty, but neither is late capitalism.

Keg

(free; party)

I don’t know what kind of beer is filling this keg, but whatever it is, it tastes like pool water. It’s Saturday night, and two friends and I stand hunched in the hallway of a very full and sweaty party, swishing the weak liquid like mouthwash and muttering into my recorder. The beer tastes like the kind of water that leaves mineral marks on your showerhead, like water you’ve soaked a penny in for a couple weeks, “like dirty water,” my friend says, “but not unpleasantly.” It’s bubbly, in a despondent sort of way, and has the tinny quality of canned tomatoes. At this point in our tasting, someone asks us if we’re in line for the bathroom. We are not.

PBR

(free; party)

On the upside, the can rests securely in my cleavage, which both cools me off and leaves my hands free to gesticulate and reach for the Tostitos. On the downside, it’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR’s mouthfeel is fuzzier than the keg beer’s, more rounded and softer. If the keg beer was “flavorless Pop Rocks,” as my friend claimed, then this is Alka-Seltzer. If the keg beer was making out on a shag rug, this is cuddling with a puppy. A puppy with hops on its breath. The can informs me that “nature’s choicest products” are responsible for PBR’s “prized flavor,” which I doubt, and also that PBR was “selected as America’s beer,” which I believe utterly. Nationalism is a bitter brew.

Flipside Red IPA

($2.00 to my roommate; common room)

Sunday afternoon in my common room, and I’m breaking into my roommate’s beer supply. She takes a sip in order to “refresh [her] memory,” and then stares at me enigmatically as though she has arcane knowledge of this brew’s flavor profile that I will never access. This is the same coy smile I give heterosexual men who ask me what lesbians do in bed (mostly divination), and it is maddening. But even I can tell the difference in quality: Flipside Red IPA is not as gross and coppery as the beers from the night before, and makes my tongue tingle intriguingly. I can even get on board with the “robust tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors” claimed on the label—is that a whiff of coconut? Flipside Red IPA is so alarmingly not disgusting, in fact, I find myself rethinking my orientation: Am I a beer drinker? Do I perhaps see the merit of spending more than a minimum on alcohol? Do I even have a stable identity? This beer has notes of apricot and strong overtones of postmodernity.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

Okay, Cupid, Alright Already

Online dating is a thing people do. I have yet to personally do it, because my love style tends to go something like: meet random person making acerbic jokes about American racial politics; fall into deep soul-macerating love; lose all sense of self and world; have visited upon me the devastation that yea indeed was loosed upon Sodom and Gomorrah; rinse, and repeat. But now is the late autumn of our discontent (sweater season!) and an appropriate time to break out of the cycle of SWUG and into the strange erotic marketplace of OkCupid. Hop on the kvetchmobile, folks—things are about to get a little winey.

Vella White Zinfandel

(free; left in my room from a pregame)

Yeah, so, not quite sure what to write here. But I’ll give it a shot.

Hi! I’m Vella. Not Vel, Vellie, whatever you want to call me. Vella. It rhymes with Bella, like the one from “Twilight.”

I’m sweet, some say too sweet, but I don’t think life should have to be so serious.

My friends say that I’m fun to be around and I definitely help them unwind, though if you have too much of me, I can get pretty intense. I’ve been known to make people dizzy on an empty stomach 😉

I’m white, but down for all sorts of pairings! Particularly goat cheese or a nice cod.

I’m great chilled, but also definitely can be enjoyed a little hotter. On a typical Friday night, you can find me at a big party getting lots of people drunk or at home with the ladies snuggling over Netflix.

I’ll read anything by Junot Díaz.

The most personal thing I’m willing to admit: Honestly, I feel a little constrained sometimes. I guess I’m looking for someone to take me out of the box?

If that sounds cool to you, message me. I promise I don’t have much bite.

I’m also pretty juicy 😉

Bodega Norton Malbec

(Definitely above my price range, but why buy alcohol when you have friends who throw snobby parties?)

This is a soulful red with cinnamon notes that make it taste expensive. I sip it lying on the floor with my roommates, paging through my informationless and photoless OkCupid profile in alternating waves of wine tipsiness and deep emotional paralysis.

Message!

“I like your username a whole lot, and I like bi girls… so why no information?”

That thing you just did, dudeman, 26, from Tel Aviv. That’s why. That is why I have offered no information. That is why humanity is on the Acela quiet car to Shitville. What a piece of work is normative male socialization: It instills in humans the ability to hit on a pictureless profile with literally no information but a note on orientation and a username that references Italian food. Where is the “filter out heteropatriarchy” button on this thing again?

Me: I feel like cool men haven’t been approaching me lately. Am I not pretty?

Roommate: Your whole schtick is being gay. What part of this isn’t making sense to you?

Me: Oh, yeah. [Shakes fist forebodingly in air like rueful supervillain.] Curse you, Havelock Ellis!

At this point, I am submerged in a self-indulgent Bodega Norton Malbec bath of high-quality existential and erotic anguish. Taste of cherry.

Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir

(Someone left this in our room once; why venture out into the cold to Trader Joe’s when I can finagle wine for free?)

Another day, another evening sipping Pinot Noir (wet; nicely acidic) and staring at my still-empty OkCupid profile. Online dating feels like wandering through the aisles of Trader Joe’s looking for the perfect wine. Do I want something light and a little tingly, or more complex and substantial? What am I willing to expend? Also, inordinate numbers of adorable lesbians. The point is that OkCupid is the logical conclusion of sexual late capitalism. But it’s also cool—if you’re a lonely Pinot Noir and your local vineyards just aren’t down for your fruitiness, the online dating store offers actual human connection and the knowledge that you are not the only weirdo in town. I am jerked from my Profound Reverie by a call from my roommate, who has ingested intoxicants a bit stronger than Casillero del Diablo and is in need of an escort home. I power walk to her rescue. Because she is in no state to sleep alone, she stays the night in my bed: She and her intoxication and I and my violent heart all lapped in seas of somewhat tannic Pinot Noir. This too is love.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

Four Dollar Wine Date Edition

Harvard students like to multitask. I am a Harvard student. I’ve also been meaning to hang out with this cool chick. So I asked myself: why not murder two innocent winged creatures with one proverbial projectile? Our panel of judges: Me. My roommate. The Queer Crush I’ve been eyeing in Adams dining hall who has enthusiastically consented to appear in this article. Welcome to the four dollar wine date.

Purple Moon Merlot

($3.99/bottle; Trader Joe’s)

The four dollar pickings are slim this week, so I ask Trader Joe’s Dude, a relentlessly hip guy with a nose ring, for suggestions. He indicates a sparkly white at $4.50, but I demure, as I have integrity.

Queer Crush: Do you have a brooding, sexual red?

Trader Joe’s Dude: Not in your price range.

Me: Do you have any reds that are weak and headachey?

Trader Joe’s Dude: [Points to Purple Moon.]

But Purple Moon, it turns out as we enjoy it sprawled on the very stained common room rug, is not weak, and I experience no headache after consuming rather too much of it. After weeks of wallflower whites, in fact, the Merlot is a font of complexity: a bouquet of dark chocolate and warm vanilla pudding, some sandalwoody notes of upper-middle-class yoga studio. This trope of rediscovered complexity and satisfaction is similar to the rhetoric my relatives are using to try to get me back on men, who also, presumably, have crème brulee overtones and aftertastes of Thai iced tea.

Green Fin

($3.99/bottle; Trader Joe’s)

This wine is not unpleasant; it is sweeter and less cringey than any wine I’ve tasted in this project. Roommate says it tastes cheap; I think it tastes expensive, and inform her that she tastes cheap, which is a classist and nonsensical comeback. Queer Crush claims that Green Fin has subtle notes of “that lemony smell that comes from garbage.” The bottle informs us that Green Fin’s aftertaste is focused, like a student who uses Adderall for study purposes in a culture that undervalues sleep, and I think it’s juicy, like a cute little clementine. All in all Green Fin is a rich wine; if it were a Harvard student, it would be disproportionately likely to be in the Porcellian.

Purple Moon Chardonnay

($3.99/bottle; Trader Joe’s)

Purple Moon Chardonnay smells quite nice: soft and not aggressive, like honey, yet with the subtle little bubbles that keep it sassy. In accordance with the general sexy-moody teenage-goth-chick Purple Moon aesthetic, the label sports a spooky picture of a moonlit sky.

Queer Crush: This label evokes Twilight, which reminds me of teenage sexual angst.

Me: Everything reminds me of teenage sexual angst.

At this point we decide to watch the “Rocket” video, in which Beyoncé presents a series of images that could also probably symbolize this wine’s flavor: a wet t-shirt; a squeezed lemon, a lit match, a key turning in a door, Mt. Everest under her panties. A plate of toast that falls and shatters.

If only this wine had overtones of Beyoncé.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

Four Dollar Wine Critic: The Charles Shaw Challenge

Another day, another opportunity to forestall contemplation of the anxiety and splendor of existence by fiddling with my blood alcohol level. This week, a feat of daring and potential product endorsement: the Charles Shaw challenge. Three different bottles of “the world famous” $2.99 whites. One different me. “Charles Shaw” corrects to “Charles shame” on my iPhone.

Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio
($2.99; Trader Joe’s)

It’s Friday night, and because I am a confident single woman, I swirl the Pinot Grigio around in my mouth sensually/spittily, activating my sommelier powers. I’m sensing notes of white chocolate—the shitty kind I got in my Sunday school Easter basket—and a waft of the green grapes that grew inedibly from my grandmother’s trellis. This is accompanied by a wasabi-type feeling that makes me crinkle my nose adorably. Like most things, this wine goes really well with cookies. The Pinot Grigio also has distinct notes of chicken, which is a ridiculous claim to make considering that wine is just burnt-out grape juice. Of course this wine doesn’t taste like chicken. It’s an urban legend that everything tastes like chicken. That was cleared up on MythBusters.

Charles Shaw Chardonnay
($2.99; Trader Joe’s)

The Chardonnay tastes like your mouth does after you clamp it around an orange wedge and pretend the rind is your teeth, fooling everyone. With overtones of arugula and garlic. It is also noticeably curvier than the other two, with the kind of rich, lush mouthfeel basic straight dudes evoke when comparing women to food products. In transporting the brew from the cup to my mouth—a tricky little flick-of-the-wrist that may be difficult for people with carpal tunnel syndrome—I am distracted from its gently narcotic bouquet by my nails, which are crisper and more intoxicating than this chardonnay. They are gold and sparkly, because I am a fierce bitch, and rather short, for sexual purposes. Joke: in girl on girl porn, how do you tell the real from the faux lesbian? Punchline: nail length. When I told this joke to my sister once, she said “ew” and changed the subject. Diversity has its limits.

Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc

($2.99; Trader Joe’s)

The sauvignon blanc is the color of urine when you are well-hydrated, “the kind of greenish color that suggests it will be very sweet,” says my roommate, who obviously pees very differently than I do. The savignon blanc is indeed sweeter than the pinot grigio. Maybe more of a dessert wine, or a drink-by-yourself-at-two-am-on-a-Friday wine, or the kind of wine you drink when you can’t even masturbate because you live in the common room and honestly at this point I am drunk and unsure what wine is coming from what bottle. Meanwhile, my roommate is sitting in the Ikea chair biting her own thumb with what I can only assume to be autoeroticism. She is not even drinking.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson

Four Dollar Wine Critic

There are a lot of bars in Harvard Square that serve decent glasses of prosecco and interesting cocktails for around ten bucks a pop, which is cute, considering I’ll have to start repaying student loans in a year if I don’t get into grad school. For this reason, FM is giving the people what they want: the best cheap wines of Harvard Square, reviewed by a seasoned early twenty-something casual drinker with no specialty knowledge of alcohol whatsoever. Have at me.

Trader Joe’s Block White

($10.99 for 3 liters; that’s $3.66 a liter!)

The convenient thing about Trader Joe’s Block White is that it’s in a box. The inconvenient thing is that—once poured out of the box and into your mouth—it tastes a bit like sipping watered-down white grape juice while someone in an adjacent room removes the chipping red polish off their toenails: sweet, some acetone, a veneer of fading glamour. It is a Thursday, and I down three glasses of the weak elixir in the chasm of anxiety between sending and receiving a booty text. I then read Lacan. The wine has a bouquet of honey cough drops and sexual anxiety; the box has a bouquet of cardboard.

Gaetano D’Aquino Pinot Grigio

($3.99/bottle; Trader Joe’s.)

It is Saturday. When I go to Trader Joe’s to get this bottle, I am greeted by the staff personally, indicating that I should be doing substantially more thesis reading. Gaetano D’Aquino is supposedly “light, crisp, and refreshing,” and I am 85-percent sure we have run into each other at a family reunion. Gaetano’s wine is full-bodied, like my high school drama teacher told me I was. Gaetano D’Aquino’s aftertaste is sort of lemony, and maybe a little peppery—or, then again, maybe not.

R.G.M.V. White Blend

($3.99/bottle; Trader Joe’s.)

At this point I can’t taste with much accuracy, but I’d say that this is a fruity wine, which is great because I am uncomfortable around heterosexual people. It’s from 2011, when I was approximately 30 pounds lighter and had three times the number of sexual partners, though I don’t think these two things are strictly correlated. This wine has a bouquet reminiscent of the other two wines, and it isn’t tannic. I am, however, getting some grapefruit notes. The label categorizes R.G.M.V. as a “white blend,” which also describes the racial composition of my hometown. This gives the evening a nostalgic, casually Republican feel.

Photo credit: Connie Yan.

This post originally appeared at The Harvard Crimson