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