$4 Wine

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.


Get Wise

$4 Wine

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.


($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

I Throw a Party

$4 Wine

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

Okay, Cupid, Alright Already

$4 Wine

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.


“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 Critic

$4 Wine

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