By BEN R. WILLIAMS
I have a friend who is a strong advocate for the body positivity movement, which is the movement that boldly proposes that even if someone is fat, they are still a human being and should be treated as such, and they are also allowed to enjoy life and not hate themselves. I realize this is a pretty radical concept, but try to bear with me.
My friend often posts things about body positivity on social media, and I always click “like” because I support the idea that people shouldn’t hate themselves (except for writers, because self-loathing is critical to the writing process).
However, as a man, I realize that when I read my friend’s posts, I’m often looking in from the outside. A woman can tell me about how the fashion industrial complex is designed to make women feel like garbage, or how women’s magazines are just 75 pages of shame interspersed with ads and perfume inserts, but these are things I have not personally experienced.
Besides, even if you’re a man built like late-career Orson Welles, you can always throw on a Hawaiian shirt and become The Party Guy. Who doesn’t love The Party Guy? He’s a blast!
However, I recently had an experience that helped open my eyes, if just a little, to a small part of what the body positivity movement is fighting against.
It began when I bought some ice cream.
I’m not big on sweets, but about once a year or so, I decide to buy some ice cream at the grocery store. I recently found myself in an ice cream mood, so I grabbed a pint of vanilla from the freezer case and went on my way.
I’m normally a Ben and Jerry’s man, but the packaging of this ice cream caught my eye. I’m not going to name the brand, but the tub had a cartoon monster on it.
Listen, I’m a simple man. If you put a monster or a wizard on a product, I’ll at least consider buying it. If the product features a monster who moonlights as a wizard, I’ll buy two.
It wasn’t until I got home and began putting away my groceries that I noticed how light the tub of ice cream was, how insubstantial. I actually wondered if I’d accidentally grabbed an empty tub used for display purposes.
It was then that I made my horrible discovery: I had accidentally purchased “lifestyle ice cream.”
Perhaps you haven’t heard of lifestyle ice cream, and if that’s the case, you should count yourself lucky. There is a new trend in the world of ice cream toward super low-fat, low-calorie ice cream that can be eaten “guilt-free.” The brand I purchased advertised that it was only 280 calories per pint and just 70 calories per serving (I didn’t realize there was a difference between a pint and a serving).
How can you make a pint of ice cream with just 280 calories? I’ll let you in on the secret: By making it terrible!
I opened the tub and attempted to spoon out a few scoops. This was easier said than done. The ice cream did not roll up into picturesque scoops, but rather broke apart like a clump of ice shearing off a glacier. I put my ice cream fragments into a bowl and took a bite.
The first thing you notice is that there is so much air in lifestyle ice cream that if you could somehow hook a tire pressure gauge to a pint, I expect it would read about 50 psi. It violates the laws of fluid dynamics.
The second thing you notice is the flavor. Lifestyle ice cream does not taste bad, because that would suggest it has a taste that is in some way strong or memorable. Instead, it has the merest wisp of flavor, as though they saved money on extracts by just paying an anemic man to whisper the word “vanilla” over each tub as it rolled past him on a conveyor belt.
Comedian Lewis Black once remarked that NyQuil comes in two colors, red and green, and that it’s the only thing on the planet that tastes like red and green. Similarly, lifestyle ice cream is the only thing on the planet that tastes like regret. As you eat it, it makes you think about the fact that you paid good American money for it when you could have instead spent that money on real ice cream. It makes you feel like some kind of ascetic monk who has decided to reject all worldly pleasures. Each tub should come with a studded strap so you can self-flagellate after you eat it.
It took me about a week to finish my little tub of fake ice cream (I wasn’t going to just throw it out, because I am cheap). As I ate it, I thought about my friend’s body positivity posts on social media.
The only imaginable reason that anyone would buy this tragic fake ice cream, I thought to myself, is because they’re on a diet. The idea of someone sitting at home, eating terrible ice cream and trying desperately to enjoy it because they want to lose a few pounds to conform to some kind of societal beauty standards, struck me as heart-breaking.
To quote one of the most important historical figures of the 2300s, Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the line must be drawn here. This far, no further. I say to you, America, reject this false ice cream. Life is too short to eat ice cream that tastes like the ghost of a guy who died outside a Baskin-Robbins. Eat real ice cream. Have a second helping at dinner. Enter a pie-eating contest. Carpe diem!
I also have a strong thoughts on LaCroix sparkling water, but that may have to be a three-part column.