Things I have put in my mouth lately: Butterfly, the Mariah Carey drink

This past week and a half has been a rough cross-section of adulthood for me. The sewage system in my apartment complex decided to back up spontaneously, with the nearest point of exit being the bathroom in my garden apartment. This required me to evacuate first to a motel where I could swear I heard violins in the shower, then out to the suburbs to stay with endlessly patient friends and spend all week panicking about landing more writing jobs and not being broke.

It was in this frame of mind, unknowingly longing for a bit of childhood regression, that I stumbled into Walgreens to buy wine they didn’t have (because Naperville), and found this treasure in the refrigerated beverage case.

it is not

Is it just a sweet, sweet fantasy?

Yes, Mariah Carey has launched her own beverage, described as “interactive” and “melodic.” The latter adjective in particular concerned me, but apparently it means you can scan the bottle with your smartphone to get access to bonus content. I didn’t bother, because the anachronism whiplash was already hurting my neck.

You see, despite its trappings of modernity, I can only describe this drink as tasting like 1998, the year I listened to its namesake album on cassette until it started to wear out. How can a drink taste like a year, you ask? As it turns out, 1998 was also a banner year for marketing perfumes and cosmetics to preteen girls, and as I turned 11 that year, I was deeply familiar with that aisle of Rite Aid. Those of you who remember, say, the Bottled Emotion perfumes Bonne Bell made will find yourselves thrown back into your awkward stage at warp speed.

To come at this with more food-appropriate vocabulary, Butterfly tastes strongly of grape and melon, but in an offputting, artificial way. Those of you who have ever eaten those lychee jelly cups that pose a delicious choking hazard may also notice a resemblance.

The commentary from the friends I roped into tasting it with me (or, in one case, didn’t) backed me up:
“It tastes like perfume! It’s so sweet.”
“It tastes like a Victoria’s Secret in 1998, yeah.” (We may have been in slightly different demographics.)
The sole man in our group, in response to being asked “Doesn’t it smell like 13-year-old girl?”: “I don’t make a habit of smelling 13-year-old girls, but sure?”

As an olfactory sensation, it brings back intense memories of a time when things were more carefree and potential seemed limitless.
As something to actually consume? Honey, I can’t describe how good it feels inside, because… it really doesn’t. I felt vaguely sick and found myself wondering if I would wake up in a cocoon the next morning. (I did not.)

And yes, I have been listening to the Butterfly album for the first time in probably 15 years while writing this post. Thank you, Spotify.

Why I will never discover the next artificial sweetener

My fifth grade teacher Mr. Carlson was rigorous about the scientific method, or as rigorous as you can be in a classroom full of ten-year-olds. One of the rules he made a point of emphasizing was the importance of not putting experiment materials in one’s mouth. This is generally a good guideline to follow, though if I’d known more at the time I could have brought up the discovery of saccharin in my defense.

I did not know more.

One day I was dared to swallow some of the blue food coloring we were working with, straight. I forget which of my friends or classmates egged me on; alliances changed swiftly in those days. I ignored the remnants of my rapidly-fading “teacher’s pet” inner voice and accepted the challenge, downing all of three drops.

A few moments later, I started to panic. Some sixteen years later, I can’t possibly begin to untangle the thought processes that led to this conclusion, but I was now asking myself if food coloring was toxic. Why would I assume that something that is, by its very nature, used to dye edible things would poison me? A question for the ages.

Heart racing, I rushed up to Mr. Carlson to ask him for clarification on this life-or-death issue. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to tell him what actually happened if I didn’t want a stern lecture, but a hypothetical question couldn’t hurt, right?

“Mr. Carlson, would food coloring poison you if you just ate it?”



“Why is your tongue blue?”

I froze.

My friend Amanda (again, I think) was quicker on the draw than I was, explaining it away as the doing of a rogue Fruit by the Foot. I don’t know if Mr. Carlson believed her or if he took pity on my idiocy, but either way, I escaped the reprimand.


These are the things that haunt me when I wake up at 4 am and can’t get back to sleep.