Thursday, June 29, 2017

confessions: Mountain Dew.

I have something shameful to admit to you.


I used to love Mountain Dew.

I know, I know. Judge away.

If we're being honest here, I do not remember how my love affair with Mountain Dew came to be. My parents are Dr Pepper and Coca Cola drinkers, and even then, my soda consumption was confined to holidays, birthdays, and lake days... or days when I was home alone and snuck cans of pop in secret (sorry, Mom and Dad).

But Mountain Dew just wasn't something we had.

Until I somehow discovered it, decided I had to have it, and started writing it on the grocery list that hung on our refrigerator.

I cringe to think how much Mountain Dew I drank. I'm guessing that I started sometime in my early teen years, and by then, my parents had (wrongly) assumed that I was a responsible human being and could regulate my own sugary drink intake.

This is the earliest photographic evidence I could find of me with a Mountain Dew. The year was 2001. I was 14 years old.
Back then (the early-to-mid-2000s), Mountain Dew was COOL. At least, the teenage population of Arlington, South Dakota thought it was cool. Drinking Mountain Dew meant that you were clearly awesome and not at all lame. Because lame people didn't drink Mountain Dew. Obviously.

My affinity for Mountain Dew was well known among my family and friends. I received many a Mountain Dew-themed gift for Christmases and birthdays, including (but not limited to) a Mountain Dew shirt, a whole plastic baggie full of those bottle lids that you could cash in for free Mountain Dew (remember those?!), and (obviously) actual Mountain Dew.

During my photo archive research for this story, I discovered a weirdly
large number of photos in which I am posing with Mountain Dew.
Mountain Dew was not only my beverage of choice, but it very well could’ve brought my husband and me together.

Ok, I’m pretty sure that James and I would’ve ended up together with or without Mountain Dew, but it’s one of the first things we had in common. That and concert band. Nerds.

Very quickly after James and I met on that first day of new student orientation in August 2005, we bonded over our love of that neon yellow drink. I always had Mountain Dew in my dorm mini-fridge, and so did he – or, if memory serves me correctly, James didn’t have a mini-fridge, so he had warm Mountain Dew on hand at all times. I recall him consistently offering to trade me one of his warm Mountain Dews for one of my cold ones, and I always said yes.

It’s just dawning on me that James totally just used little freshman me for my access to a mini-fridge and my cold Mountain Dew. I ran this by James, and he claims that it was just an excuse to come and see me. "What a perfect excuse!" he says.

James went to a school called Dassel-Cokato, as did four other members of the concert and jazz bands. And you know what? They ALL drank Mountain Dew – and a couple of them were rumored to consume a twelve-pack a day. (James later told me that, in his hometown, they call Mountain Dew “Finn water” because it’s all the Finnish kids drink.) James’s brothers all drank Mountain Dew. As much as Mountain Dew was a thing in Arlington, it was something else entirely in Dassel-Cokato. It was a way of life.

"That's ALL I ever drank," said James. "I didn't even drink water."

Personally, I maxed out at two Mountain Dews a day, and even that was rare. Mountain Dew was meant to be enjoyed, not abused. And besides, I don’t know how anyone could AFFORD a serious Mountain Dew habit – soda was expensive, and even more so in Morris. I did indeed always have Mountain Dew around, but it was precious and not to be frittered away.
Here is a freshman me, drinking out of a PITCHER of Mountain Dew at Pizza Hut. SHAME.
My relationship with Mountain Dew began its steady decline during that freshman year of college. Maybe it was my horror at seeing the dozes of empty Mountain Dew boxes in their houses and rooms, only to be informed that it was only a few weeks’ worth. Or the Mountain Dew can pyramids. Or the horrible concoction we drank called UV Dew (UV Blue mixed with Mountain Dew… I know, try and control your gag reflex).

All that aside, I still had some strong attachments to Mountain Dew. Nothing tasted quite as good as a cold Mountain Dew with a grilled cheese sandwich from Don's CafĂ© in Morris. Or with a breakfast pizza from Casey's. Or with a ham and cheese sandwich over my lunch breaks when I worked at the Brookings County Courthouse over two summers in college. NOTHING tasted better. 

 My entire college experience tastes like Mountain Dew.

(That's a gross statement, but it's true.)
Halloween Mountain Dew.

A friend's dad knew I was coming to visit, so he prepared accordingly. My reputation preceded me.
It would take me a great many years to give up Mountain Dew completely. I remember the moment: I was standing at my refrigerator in my junky Sioux Falls apartment, sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. I was staring a the near-empty Mountain Dew box on the shelf, and I thought to myself, "When this last Mountain Dew is gone, I'm quitting."

I didn't have any great revolution or any life-changing event - it just seemed like it was time. I was an adult job now with an adult job, and I felt like kind of an idiot in the break room when I brought in my Mountain Dew for lunch and everyone else was drinking water. (Full disclaimer: I didn't give up soda altogether - just Mountain Dew. Don't bet on me giving up soda any time soon.) Mountain Dew was a staple of my teenage years and early twenties, but my relationship with Mountain Dew felt like it was reaching its expiration date. A natural end to a years-long partnership. Plus, I had endured endless years of mocking from my father, who loved to remind me of the old Mountain Dew commercial where a cartoon hillbilly claimed that the beverage "tickled your innards," and how could that possibly be good for you? It was time.

Since I finished that last Mountain Dew, I haven't looked back. I haven't had so much as a sip of Mountain Dew in the intervening years - I haven't even been tempted. I can imagine what it tastes like, but the thought alone is enough to make my teeth hurt.

This is a weird thing to say about a sugary, chemically beverage, but Mountain Dew will always have a special place in my heart. Remember how I told you that Mountain Dew probably brought James and me together?

On my 20th birthday, I was in St. Cloud having a truly awful day with my then-boyfriend. James, my wonderful friend, stopped by my on-campus apartment to deliver my birthday gift: two twelve-packs of Mountain Dew. I wasn't there, so he elected instead to watch a chick flick with my roommates in hopes that I would return. I wasn't back by the time the movie was over, so James covered the Mountain Dew boxes in little pink heart sticky notes (they were my roommate's, so James claimed) stating birthday wishes and that he was sorry to have missed me.

You know that moment when you realize you may have found the person you should spend your life with?

I think that was it.

Thanks, Mountain Dew.

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