Sunday, July 16, 2006


Colson Whitehead wrote in today's Times Magazine that he hates ice cream. And he hates it, he said, because he worked in an ice cream store.

Well, I call bullshit, Mr. Whitehead! From the looks of your article, it seems you hate freshly-made waffle cones and toppings, hate the pressure of memorization, and the act of scooping cold, hard, cream. You hate that all you ate for three summers straight was ice cream. But what the heck does that really have to do with ice cream?! It is not ice cream's fault that you were a teen predisposed to culinary redundancy and with a knack for over-doing it on the freebies. I think, Mr. Whitehead, it's time to forgive ice cream, not malign it publicly. I think it's time you and the sweet stuff reconciled. Allow me to be the mediator!

Mr. Whitehead, I also spent a summer working in an ice cream store. I was nineteen years old, older than you were at your job, and my ice cream store was JP Licks, in Boston, on Newbury Street. I lived in Boston that summer because of love and boredom, two things that made my $6/hour wage seem perfectly acceptable. I worked five days a week from noon until one in the morning, walking back to my shared sublet in the Back Bay/Fens area exhausted and with the hot fear of God and Rape in my recently developed breasts.

I'll agree that scooping ice cream at a popular shop, in the middle of the summer, is terrible work. At least you weren't on Newbury Street, Mr. Whitehead, with its tourists and locals and skaters and heroin junkies shooting their low-grade horsey in our bathrooms. Which I was forced to, more than once, clean. Scooping was hard work; I developed a mild carpal tunnel that summer because with the rush of customers I never had time to focus on the proper form -- I just needed to get their sundaes and cones (yes, even those diabolical waffle cones) and cups ready as quickly as I could. I weighed about 110 lbs. when I started the job, and the day I quit, I was just hitting 120. The culprit? Wet Walnuts. Every day for lunch I'd make myself a sundae and top it with heaping spoonfuls of walnuts drowned in maple syrup. It was delicious, it was free, but most of all it was a 15 minute respite from scooping or carrying huge containers of fresh ice cream from the giant walk-in freezers. See, for me, Mr. Whitehead, ice cream was a savior; or maybe I'm still experiencing some sort of Stockholm Syndrome? I love the thing that hurt me for two months, but at least I still love it.

It's better to love, Mr. Whiteheard. I'm not angry at ice cream just because one summer it made me fat and hurt my wrist and underpaid me and overworked me. It's not ice cream's fault; it's JP Licks fault on Newbury Street. I haven't quit ice cream, but I quit JP Licks because they wanted me to clean the bathroom again. Only this time the bathroom was covered in human feces on account of the aforementioned junkies. As my life flashed before my eyes in contemplating that chore, I removed my apron, said a polite "no, thank you," to my boss, and said I wouldn't be coming in the next day, or the day after, or ever again. And I haven't ever stepped foot in JP Licks again.

But I also haven't published invectives against ice cream, a delicious invention that deserves no enemies. I'm not one those evangelical dessert freaks you speak of, Mr. Whitehead. I'm just a lover of pleasure and happiness. Summer jobs are the thing that deserves your hatred, or perhaps the food service industry. Or tourists. Let's hate them! But not ice cream. Spare the ice cream. It is good. It is kind. It is all I have left, Mr. Whitehead. Go pick on someone else's best friend you articulate, wonderful bully.


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