The perversity of the exchange strikes me abrasively. My instinctive response is to whip my head around 180 degrees in a manner that can only be described as arrestingly baffled. “Do you wanna get fro-yo?” followed by, and I quote, “God hell yeah, it’s so yummy and, like, good for you.” I quickly regather my sense of common courtesy, retract my admittedly alarming glare, and try to focus my attention upon the plethora of sandwich combinations in the New York deli. The question proposed between these two fellow students—both of whom were branded in particularly garish Columbia apparel, I might add—aroused my attention with such vigor because “fro-yo” is a foodie idiosyncrasy, part and parcel of a sunny afternoon on the Upper West Side, and one I simply do not understand.
Call me narrow-minded, pedantic, or simply random, but I think there are several intriguing questions that my shameless eavesdropping raises. Firstly and most plainly, why fro-yo and not ice cream? As students, these spur-of-the-moment treats, proverbial raids upon the piggybank, aren’t exactly daily occurrences. Delegating the traditional frozen dessert of choice to the sidelines is making quite the statement. Fro-yo may have arrived in town with the clamor and bravado of ice cream’s younger, cooler cousin, but after several years of politely refusing to remove itself from the sofa, fro-yo is taking up as much space as possible in the house of “I don’t really need it, but go on treat yourself, you naughty little devil.” By fro-yo’s not being some flash in the pan of America’s ever-changing taste buds, it can only mean that either people genuinely believe it tastes better, or it is better for you.
“Oh, what first world problems,” you might be thinking. “Better to fill this space with a survey of the sexual tendencies of Norwegian hamsters, better to linger upon the woes of our misinformed community, better to not bother at all.” Good, I’m glad we’ve aired that particular grievance, hopefully long enough to hang on the washing line of this column thingy here.
I concede that I am unable to prove empirically that ice cream tastes better than fro-yo and resign to gesticulating in Italy’s general direction. But if you are the type of student who approaches the fro-yo dispenser with a skip in your step and a congratulatory pat on the back for picking the healthy option from the jaws of gluttony, I think you are somewhat missing the point. It has echoes of the bewilderment felt when it was revealed that Vitaminwater was no more good for you than the sugary fruit juice it cunningly pretended—or was marketed—not to be. There is something quite laughable in watching your average fro-yo customer strolling buoyantly out Pinkberry’s neon-crimson door gleaming with their purchase of a butter-maple-pecan swirl buried beneath a mountain of choco-cookie-sprinkle toppings. Because if the butter or the maple or the pecans really were lower in calories than your regular vanilla scoop, it holds nothing against the mound of sugar you just walloped on top.
To clarify, I’m not advocating we dispense with these dispensers and assign frozen yogurt a meek corner of foodie has-beens alongside miniature cupcakes and, surely, cronuts. I’m merely suggesting that, as students with relatively modest budgets, we be honest about the purchases we make locally. You like fro-yo? Great, I’m ecstatic for you. It must be wonderful having a wide selection to choose from at your every dining hall experience. I only ask you don’t pretend you’re eating it because you want a healthy dairy alternative. Oh, and please don’t get all holier-than-thou when I go to Haagen-Dazs instead.
The brunt of this comes down to honesty, I suppose. It’s a value applicable in practically every facet of our lives on campus. You take a class because you read on CULPA it’s super-duper easy or the professor is book-droppingly interesting. You haven’t been off campus yet because you can’t be bothered, not because you haven’t had the time. You’ve started frequenting the Butler Smoking Society because you think the social scene looks really cool, not because you were bored one afternoon. Being embarrassed about our underlying motives is understandable: We are young and all too often ruled by our various and occasionally overpowering emotions. Just don’t try and tell me you went to a frat party for auditory appreciation. I won’t believe you.
Richard Whiddington is a Columbia College junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. Whiddy Banter runs alternate Thursdays.
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