I don’t remember when we first met, but I think it was in college. When I lived in a rural town in Tennessee, a friend remarked that the recent opening of a Starbucks cafe meant that we finally lived in civilization. You were in Barnes and Noble, in Target, in airports and malls. It was such a surprise when you began opening drive-thru, free-standing cafes. You are such a success.
When we had the occasional fling, the fleeting afternoon or evening, you were a magical place. Honestly, your coffee isn’t all that great, but you have iced tea, chai tea, and caffeinated milkshakes called Frappuccinos. You offer pastries, sandwiches, snacks. You could eat a (very overpriced) meal inside one of your cafes. It was even rumored that you would begin selling alcohol, but I haven’t seen any wine coolers at your locations lately.
We’ve been going steady for three or four years now. It’s a regular thing, going out for a cup in the middle of the afternoon with my coworkers. It’s a polyamorous relationship, but we know how to share, and you always give me what I want. I was happy for a long time.
Things have changed.
My money is more valuable to me right now, given my return to school. You, alas, are an expensive date. You make it easy to spend, giving me a gold card, a phone app, a paypal-linked account. Every once in a while, you give me something for free, to feel wanted, to feel appreciated. But going steady with you is an expensive proposition.
We need to talk about what you’ve done to me. I weigh 260 pounds. Most of my body fat is concentrated in my trunk, a strong indicator of prediabetes. I can hear you say, “that’s not all my fault!” and you’re right. It’s not all your fault. But part of it is. I see you five times a week, and I drink anywhere between 200-500 calories in your cafe. If people heard that I was drinking a milkshake a day, they’d be pretty flabbergasted. But no, it’s okay, because it’s Starbucks, and those aren’t milkshakes, they’re Frappuccinos.
I told myself it was okay because it was you, Starbucks. You do good things like promoting gay rights. I told myself I just needed to exercise more, to count every calorie that goes into my mouth. It didn’t matte that I’d blow my diet half the time I walked through your door. It was much easier to lose weight before we were a thing.
I can’t afford you anymore. I can’t afford your drinks, and I can’t afford to buy new clothes to fit my growing stomach, and I definitely can’t afford to pay for triple bypass surgery in twenty years because I couldn’t keep my cholesterol levels in check.
You broke my heart, Starbucks. This is an unhealthy relationship. It didn’t start out that way, but over the years, that’s what it’s led up to.
I won’t go half-measures. I need to quit you entirely, at least for a few months. I know that the moment I walk in your door I’ll be smitten again, especially since you’re coming out with that s’more-flavored Frappuccino next week. I won’t be there. I can’t be there. Because I’ll just be down that road again, and I can’t do that anymore.
My friends will still be seeing you. They’ll even mock me for this letter, tell how much fun they’re having with you while I’m away. Good for them. They still have a healthy relationship with you. But mine’s gone co-dependent. They’ll have to have fun without me.
I need to know a life without you for a while. I’ve been working out regularly, eating less refined sugar and more whole grains. I’ve been seeing a cheap percolator in the morning, where I can limit the calories in my creamer and I
get have to make it myself. It’s no-frills, but those frills were getting costly. And my account balance will be much better off. I think my percolator and I will be happy together.
Goodbye for now, Starbucks. It’s been fun.