On Being the Guy Who Loves Pumpkin Spice

Am I less masculine because of my obsession with pumpkin spice? #BASICAF

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Pumpkin Spice…Tampax?

I frown as I click through the red number thirty next to my world icon. You make two little posts about how much you love pumpkin spice and everyone has an opinion.

Within two days I’ve been tagged at least thirteen times for a recipe on how to make a pumpkin spice hot dog (I guess I’ll try it? Maybe?). Then, without fail, my military friends and the “bros” tag me in absurd things like Pumpkin Spice Tampax or Pumpkin Spice Monistat. Because, you know, I’m a basic white girl.

Except I look anything but basic.

Tattoos of angels, demons, skulls, snakes, or wolves litter my body. I often wear all black or V-necks most days. I own multiple shirts that say “Death Crew” on them. I also happen to love hardcore metal. Particularly the music that involves screaming and sounds like the Satan himself wrote it (at least that’s what my fellow Christians tell me). There’s also the reality I spent eleven years in the military and have a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Though I left the military seven years ago, I still train like I’m a soldier. “Because you’re mental” according to my wife. In fact, someone at my gym once asked me, “What are you training for?” The only answer I could come up with was “The worst day of my life.

So while I “appear” masculine to the average male or frat bro, deep in my soul there lives a white girl who wears yoga pants, scarves, and uggs. And that inner white girl has an insatiable desire for all things pumpkin. Hell, say my name three times in the mirror and I’ll tell you everything I love about the fall.

My pumpkin spice fascination began in 2007 when a coworker introduced me to a PSL (that’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte for all you non-Basic Bitches). I felt lattes were silly because they took away from the real reason we all drink coffee: caffeine. That was, until I tasted a PSL.

“WHAT IS THIS MAGIC CONCOCTION OF WITCHCRAFT AND DELICIOUSNESS?”

Upon first sip, I became the raving cocaine addict needing his pumpkin fix. Craft pumpkin beer, in particular, became an obsession. Discovering good pumpkin beers is a tricky business as there is no in-between in the world of pumpkin ales. They’re either delicious or taste like diarrhea.

By 2016, I caught the pumpkin fever so bad I called breweries to find out if they were making pumpkin beers. I even begged a brew master at one of my favorite local pubs to make the magic elixir. He looked at me with the expression I receive when you’re a tattooed dude dressed in black ordering a pumpkin spice latte: “You Basic Bitch.”

Here’s what’s interesting. While I can proclaim my pumpkin spice obsession to the world, sometimes when I’m at Starbucks I become self conscious and lie to the barista. “The PSL is for my wife.” Not true. It’s 100% for me and I might even sing show tunes into my fist while drinking it.

I enjoy the teasing and gentle ribbing many friends dish out concerning my pumpkin spice madness. Most of it I’ve brought on myself and some of the stereotypes and memes are hilarious.

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However, I find it disconcerting that within the majority of male culture, masculinity continues to crush anything it deems “non-masculine” even when stereotypical “masculine” men endorse said thing. If Conor McGregor loves PSLs and Taylor Swift is he less masculine now?

I think far too often we forget that within men two mindsets are often at work. A warrior. And a poet.

The warrior is the one that craves adventure, wants to save and rescue others, fight against injustice, and will bleed in the process.

The poet marvels at the beauty of the sky and outdoors, becomes entranced with song lyrics and melodies, and dreams of romance and finding the perfect words to speak over the one who’s captured his heart.

But society continues to push ideals of what it deems masculine and those ideal line up more with a toxic version of the warrior. Culture teaches us the things the poet cares about are effeminate. Pumpkin spice, the ballet, poems, One Direction, and romantic movies get the subtle brush off. For many men they become “guilty pleasures.” But what if you just enjoy the hell out of them?

During my elementary school years I remember joining a chorus of other boys on my bus chanting, “New Kids on the Block sucks!”while a young girl held up her poster of Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie, and Danny in their defense (You’re surprised I know their names? I had to google to be sure. But still).

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Here’s the irony. I liked New Kids on the Block. I just couldn’t tell anyone because we considered it “unmanly.” Sometimes my brother would find me listening to “The Right Stuff” on cassette and I’d look like I got busted wearing a bra in public.

Years later, I ripped on a coworker because he loves the band Nickleback. Nickleback is everything wrong with music. I firmly believe their music is responsible for genocide in Third World countries because it’s torture to listen to. So I continued to give him hell until he spoke up and told me:

“It’s okay to like something other people don’t.”

I think sometimes we forget that simple truth and care far too much about what’s considered “popular” and what isn’t. Even though we’ve left high school, we can still try to fit in with the “in-crowd.”

It’s an odd reality we have to deal with in today’s culture. Everyone reminds us that the cardinal virtue of modernity is to “be yourself.” Then they judge the shit out of you for it. I’m trying to find the balance in-between that reminds me I can love things other men don’t. There’s an inherent freedom in not caring what others think, yet without fail, we can fall prey to feeling shame over things that bring us joy.

It’s okay to like hunting, Katy Perry, Star Trek, Pantera, poetry, pumpkin spice, and yes, even Nickleback, all at the same time. If anything it helps us become better men because our tastes are more diverse. We can appreciate the uniqueness it draws out. The warrior and the poet. They need not be at war with one another.

So while I may hate Nickleback and you may hate white dudes who love pumpkin spice, here’s what matters: The things you love are what make you unique.

And that makes you rare. Just like everyone else.

Storyteller | Combat wounded veteran | Metalhead | Designer | Bleeding on a page just makes it more authentic: https://benjaminsledge.com

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