Aspartic acid. Sodium. Potassium Benzoate. Citric acid. Phosphoric Acid. Phenylalanine. What does that sound like to you? Nuclear waste? The contents of a dead man’s stomach? A reliably delicious recipe for Crystal Meth? No, they’re none of those things. Actually, they might be all of those things, but if you add water and a splash of caramel color they quickly become… Diet Coke. Sweet Sweet Diet Coke. The nectar of the Gods, as long as the Gods are watching their figure and don’t mind a vaguely metallic aftertaste. Diet soda is the greatest invention in our history, because what other creation took such disparate ingredients and turned them into such sweet majesty? The cotton gin? The steam engine? Airplanes? Perhaps, but what would any of those things be without a delightful Fresca to sip while you’re using ‘em? Ever tried ginning cotton without a calorie-free grapefruit tonic in your hands? It’s unbearable. And now they want to tell us that diet soda is unhealthy, and we should just be drinking plain old crappy water!? Well to that I say, “No way.” Because they may take our liberty, and they may take our lives, but they will never take our DIET COLA.
A few weeks ago, my acupuncturist told me I had to stop drinking Diet Coke. No, that is not the most LA sentence ever written. It would have to include the words “kale” and “hike” to accomplish that feat, but it happened. And I was shocked. I told her she could have my diet soda when she pried it from my cold dead hands, then she looked at me like a crazy person. Not unfair, as I was about to pay her $80 to stick a bunch of pointy needles in my belly, but I felt my case had been made. Currently in my house is diet root beer, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero, and diet ginger ale, in case the night gets really wild. And not in small amounts either. Like, end-of-the-world, the-apocalypse-is-coming quantities. Let’s just say that if there’s a zombie attack and the only way to kill them is tossing some aspartame in their eyes, I got a good chance of making it out alive. And judging by the recycling bin in my building, and every other building I’ve ever lived in, a whole lot of you are coming with me.
I mean, look, when you go into a convenient store, what item do you grab almost on autopilot? Candy? Nope. Beef Jerky? Screw beef jerky. Those weird spinny cheese dog thingies? Possibly. But diet soda? Definitely. “I’ll grab some toilet paper…yes, I buy it in individual rolls because that’s how responsible I am. And some of these Cheetos that make my mouth bleed, and sure, a Coke Zero. Why not?” It’s like the little carbonated sidekick that comes with you wherever you go. It’s not a drink, it’s a best friend. A best friend who never asks you to help move his couch because it doesn’t own a couch. And when you’re done with him, you can bring the diet soda can to the store and they’ll give you five cents! If that’s not a give and take relationship, I don’t know what it is.
Now I know what you’re thinking: wait a second, doesn’t diet soda cause cancer in lab rats? And the answer is.. yes. Yes, it pretty much does. But you gotta go sometime, and is there a better way to do it than chugging six times your bodyweight in calorie free A&W root beer? I don’t think so. Plus, doesn’t it seems like lab rats get cancer pretty easily nowadays anyway? Tobacco. Makeup. Radiation. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. It sounds to me like they’re getting cancer sooner or later anyway, so how about a little refreshment along the way?
And it’s not like artificial sweeteners are without their health benefits as well. I mean, there’s 290 calories in a bottle of Mountain Dew. 290! That’s the same amount of calories as there are in an entire chocolate cake. I mean, it isn’t, but it might as well be! Every time I see someone crack open a can of regular Coca Cola, I look at them like their head is about to explode. And my head. And everyone else’s. I mean, if you can only spend your calories in one place, what would you rather have: a bag of peanut M&M’s or a stupid can of pop? Well, thanks to diet soda, we no longer have to deal that unthinkable Sophie’s Choice. We can drink our calorie-free chemicals, then chow down on a Kit Kat, just the way God intended it.
Diet soda has become so integral that I find it every room of the house. There’s one next to my bed, tons in the kitchen, a few even lurking in the car. And, alarmingly enough, I once discovered a can of Cherry Zero under the sink in the bathroom. They’ve always been there for us, so now it’s time we be there for them. We can’t give up on them, just because the relationship has its downsides. Fake soda and us, best friends forever.