BOSTON. The signs were there all along, says Cynthia Putnam of her 28-year-old daughter, Meghan. “We just chose to ignore them,” she adds as she wipes away a tear with a tissue provided to her as efficiently as a handoff by her husband Ed, a former star quarterback at Boston University before it ended its football program.
“There were the jittery hands,” the mother says of her daughter, a budding art historian who almost dropped a Ming dynasty vase one day while interning at the Museum of Fine Arts. “The peculiar . . . scent she gave off when she’d come home for Thanksgiving, like a compost heap.”
Finally, Meghan’s secret was revealed, as is often the case in an addict’s life, by a tiny misstep. “I heard her thumping around in the kitchen at 3 a.m. over Christmas vacation,” says Ed. “When I came downstairs I found her drinking out of one of those damn ‘venti’-size cups that just reeked of pumpkins.”
Meghan is, by her own admission, “hooked” on pumpkin spice lattes, a seasonal menu item known for its highly addictive qualities. “It reminds me of everything I love about fall,” she says as she sobs quietly while staring out the window of her one-bedroom apartment on Newbury Street. “Cool crisp weather, Fair Isle sweaters, less body odor in elevators,” she explains as she stands up and says to her parents “It’s such a beautiful day, I think I’m going to go out for awhile.”
“NO YOU’RE NOT!” her mother and father say in unison. “If you need something at DeLuca’s,” the over-priced gourmet grocery down the block, “we’ll get it for you,” her mother adds.
“But I’m a grown woman,” Meghan complains, before her father cuts her off. “There are just too many occasions of sin near here,” he says, using a dated expression from the Catholic Church’s Act of Contrition that he learned as a boy. He opens up the “Near Me” app on his phone and holds it out for her to see that there are indeed 97 espresso drink retailers within a three-block area. “I would be derelict in my duty as a parent if I let you walk that treacherous gauntlet of nefarious henchmen.”
Unlike many addictive products, pumpkin spice lattes are legal, a fact that irks advocates for consumers in the highly-regulated economy of this predominantly liberal state. “A ten-year-old can buy a pumpkin spice latte without even showing a license,” says Dorcas Strateman, executive director of the Massachusetts Anti-Business Alliance. “How is a liberal arts major with discretionary income and several years of single life ahead of her before getting married supposed to resist that kind of temptation?”
While the Putnams pride themselves for being descendants of hardy New England forebears, their desperate situation has driven them to the point where they even lash out–if only in moderate tones–at journalists covering the pumpkin spice “beat.” “You people are part of the problem,” Ed Putnam says to this reporter. “You are your stupid pumpkin spice jokes every fall.”