Our friendship started out on the wrong foot.
Mom wanted to try a carbonated beverage that wasn't soda, so she bought a case of grapefruit La Croix. I was just an innocent tween that didn't know the difference between flavored soda and "essenced sparkling water." I saw the word "grapefruit" and thought I would be enjoying a sweet, tangy drink like Fresca or Squirt.
So, I innocently selected a can from the fridge, popped the top, and took a sip. Needless to say, I was disappointed by the unsweetened, intensely carbonated liquid that left such a funny aftertaste in my mouth.
Flash forward to college. I begin to notice La Croix all around me with increasing frequency. The preppy kids at school all drink it. Youtubers post taste-test videos of the different varieties. And, one fateful day, a well-meaning professor brings a couple cases into lecture for refreshment to accompany an in-class movie.
I chose the most exotic-sounding flavor (mango) and popped the top. Immediately, a cloud of delightful, tropical mist rose from the can. I took a sip. Still not sweet, but it was as if it no longer needed to be. I kept taking sips, and when I had finished it all, I reached for another. Thus began a love affair with mango-flavored La Croix which continues to this day, and has since expanded to include flavors like the infamous "pamplemousse" that I initially found so repulsive.
Now, I am of course aware that La Croix carries a bit of a stigma in our postmodern society. Millenials have adopted the beverage as their own, and get a constant bad rap for spending the money they could be saving and investing in a house or retirement, instead wasting it on fancy sparkling water in a pretty can. It's expensive, overrated, and often a bad financial decision, I get it. For this reason, I rarely buy it (myself; thanks, Mom), and I don't like to be seen with it for fear of being labeled as immature, or worse, basic.
But despite the cultural connotation it carries, I can't stop liking it. It is just so delightfully refreshing! And such a good alternative to sugary juice and soda! So what's an average, poor college kid that doesn't want to seem too pretentious supposed to do? My solution: off-brand sparkling water. First I tried Deer Park's lemon and watermelon-lime flavored sparkling water, and before I knew it, I was drinking Kroger and Wegmans-brand sparkling water. It's the same idea, without the fancy can or painful prices. Economical. Unpretentious. Health-conscious. Delicious.
Since I've warmed to the concept of "essenced" sparkling water after sampling it a second time, I continue to enjoy a La Croix whenever I can, having proven to myself that I don't really need it. Even though I can finally appreciate its merits, I can easily do without, or substitute with an off-brand sparkling water.
Hopefully, the fact that I can enjoy a can of La Croix without becoming dependent upon its refreshing properties keeps me from being seen as a bandwagoner and a subscriber to the "hype." But even if it doesn't, I won't be ashamed the next time I reach for a can.