Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller


September 2, 2011

Dear Dad,

I was thinking about you at work.

We are phasing out Equal packets. Everywhere is, really. I remember it was one of your favorites and imagine you might find this upsetting. I’m upset for you, if that’s any consolation. Aspartame wasn’t really good for you, Dad. Neither were a lot of other things you partook in. But let’s be honest, when did you ever let that stop you?

Equal is a thing of the past. Gone the way of the dinosaurs, the four martini lunches and The Flynt Prestons of the world.

I was struck with a twinge of sadness as I was refilling the sugar caddies. Table after table, all in varying degrees of transition. Some were still packed full with the tiny blue reminders, happy and complete. But others had not even a trace of the individual serving of artificial sweetness. White, pink, yellow, and no blue.

When did this happen and how did I miss Equal’s slow decline? I remember not a week ago, they were here, squeezed in with the sugar and the “sweet and low”. Held tightly somewhere between the splendaand the “sugar in the raw”.

But today, Equal was almost gone.

And our restaurant isn’t bringing it back. The replacement is just being crowded into the sweet mix with no feeling for the old, and maybe not great, but constant equal. Truvia is here now. It is a natural no calorie sweetener made from a plant and not chemicals.  It is dressed in a happy bright green wrapper. And it is gradually taking Equal’s place. One sugar caddy at a time.

I don’t want it to.

Sure, some might argue that it is in fact better for you. Yes, it has no terrible after taste. Fine, insisting on depending on it for years probably won’t eventually be the death of me. Okay, it also has no calories and merely acts as a place holder for the real sugar I might desperately crave. But it’s not the fucking same. It will never be Equal. Beautiful dangerous imperfect aspartame .

Besides, I have no attachment to this “better” sweetener. I don’t remember putting not one but two packets of it with half and half and a heavy splash of Kahluha into your coffee every morning. Equal and I go way back to 6 or 7. It was a key element my many years of dutiful daughtering. I miss that.

I’m in the middle of brunch, growing teary, ready to start my own campaign. To round-up all the remaining Equal left in the world. To keep it circulating. To have to offer to every last guest as a perfectly good option. To not let anyone forget where artificial sweetener started and how far we have come. That we wouldn’t be anywhere close to a healthy substitute if it wasn’t for the Equal that worked in a pinch for years. Especially when we didn’t know any better.

It is what is happening in my life, Dad. As the hours pass. As the days go by. The weeks unfold into months. The months add up to years. You become less and less a part of my life. Your lingering presence mirrors that of the last stray baby blue packets, hanging around just so we won’t forget that they were here. There are parts of my life that will always have traces of you, powdery residue that clusters in the unexamined corners. But other, new and terrifying arenas in my little existence you have never been mixed up in and will never have the chance to be.

I feel you slipping out of circulation. You, an out of fashion sweetener with side effects that could kill me. And despite the FDA warnings, I still don’t want to give you up. I don’t care if you are a thing of the past. I especially don’t care that they have come up with something that is better for me.

I’m worried I will forget. Forget how you smelled of sweet tobacco and stale domestic beer. Forget how you slicked back your thinning hair like Elvis. Forget the timbre of your thick, flat west Texas accent. Forget the size of your perfectly manicured hands. Forget how you liked two Equals in your coffee.

I don’t want to forget those things, Dad. I don’t want the new sweetener. I will not replace you. Why is the world trying to make me?

I will be the one server insisting to everyone that we did serve Equal at one time. Yes, the transition away from it has been harder on some more than others. Sure, it wasn’t for everyone. But the people who used it and depended on it, loved it dearly. I will speak for them and honestly say they are very sad that it is gone.

Please don’t go away entirely, Flynt. You are irreplaceable.

Love always and forever,


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Categories: Letters I Will Never Send

Comment (1)

  1. Dearing Preston says:

    September 2, 2011

    Check out the 2009 article about same topic, sort of Reply

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