Crack Open Something Fizzy — It’s Time for Bubble Trouble

the Bubble Trouble header looks like a Surge can, with a green background and red burst and the words AUTOSTRADDLE BUBBLE TROUBLE written in the red burst

Bubble Trouble // Header by Viv Le

In the mid-18th century, a dude — ok, a scientist — named Joseph Priestley lived next to a brewery and became obsessed with the bubbles in beer and the gas that produces them.1 He wasn’t very popular. Mainly because he was highly critical of the Church of England.A 1700s baddie, if you will. He is often credited with the discovery of oxygen, which sure, important stuff. But more importantly, he invented carbonated water. Then some Swiss amateur scientist named Johann Jacob Schweppe with an awfully familiar last name swooped in and said let’s bottle and sell this shit to the masses.3

But enough about the literal history of carbonated beverages. Here’s an incomplete personal queer history of carbonated beverages.

In fifth grade, I drank Diet Pepsi because Kelsey did. I hated its flavor, my palate forever sensitive to the gummy aftertaste of aspartame and other sugar substitutes.4 But I had to drink it. Because she did. We were both fifth graders, but in my mind she was like a cool older kid. She didn’t even have an older sibling, but there was something about her that seemed further along than me, already middle schoolian in her knowledge of pop culture with swear words in it, in her tendency toward diet sodas, which I thought were only for moms. Hers had fewer rules than mine, and in fact, Kelsey was allowed not only to pack a Diet Pepsi in her bagged lunch for herself but also a second just for me. They come in silver now, but the cans then were a piercing blue. It sounds cliché to say the cans were the color of the sky on a sunny day, but they were. We were once something like sisters, but then I lost track of Kelsey or she lost track of me or she left me behind or we departed each other. Her mother recently added me on Facebook, and a part of me wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what.

Senior year of college, I sometimes slept in an old, massive house full of boys plus two girls even though I didn’t live there. I was sleeping with one of the boys, dating him even, which I continued to do even after coming out to him in a bizarrely public way as not bisexual but a lesbian. Weird times. A billion people shared the one fridge in this old house, which still had murals on its walls, depicting the original German owners’ family’s journey, or so that’s what someone drunkenly told me after they got Iced5 at a party. The one fridge was always overfull and underchilled. A group of us had a ritual: Prep a Coke. It meant put one or two cans of Coke in the fridge for later. There wasn’t room for much else. Prep a Coke for me, won’t you?

When my now fiancé was first flirting with me, before we’d even met in person, she asked me what my favorite booze was. I could have been normal and said wine or even something slightly more specific like sour beers or maybe given a brand like my beloved Bud Light. But nope, I had to be the most me possible. I told her my number one choice of drink is txakoli, the slightly effervescent and dry white wine from the Basque region of Spain. She had two bottles delivered directly to my door within two hours.5 I had been me, and she liked me.

I guess what I’m trying to demonstrate here is that it’s easy to tell stories with bubbly beverages at their core, whether they’re about a childhood friend crush that fizzles out or a confusing time in one’s journey with queerness or falling in love — such a heady, pétillant experience in and of itself. The above are vignettes more than they are fully realized stories, but that’s because I don’t want to distract from what’s to come. The intros to the special series I put together here are always meant to be just a taste.

You can expect a fun mix of things from this series: playful lists, longer essays, work that spans tones and scopes, maybe even a satirical queer retelling of Willy Wonka 👀. We’ve got your light bubbles and your heavy bubbles, too. All carbonated beverages were fair game: sodas, seltzers, tonics, beers, sparkling wines, etc. We also manage to get into a decent amount of trouble along the way — from identity crises to smuggling sodas to porous teeth. Expect nostalgia, discovery, and so many little bursts of emotion.

Editing these pieces made me thirsty; I’m sure reading them will do the same. So have something bright and bubbly nearby as you pop the tab on Bubble Trouble.7

1. Joseph Priestley and the Discovery of Oxygen
2. The Great Soda-Water Shake Up, by Sarah Laskow
3. The history of sparkling water
4. To this day, if I take one accidental sip of my fiancé’s Splenda-laden coffee, I have to spit it out immediately.
5. While we’re speaking sparkling, Smirnoff Ice was bubbly, too, wasn’t it? I honestly can’t remember. Do people still get Iced at college parties? Lmk.
6. God what a Move. Again, we hadn’t even met in person yet, and this made me melt with desire.
7. The series was originally titled Soda Week, but that felt restricting and boring. I did almost call it Cracking Open a Cold One With the Gays but it was a bit of a mouthful.

Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 840 articles for us.


    • Omg yes! Kid me never liked sodas *except* Surge. Some people don’t even remember it. Why do I feel like it had drugs in it like original coca cola? Was it pulled from the market or did it just slide into oblivion? For bubblies, adult me only likes kombucha. What’s the connection?!

  1. The minute I saw the headline I knew this was gonna be a Kayla series and I’m very excited (if a little behind on my reading!)

    Also to answer your question, I am 31 years old and someone got iced at a (fairly lowkey!) house party I was at like 6 months ago. So. There’s that.

  2. I’ve read 2 of the pieces so far and I would like to say — Kayla, I LOVE how you’ve developed a whole weirdo queer food journal within Autostraddle! You are the literary equivalent of Willy Wonka.

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