"Other countries seem much more cautious about aspartame than we are," I spoke into the silence at the lunch table. Placing the napkin I plucked from the dispenser in my lap, I glanced at the trio of tense faces that had turned to me when I took my seat and spoke. "When I was in Canada," I continued, "there were warnings on the rim of the can. In red letters."
"Red," offered Sibling and I frowned at her for not being more helpful in my attempts to distract my lunch companions for whatever unpleasantness had come before I'd arrived.
"Red," I confirmed. "The color of warnings. And evil!"
"I read it is bad for you," PrettyHair offered. "There are warnings in Europe too."
"I heard somewhere that we didn't warn people because the FDA granted some sort of exception during a presidency in the past - I want to say FDR, but that could be very wrong - but other countries don't have the same affection for certain types of artificial sweeteners."
"You can drink diet soda in Europe," Adam noted and I nodded at him, blinking when PrettyHair swung around to glare at him.
"Only if you're dieting!" she exclaimed passionately and he scoffed before saying that nobody asks if you're on a diet before letting you buy soda.
"You can buy it," she agreed, "but people don't. Because it can cause cancer."
"It only caused cancer in mice at very large quantities," he replied with more anger than necessary as Sibling and I exchanged meaningful glances.
"What's the name of the new one?" Sibling asked and I cocked my head at her.
"Splenda?" I suggested and frowned when she shook her head.
"No," she confirmed. "Something like, 'it comes from a little green leaf,'" she sang.
"Truvia," Adam and I answered together. I grinned at PrettyHair and indicated we must watch more television that she does.
"I read," she said defensively and I patted her hand before sipping my Diet Pepsi. "And I think that can make you sick," she warned, pointing at the bottle I placed on the corner of my tray.
"Maybe," I replied. "My parents sent me an email forward - they do love email forwards - and said someone had recovered from MS or epilespy after not drinking diet soda. But I like it."
"Unless you're shoveling in sweetener from a 5 pound bag every day, I think you're fine," Adam offered in support.
"You don't know that," PrettyHair argued. "You don't know everything."
I shrugged when she looked at me for support. "I didn't read the actual study," I offered gently. "But nobody knows everything. You're right about that." I turned to face Adam and said very seriously, "You do not know everything." He winked at me and I smiled, waving when he finally left so we could talk about him.
"Are you OK?" I asked PrettyHair and made my most sympathetic face when she sighed. Sibling and I listened while she talked and offered some insight.
"It just sucks sometimes," she concluded and we nodded.
"And this is why we drink poison," I quipped before throwing away my trash and carrying what was left of my beverage back to my desk.