Tab, you’re still beautiful to me

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“Oh, my gosh! LOOK!”

I was at our local thrift shop and had just discovered gold. Four glasses sporting the Tab logo, a steal at $3.99 apiece. While I knew from experience that their hourglass shape made them a pain to wash, I also knew they had to be mine.

Tab, what a beautiful drink, Tab, for beautiful people, Tab, you’re beautiful to me…16 ounces have just one calorie.

It was the jingle of my youth, the siren’s song that promised me, and all of my friends, that simply by drinking a bottle of Tab instead of Coke or Pepsi or anything with all that nasty sugar in it, you too could become as svelte and popular as the gorgeous model in the television commercial, the one swirling around in a size four dress, a bottle of Tab surgically attached to her right hand as she waited for her rich and handsome boyfriend to come and pick her up for a night on the town.

Tab, along with Fresca and Diet-Rite, ruled the diet soft drink world of the 1970’s. It came in 12 ounce cans and 16 ounce glass bottles. Without much effort at all I can still remember the rough texture of a Tab bottle, sprinkled with small smooth circles that were flecked with yellow starbursts. A Tab and a bag of anything salty complemented an evening of watching “Donny and Marie” or “The Love Boat” perfectly.

Tab was all we drank throughout high school. We called the pop machine in the cafeteria the “Tab” machine and when we went out to eat we always ordered a Tab to go out with our cheeseburgers and fries or pizza or whatever other caloric nightmare we were ingesting, as if by having that one calorie drink somehow negated the other two thousand calories on our plates.

“I’ll have the cheesecake and a Tab,” I told the waitress at a diner where my best friend and I had stopped for a snack after school.

“Yeah,” the waitress said as she wrote down our orders, “like having a Tab is going to stop that cheesecake from going straight to your thighs.” With a knowing chuckle she turned away from our table and went to get our order.

It was something of an epiphany for both of us because we really believed that by ordering Tab we were dieting and it didn’t matter what else we ordered to eat along with the Tab. After all, Tab was a diet soda. It was an epiphany, yes, but not one that either of us took to heart. We stayed loyal to Tab–and cheesecake–and didn’t worry about calories.

But in college, as the diet soda market got larger, I began to cheat on my longtime love.

“Try this,” a friend said to me one day, handing me a glass of a bubbly brown liquid

“What is it?”

“Just try it. You’ll love it.”

Taking a tentative sip I tasted Diet Coke for the first time. It was smoother and sweeter than Tab with none of the metallic chemical aftertaste. “Wow,” I commented.

My friend smiled, knowing she’d just witnessed the breakup between Tab and me. “You’ll never go back,” she predicted.

For a long time she was right. Diet Coke became my diet soda of choice, in all its many forms including cherry, lemon and lime. Tab became but a memory, a good one, but part of my past like reruns of “The Hardy Boys” and jeans without Lycra.

I can’t recall the exact date but it was around the turn of the century and I found myself in the soda aisle at Walmart getting our weekly supply of Diet Coke. As I reached for a 12-pack of Diet Coke, a flash of deep pink caught my eye. Snuggled up next to the Diet Coke was a 12-pack of Tab, the only one on the shelf and clearly destined for me. I bought it and after the first can it was like the two of us had never been apart.

“No one drinks Tab anymore,” I was told by co-workers as if I showed up at the office wearing my hair in cornrows a la Bo Derek in “10” or appeared at a staff meeting sporting shoulder pads borrowed from Joan Collins during her “Dynasty” run.

Wrong. I drink Tab and I always will as long as the Coca-Cola Company continues to make it. I may have to branch out and search for it at grocery stores other than our local Walmart but if that’s the case, so be it. No more cheating, no more flirting with diet drinks that don’t mean as much to me. Whoever said you can’t go home again obviously never drank Tab.

 

 

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