In defense of the Lima-A-Rita and in praise of Lil' Kim

For those who haven't had the pleasure, a Lime-A-Rita is a mix of Bud Light beer and, according to the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, "exciting margarita flavors." They come in tall, white cans and are decorated with an illustration of a cold, refreshing margarita. In addition to the more traditional lime-inspired flavor, you can buy Mang-O-Ritas, Straw-Ber-Ritas, Raz-Ber-Ritas, Cherry-Ahh-Ritas, and even Cran-Brrr-Ritas. They don't taste like they've been handcrafted by a fancy bartender—they don't even taste like they've been in the same room as an actual fruit. They barely taste like margaritas. But just one tall, icy can packs a pleasant, fuzzy buzz. They are tasty in the same way that candy is: simple and sweet.

They satisfy the same parts of my brain and taste buds that were raised on Tang and Sunny Delight and fruit punch-flavored sodas. Fear of GMOs and preference for organic food were not as popular when I was a kid as they are now, at least where I grew up, and my parents have never had a problem eating stuff that had been processed within an inch of its life. My brother and I begged for those microwaved meals for children that came with things like chicken nuggets, corn, and a brownie—and got them. We had frozen pizzas, Toaster Strudels, Popsicles, and, like I said earlier, Tang (the powdery orange mix would come in giant tubs that my dad would buy from Sam's Club). Lime-A-Ritas are all of that: syrupy sweet, artificially colored, artificially flavored. Plus, booze!

You aren't supposed to like Lime-A-Ritas because girls like them. The things women like are largely seen as silly, frivolous, un-serious. I embrace them. It's my way of feminism by trolling. Because why should girl stuff be painted pink and pushed to the sidelines? And, as long as we're talking about it, what is wrong with pink anyway? Why should men be the ones who decide what is serious and good?

Did you know that Lime-A-Ritas are sometimes called thot juice? I've also heard them referred to as thotaritas. I laughed when I heard it, but also: How many words will people come up with to describe a woman who likes to have sex? There's a lot: easy, whore, slut, and now thot. You can wear thot pants, you can be thotty. It's very versatile. There aren't really any words to describe men who are like that—maybe we should make one for them. We can link it to, like, Fireball. Fire-balls? Bro booze? Douche juice?

When the Bad Boy Family Reunion concert rolled into Baltimore in early September, it took a long time for things to get going. The word from several annoyed Royal Farms Arena employees was that the concert equipment had just gotten into Baltimore hours before, and they were still setting up.

After waiting for over an hour outside in the drizzling, warm rain, we members of the mostly black crowd were finally allowed into the building. It took forever to move through security before inching up the series of ramps that would take us up and into the arena, where we would see Diddy, Mace, 112, Carl Thomas, and Total. That is, if the stage ever got set up. As a concession for our annoyance, maybe, there were men wandering through the line selling Bud Lights and Lime-A-Ritas out of large blue bins packed with ice. I got a Lime-A-Rita and my husband got a Bud Light.

The line was really long, and we were all packed so tightly together that we became temporary friends with the people we were shoulder to shoulder with. I got friendlier and more talkative the more I sipped. One of the women we were pushed up against was sipping one, and nodded to mine. "Thot juice," she said laughing. I laughed back. "Yes!"

We eventually got into the performance hall and to our seats, and the show began. We saw Diddy, of course, and all the rest, and they all sounded just like they did when I was a teenager. I was ecstatic, but the whole time, in the back of my mind, I wondered whether Lil' Kim would be there. I knew that the tour lineup changed a little as it traveled from city to city, and to think that Kim might be at the Baltimore performance was almost too much to hope for. To me, she was the big show.

I was 16 when "Hard Core" came out. I was skinny and went to church every Sunday because we had to. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about boys, and boys had absolutely no thoughts or feelings about me. I remember that one day in class—I want to say science, but I'm not positive—kids were talking about Lil' Kim—this new girl rapper who was coming out. The boys had a "Hard Core" poster. There was Kim, legs spread, brown skin, big dark eyes, and baby face (where was the teacher while this was going on? I don't remember). Powerful, even in feather lined robe and a bikini.

Had there ever at that point been a female rapper so obviously sexy? We had Queen Latifah, and now I'm so grateful for 'U.N.I.T.Y.' ("Who you callin' a bitch?," she asks). But although I'd call her beautiful, and proud, and strong, I don't think there was much sex to her image then. There was Left Eye from TLC , and Salt-N-Pepa, all of whom were undeniably sexy, but in a more playful, flirtatious way. MC Lyte and Yo-Yo were a little before my time. Eve wasn't out yet. But Kim was a man eater.

One of my friends let me borrow her "Hard Core" cassette tape and I listened to it in my pink bedroom sitting on my white daybed behind a closed door. The intro, if you remember, was a man buying tickets to see a dirty movie and then using the butter on his popcorn to masturbate to Kim. I was floored. Then there was 'Big Momma Thang,' which I immediately knew I had to memorize.

"I used to be scared of the dick/ Now I throw lips to the shit/ Handle it like a real bitch."

At the concert, Kim finally came to the stage. She rose up from the floor on a small platform, crouched down low like in those "Hard Core" posters. I became unexpectedly emotional. It might have been the Lime-A-Ritas in my system, yes, but it might also have been the way that Kim shaped so much of my ideas about women, power, and sex.

Her voice was just as husky and strong as it always was, but she looked very different. She's older and has had a baby, both of which change a woman's outward appearance. But she's also had plastic surgery. Her nose looked different. Because of the stage lights, it was hard to tell if she was actually as powdery light as she's looked in some of the photos I've seen of her online.

Kim has said that she had surgery on her nose to fix it after an abusive lover broke it. But lots of gossip magazines and websites have speculated that she's done a lot more to her face than that. The nose, the skin, the blonde wig, the contacts she's sometimes photographed wearing, all look suspiciously Caucasian. I think, in 2016, that gets more attention than any of her contributions to rap and hip-hop, which are incalculable (it's hard to imagine a world with Nicki Minaj or Remy Ma without Kim first). Kim began a lesson that my parents and my abstinence-only church could not. She taught me that men weren't just one-half of the holy union that would lead me to a sterile-but-blessed happily-ever-after. They could be dominated and used for pleasure in the same way that men use women. I had options.

These things are all linked in my mind, and so I try to sort through them and figure out what it all means. What value did we place on Kim and her old, more traditionally African-American beauty? What made her want to change? How do we value thots, "terrible" booze, sex, and all of the simple and not-so-simple things that give women pleasure?

Lil' Kim was just one of the women recognized at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors in July, and it was way overdue. "She's a diva at times, she's high maintenance with me at times, but at the end of the day she demands the ultimate respect," Diddy said, bringing Kim to the stage to accept her award.

It's always difficult for a women to break into a boys' club—but I'm sure it was even harder for Kim because of the way she presented herself: nearly naked and glammed out in wigs, makeup, and stilettos. None of those things are outside of the realm of what women are supposed to like or wear, but Kim wore them while telling you she was gonna rob you. She flipped convention on its head. She stepped up next to the boys with girly guns blazing. So, yes, give Kim her due. And while we're handing out praises, give the poor, maligned Lime-A-Rita its respect, too. It's not home-brewed or microbrewed or whatever. No one will ever wonder about hops or set up tastings (although I'd totally go)—but it's probably already cold, stored in your local liquor store's refrigerator section. It's good for those times when you want to take a raunchy stroll down memory lane and it's not trying to be anything other than what it is. Respect that.

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