I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
We certainly didn’t know it at the time, but 2010 was a pivotal year. It was post–Great Recession but pre-recovery, post-Twitter but pre-Instagram, post-Perez Hilton but pre-complete and utter collapse of the celebrity-gossip infrastructure. Into the changing tides of our society fell Dina Lohan and her Carvel black card.
In July of 2010, Dina Lohan — mother of Lindsay and self-styled “white Oprah” — walked into a Carvel in her native Long Island and tried to purchase an ice cream cake for her son Cody’s 14th birthday with a Carvel “black card.” The strip mall ice-cream chain gave 75 celebrities (including LiLo, Howard Stern, and Patton Oswalt) these black cards, based on the no-limit American Express black cards, to celebrate their 75th birthday. They entitled the bearer to 75 years of free ice cream. On that fateful day, Lindsay Lohan’s card, in Dina’s possession, would be denied, the police would be called, and the blogosphere would have a field day.
A representative from Carvel issued the following solemn statement: “Unfortunately, the Lohan family has been abusing the card … At first, we graciously honored their requests … After more than six months of numerous and large orders for ice cream, we finally had to cut off the card and take it back.” The rep said that Dina called the police when her card was taken away. When the police arrived on the scene they gave Dina her card back but instructed her that it was probably best not to try to use it again.
It’s not that incident, so much, that I am obsessed with, but what led up to it. How many Fudgie the Whale cakes could Dina Lohan possibly need? There are only so many Cookie Pusses that one modest suburban family can consume in a year. That Dina would terrorize this one store with frequent enough visits that she required an intervention is just absolutely bonkers.
That means she was probably just inventing reasons to pick up ice-cream cakes because she could get them for free. PTA meeting? I bet they could use some Flying Saucers. Kids’ soccer game? Oh, the whole team would love some soft serve afterward. Her hairdresser’s niece is having a seventh birthday party? Let Dina show what a macher she is by bringing a sheet cake with those sweet, sweet cookie crumbles sandwiched between the vanilla and chocolate layers and maybe a personalized message on top.
That is what is especially insane to me. Even Carvel had to admit, in a blog post that has since been taken down (but preserved on Gawker, RIP), that it didn’t think anyone would actually use these cards. They just thought it would be a fun way to get its name in the press. That is how we treated celebrities back then, when Kylie Jenner was still in diapers instead of changing them. Just give them free shit, tell the press about it, get an item in “Page Six,” end of story.
But Dina Lohan took that card. She took it and felt entitled to all of the free ice cream that should come along with popping out a child who would have more success opening a Greek beach club than maintaining a long-term acting career. Dina Lohan was going to take every single last scoop of rainbow sherbet she could possibly force onto a sugar cone until they literally had to pry that ice cream card out of her cold, sticky, and mediocrely manicured hand.
I always think about this, obviously, when I drive past the Carvel in Sayville, New York, on the way from the Long Island Rail Road to the ferry to Fire Island. I imagine that is the spot where Dina Lohan, the ice cream Robin Hood, robbed from a rich corporation and gave to the poor, lactose-tolerant residents of Long Island.
But I also think of it whenever I’m approaching my limits. “Girl, don’t be like Dina with the Carvel card,” I say to myself when I’m thinking of having a second dessert, when I’m thinking about going back to the same friend for another favor, or even trying to negotiate my payment on a freelance story. It’s what I use to keep myself from being too greedy, to keep the excess in check, and to not overuse my privilege so much that it’s taken away.
While what she did and how she did it was totally reprehensible — down to saying that she was being “victimized” for being a celebrity — maybe Dina really is the hero of this story. In 2010, we were questioning the validity of our institutions in the wake of the Wall Street crash. Greed couldn’t possibly be good if it allowed the bottom to fall out on ordinary Americans. But they told Dina that she could have free ice cream for life. They gave her a card and issued a promise, and when she tried to collect on that promise, her subzero American dream, they took it away from her and humiliated her. Maybe Dina was doing the right thing all along. Maybe Dina should stick it to the man one soft-serve swirl with rainbow sprinkles at a time. And maybe instead of scoffing at how much ice cream Dina Lohan could possibly eat, we should all demand what is ours, and call the police when we don’t get it.