A trip to the grocery store was my favorite thing to do the first decade after I arrived in America. It was a “hobby” of mine to grab what I wanted, pay and leave. Many people thought my frequent trips to the store meant I was a chef, caterer or some kind of kitchen wizard but in reality I’m the lousiest cook you’ll find. Cooking had nothing to do with my obsession with going to the grocery store. I went there for entertainment, comfort and as an indulgence. These trips were like a dose of opium relieving me from the heartache and confusion of acclimating to my new homeland. You see, where I came from there was not much food available after half a century of war. I just needed to go to the store to be surrounded by food. Leisurely I would walk the aisles in awe, tasting products without any commitment to buy and buying with the security of returning it if need be. It took me a long time to feel normal about grocery shopping.
Now, thirty-five years later, grocery shopping is a chore. I no longer feel privileged by this weekly task as it has created a host of different issues for me. Today, the grocery store is like a library to me where I find myself quietly and extensively reading labels to find out if what I’m buying is actual food. I am bombarded with the never ending, ever changing information on nutrition, overwhelmed by the contradictions and confused by the semantics. I often laugh at myself about my willingness to follow some ridiculous suggestion to change my consumption habits. In addition to my obsession with label reading, I also carefully check the expiration date. The expiration date is presented in a variety of forms. There is the, Best By Date, Enjoy By Date, Packaged On Date and the Expired Date.
These labels cause me an existential crisis. Don’t we all have an unknown but predetermined expiration date?
Let’s think about several scenarios here: A couple just got married. What is the period of time when they can say “Newlywed or Honeymooner”? One year after the wedding day, two years, five years or when they have their first baby? When do we stop saying “I just came back from vacation”,one day, one week, one month? When do we consider our new car the old car? After a spouse passes away, when does one stop mourning? When is the right time to move on to the new relationship? You see, everything I just mentioned has an expiration date. They just aren’t clearly labeled like our food.
The “Best By” label troubles me the most. When should I consider myself “Best By”? At the age of 30,40,50 or in the morning, late afternoon or midnight? In the spring, fall or summer? I don’t actually know when I am at my best. You are probably a little lost and confused by now. I know, you want to remind me that I am not a product that I am a human and therefore, I am always at my best. I disagree, I think we all have a period in life where we are at our best and the factors are different for each of us.
I like the “Enjoy By” label the most. For me, I enjoy the little moments, a few short minutes at a time. The happy moments seem to have a short shelf life, so I have to remind myself constantly to keep it fresh and not waste time in appreciating those moments.
The “Packaged By” label clearly has a specific date but it is the most broad and vague to me. I was “packaged” in 1961. Does this mean that everyone born in 1961 has the same Best By or Enjoy By date? We definitely all have different expiration dates.
I have a tendency to over analyze things that do nothing to help me in my daily life. I will hem and haw about something and still end up with no answer to my inquiry. My simple question from the beginning was: When is my expiration date? Well, whenever the date maybe, I hope there were many days being at my best and I didn’t waste any time enjoying my days, regardless of the date.
This is my opinion, I welcome yours. Share your expiration date thoughts on TalkingStick. You matter, let’s talk!