I have a can of tuna canned in spring water on my fridge door. I bought several boxes of the stuff around Christmas of 2017 when my son, normally living in Canada, came to visit. After that, he had a tuna melt with lots of provolone cheese.
But when he left for Canada, one box remained unused. Five years later, it’s still in the exact same spot in my fridge that hasn’t been eaten, and that’s unlikely to happen because I really don’t like tuna. But it’s near Christmas, people will be coming. Do I serve them a nice salad with five year old tuna or do I set them up for food poisoning? what is your advice?
The expiration label on the tin says ‘best before April 17, 2023’. Should I trust him, though? Can any seafood last for five years?
These days almost anything you buy has a use by date after which you should discard it. Labels are confusing. Apart from ‘best before’ and ‘use by’, you also have ‘sell by’ and ‘expiry date’. What if I don’t mind second-best? Can I ignore the Best Before Date?
People want security; ‘Expired’ food usually goes straight into the bin. Add up all that wasted food and you get 1.3 billion tons per year globally, including expired food, unsold food and leftover food.
For those who compulsively check the labels on the foods they buy: Expiration dates are mostly useless. ‘Best Buy’ is only a quality assurance, best considered as a suggestion. Expiry labels are not about food safety.
US Food Safety and Inspection Service says, ‘with the exception of infant formula, if the expiration date is [on your food] passes during home storage, the product should be safe and nutritious until the time of spoilage is apparent.
Which brings me to the big question. What else in life has an expiry date? Your job will ‘end’ around 60, leaving you as a retired person. Subscriptions expire and either renew or not. Oils go rancid. Credit cards and passports expire. Agreements expire.
Let me go out on a limb and ask: are there things that should have an expiration date but don’t? For example, do relationships have an expiration date? should?
In a world where everything comes to an end sooner or later, humans choose to believe, contrary to all evidence to the contrary, that love somehow never dies and that the bonds of friendship are eternal. It’s rooted in BFFs—Best Friends Forever. That same loving wish is implicit in Christian wedding vows – “to love and cherish till death do us part”.
Bound by this silly covenant, both men ignore the little red flags that indicate all is not well: many have resigned; Very little compromise, well, just about everything; long and uncomfortable silence; No more surprises or candlelit evenings.
“It’s hard to feel romantic about someone you just saw sitting on the toilet,” one man cruelly exclaims. But the reality is familiar—most relationships shine and then turn sour. They have expiry date.
But a younger, less pink-eyed generation already instinctively understands expiration dates. They have understood that things other than death can separate two people long ago. You may be attracted to someone who prefers a quiet, country life instead of your party-hopping urban life. Maybe he wants kids and you don’t. Perhaps he thinks a woman should be a cook, a housekeeper, and the chief bottle washer, and you believe you were made to shine as a ballerina. Or she’s off to do her Masters in Anthropology at Dartmouth in 10 months but you have to mind your business.
All of these relationships have a best before date attached to them, both people know it—and yet, somehow, they’ve decided to let it go.
Termination dating is the name for plunging into a romantic relationship whose end is known and guaranteed. I find something thrillingly beautiful in this. How would a relationship go if both individuals started with an agreement that it would end by a certain date unless both wanted to renew it?
Suddenly, nothing will be a secret; Words will fly out the window forever. The future will be known with 100 percent certainty and false hopes will disappear. You both know that time is limited and you must make each and every moment unforgettable. There is no longer room for the things that take the romance out of a relationship – sameness, predictability, valuing each other, ignoring boundaries because you believe there will be no consequences.
Live like this, and when the expiration date arrives, you’ll find that you want nothing more than to extend everything for another year.
However, there is one ending we can’t do anything about. We are all born with our use by date, however we have learned to pretend to be old until we realize that we are as perishable as withered cabbages and will perish just as quickly.
Maybe those wedding vows should be called “to love and cherish one another until one of us dies.”
You can contact CY Gopinath at email@example.com
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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper