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Friday, September 17, 2021

Expiration dating

The average American keeps an expired good in the refrigerator at most a week before throwing it out. The average dater keeps an expired relationship for almost half of that.

Expiration dates.

They’re not just tiny printed labels on the side of food products to warn us when an item is going to give us a stomach ache. Expiration dates also refer to the rare predicament couples are put in when they have a specific date when their relationship has to end, most commonly diagnosed to couples leaving for separate colleges.

This situation begs the question, is it dangerous to date past your expiration date?

After an unsettling stomach ache and a half-empty bottle of Pepto-Bismol from downing an expired onion bagel, it’s safe to say that maybe it’s not 100 percent safe to eat an expired food product. Could this theory be the same for relationships?

As college students, how many of us have heard the story of the boy moving to college with the girlfriend from back home only to break up with her a couple weeks later? If I asked this question aloud, I would expect as many hands raised as Regina George’s victims.

We’ve all been told this daunting tale. Whether it was from a friend or personal experience, the move from home to college is a hit that most relationships aren’t able to weather.

This is due to numerous reasons.

Long-distance is difficult, but any distance isn’t really a walk in the park either. Many people can’t get used to the fact that they no longer are able to see their significant other five times a week, but instead if they’re lucky, maybe five times a year.

Another common cause is the extreme jealousy or paranoia felt by the loved one back home that breaks it off before anything drastic happens — which is in fact a common occurrence. It’s like the analogy of the kid in the candy shop. The boy who recently moved to college and is surrounded by an entirely new set of girls to play with. Temptations are high and inhibitions are low, making the perfect combination for cheating to ensue. With all the nasty side effects of keeping an expired relationship, it’s no wonder why people try to date healthier these days and abide to their expiration dates.

Of course along with being told the tale of the boy who broke up with his girlfriend after college, you’re also going to be told the urban relationship myth — a young couple manages to maintain a long-distance relationship for all four years of college, only to end up being joyfully reunited at the airport terminal in which a Celine Dion song plays in the background.

As we snicker at the lunacy of this story, it’s hard to think that maybe there might be some truth to what’s being told here. In an age where chivalry is dead and the closest thing to real romance is offering your seat at a bus stop, could it be that we’re just too lazy to attempt at real love?

If love is truly forever, shouldn’t it be able to withstand four years of Skype calls and yearly visits? Or is it better to end the relationship before its end date and apply the age-old tactic of being safe rather than sorry? While breaking up with someone before they break up with you is surely the way to save yourself from another difficult heartbreak, there really is no way to spare yourself from the sorry.

Expiration dates. Just like food products, it’s really just a judgment call. Do we take that extra risk and attempt to keep a relationship alive past its expiration date or do we throw it away, potentially wasting something that was still good?

Who knows what we’re supposed to do.

We’ve heard both sides to the story, the nightmares and the miracles. All I can say is this: After an hour since eating my unsettling meal I seemed to come out of it alive. Maybe the same thing could apply to relationships, that even if you take a risk and there’s an ache in the road along the way, in time you’ll still be able to heal.

And if not, there’s always Pepto-Bismol to settle your stomach.

If you’re trying to contact JASON PHAM with a lifetime supply of Pepto-Bismol for product placement, you can reach him at jpham@ucdavis.edu.

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