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Mar 20, 2024

Should People Come with Sell-by Dates?

Yes, and also a no-return policy

By Ed Goldman

Why should “sell-by” dates apply only to food products? Why not acquaintances, terminology, celebrity and, of course, politicians? Let’s unwrap this package, peel this banana and probe this earthling (recommended for mature audiences only):

1. Acquaintances. Do you ever find yourself at a dinner, on a cruise or sharing an ambulance ride with your pickleball partner and suddenly realize you have next-to-zero feelings for everyone in your life you’re spending time with? Not exactly distaste, but not exactly affection, either? “Rather like a habit I can always break—and yet,” as Henry Higgins puts it in “My Fair Lady.”

Edgy Cartoon

Total recall

The problem is that you entered each other’s lives without the benefit of sell-by labels. For the dinner partner, what would be wrong with his or her wearing a badge that warned, “Sell by the time I start explaining why a roma tomato would beat a campari tomato in any salad, sandwich or chef’s competition.” Untrue, but a good starting point. 

On a cruise it would be “Sell by the time we pull into Ensenada and I start discussing why ‘Mexican’ should be a language.'” For extra points, have the label add, “’You might say I’m a lexicology buff.'” 

Then, on that ambulance ride, it would be when you pull a calling card out of the death grip of your pickleball partner and read, “Sell the moment after I suggest we pair up to play pickleball but I ask you to carry my walker to the court. I am obviously going to be trouble.”

2. Terminology. Certain words, like “cool” and “niiiice” are timeless. But every one of the following should be consigned to the ash heap of culture no more than six weeks after being introduced into a conversation: 

– “Not!” (uttered by someone after he or she expresses an “ironically” dumb opinion or course of action, such as, “I think we should all get drunk and play pickleball—not!”);

– “Right?” (when you’re eagerly soliciting someone to agree with you; formerly, “So am I right, or what?);

–  “Like.” Peter DeVries, my fourth-favorite comic novelist (Mark Twain comes in first, second and third), wrote a scene in which a Valley Girl taste-tests the then-new/now-vanished soft drink Like Cola for an ad guy, and gives it a thumbs down. To which the ad guy says, “You mean, like, you don’t like Like?”

– “Bae.” As a romantic acronym, it means “Before anyone else.” As a form of romantic energy, it means you were not only too lazy to say “Baby” but also to simply drop a syllable and make it “Babe.” No, you had to omit an entire letter—the consonant b, which apparently exhausted you when you used it at the beginning of the word. Go lie down. We’ll wake you, like, never.  

3. Celebrity. Have you been as underwhelmed as I to learn what constitutes the state of “celebrity” these days? We all know that the sell-by dates of these noxious notables lapsed years ago: every Kardashian, Charlie Sheen, Rosanne Barr, Rosie O’Donnell, Snooki, Arsenio Hall, Paris Hilton, Carrot Top, Caitlyn Jenner, the (not identical!) Olsen Twins, Ashlee Simpson, Dane Cook and Asa Hutchinson. (Did you know he dropped out of the Presidential race two months ago? Did you know he’d been in it?)

These people all had invisible sell-by dates. Learn to recognize the signs! they’re easy: 

Looking for a Great Gift?

(a) You don’t like their looks;

(b) You couldn’t care less about their opinions; and

(c) None of them enhances your life one iota.

4. Politicians. They actually have sell-by dates but they’re called Term Limits. They’ve found their way around that by swapping seats with each other when they term out. These are people we wouldn’t invite into our homes, much less to join us for a cup of coffee. And yet we elect them repeatedly to run our life. So, am I right, or what?

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).