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A TIME TO BE BORN AND A TIME TO DIE

by Rose Madeline Mula

 

I’m painfully conscious of the fact that I have a more or less pre-ordained expiration date. But since it’s not stamped on my derriere or any other part of my anatomy (at least no part that’s visible to me), I don’t know what it is. Fortunately. I’d rather be surprised.

But what about all those inanimate necessities we utilize daily. They also have circumscribed life spans which we should heed if we want to survive to our maximum “Discard After” date.

Of course, everyone knows that medicines and drugs have very stringent expiration dates; and we all understand that most foods have a limited “Use By” date; but some data I recently read surprised me. I did not realize, for instance, that once you open a can of coffee, it’s good for only a month. Not great news. I drink instant for my daily breakfast (I know, I know — that’s so lowbrow; but what do you expect from someone who buys wine in a jug?) I brew perked coffee only for my monthly Scrabble group, so a can of coffee lasts me at least six months. As for wine, I do buy it in bottles occasionally to have on hand for company. I’m not so uncouth that I plunk a jug on the table during a dinner party. Au contraire, I keep my lovely wine rack fully stocked with stylish bottles to make a good impression, but apparently that’s not wise. I just learned that unopened bottled wine has a shelf life of only three years from its vintage date. Fine wines, on the other hand, last from twenty to one hundred years. Since none of mine fits that latter category, I’ve got to have lots of company soon or start guzzling my cache myself.

Even chocolate has a limited shelf life — one year from the date of production, I’m told. For me that’s not a problem. In my house, no piece of chocolate has ever survived longer than twenty-four hours after leaving the grocery bag or the hands of a gift giver.

I think I’ve always known that even canned goods have a limited life, but I believed that anything in a freezer should last forever. Not so. If you’ve been stashing TV dinners in there for a couple of years, along with that extra turkey you got from your boss the Thanksgiving before last, you’d better kiss them goodbye. No, wait! Your lips may freeze to them. Just toss them without a sentimental farewell.

And when did Aunt Matilda give you that fruitcake that’s in the back right-hand corner? Wasn’t it the Christmas that your college-graduate son was in sixth grade? Yes, they say fruitcake never spoils; but you’ll never eat it. You’ve been saving it just to spare Aunt Matilda’s feelings. Hello! She died two years ago. Even if she’s looking down at you from a perch in Paradise, do you think she still cares about anything as mundane as her fruitcake?

Many other foods — far too numerous to itemize — are doomed to an early demise. Suffice it to say, that if anything edible is older than the last New Year’s resolution you broke, it probably should go.

And it isn’t just food items that have short life spans. Recently, I learned that many of the household and personal care products we use also have expiration dates, which may or may not be displayed on their packaging. These include air fresheners, dish and laundry detergents, furniture polish and other cleaning agents, most of which become obsolete even before your computer.

Take Windex, for instance. I was stunned to learn that it has only a two-year life. Considering how infrequently I wash windows, unless someone invents a Viagra for Windex, there’s no way I’m going to use up that bottle before it loses its potency — which I assume is what happens after two years. Or possibly it suddenly explodes. Or maybe it just moves to a Windex retirement community. I have no idea.

And did you know that bar soap is supposed to expire in eighteen months to three years? I still have half a dozen cakes of Ivory left from a stash I moved from my prior home eleven years ago — and I have no clear idea how long I had it before the move. I do have a vague recollection of stocking up at a big soap sale about twenty years ago. That was when I had a large cellar and tons of storage space. I now realize that was not a big advantage.

Even deodorant should be tossed after two years. Oh, oh! That’s right — it, too, was on special two decades ago. That’s why that shoe box in my linen closet is brim-full of sprays, roll-ons and solids. (Hey, they were all on sale).

And what about all those lipsticks we women (and some men, I’m sure) have tucked into our cosmetic bags and pocketbooks? Yes, they should also be replaced every couple of years. Of course, your favorite shade will no longer be manufactured then, but that’s life. The same holds true for all makeup — foundation, mascara, eye shadow, blush. And all lotions and hair products, as well. Do you think it’s really true? Or like Mark Twain, are the reports of their early deaths greatly exaggerated?

Perfume, too, supposedly lasts only one to two years, I’m told. I still have a full bottle of Chanel No. 5 that I bought on my 1963 trip to Paris. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. It’s been over four decades and I still haven’t opened the bottle. Apparently nothing important enough has come up yet. So much for my exciting life.

However, that’s changing. I’m planning a very scintillating full day tomorrow. I’ll be cleaning out my medicine cabinet, pantry, refrigerator, drawers, and my hoard of cosmetics. A very unusual activity for me. I suppose it could even be considered special.

Maybe I’ll commemorate the occasion by dabbing on some of my 1963 Chanel.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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