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Ware scare

Troy Mathew | Tuesday, October 4, 2011

At the beginning of last summer, as I went to pick up the subletting forms from the recently-graduated student whose apartment I’d be renting, I had a stark realization. It came via ominous warning.

“Enjoy your fake adulthood while it lasts,” he said. The words landed in my stomach with a thud.

I had never known pseudo-adulthood was a thing but it totally makes sense. I was working on campus and living in an apartment, but could still cling for comfort to my identity as a student. I was freaked out by what our school morphed into during the summer (it’s overrun with children), but could still look forward to returning to it in the fall. Although I hated how old this term made me feel, I definitely saw the benefits of being a pseudo-adult.

That is, until I tried to grocery shop.

Prior to this summer, I viewed groceries as an inexhaustible and self-replenishing resource. Groceries were just always there, and I never had to concern myself with their origin.

Grocery shopping by yourself, for yourself is what I see as a hallmark of adulthood. Having to figure out what to buy, scouring the store for it and, worst of all, paying for it were the most unpleasant parts of my summer.

This is mostly because I am mind-blowingly bad at grocery shopping.

I would always clumsily maneuver an unnecessarily large cart, narrowly avoiding towering stacks of cereal boxes and canned vegetables. I suspect they rearranged the entire store between my trips, because I would get hopelessly lost while looking for the same items each time. Without fail, I would spend at least double what I had planned to.

This is primarily because I’m a huge sucker for advertising. Put a flashy sign up for something and odds are I’ll buy it. Four boxes of popsicles for $5? Sign me up. Buy one, get one free mac and cheese? Put it on my tab.

Not only did this habit lead to me needlessly acquiring things, but it also made the grocery store my own personal time-vortex. I would spend far too long browsing the aisles, looking for sweet deals on things I would probably never consume.

What I completely overlooked is how much you have to buy before you can even buy actual food. I spent $50 in my first trip and realized I had only bought food’s prerequisites. As much as I tried, I couldn’t live off cooking spray, napkins, plastic silverware and ranch dressing alone.

The final slap in the face came as I checked out. With my purchases, I earned points, which I could exchange for Tupperware containers. If there’s anything that can simultaneously threaten your masculinity and make you feel old, it’s the idea of getting new Tupperware containers from your purchases at the grocery store.

As I lugged my groceries back to my apartment after one particularly troublesome excursion, I made a mental list of all the things I forgot to buy and dug through the bags for my box of limited edition Fruit Roll-Ups.

In a moment of clarity, I breathed a sigh of relief. Despite the grocery shopping and the terrifying prospect of Tupperware, I was nowhere near adulthood.

Contact Troy Mathew at tmathew2@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.