The Rogue Mayonnaise of Death

(How to survive without advice)


As weeks go, this past one was a bit unspectacular…even though I spent most of saving my own life.

A week that was simultaneously under- and overwhelming (biwhelming?). It’s just one of those odd paradoxes (paradocti?) that commonly occur in the life of a full-time single guy.

Yes, I know…many of you are openly envious. You’ve heard tales of people like me…people who can leave things on the floor. People who aren’t regularly reminded to floss. People who can eat in the living room.

You’ve heard unsubstantiated rumors of guys who can be ready to go, out the door, on time. And it’s true, in fact, that I can often get through an entire month without having to spring for anybody’s orthodontics, college tuition, or bail money.

But it’s not all glory, liberty, and day-old pizza. Oh, no. There are, well, obstacles.

If you want to be a career single guy, you’ll have to learn certain trades of the craft, especially if you ever want to be an old career single guy. There are coping skills, survival tactics, codes to learn and code to decipher … it’s a lot like being a spy, but with less casual sex.

You’ll have to learn about rogue mayonnaise. See, if your living arrangement includes other people, it’s likely that one of them does the grocery shopping. So you might not know about “expiration dates.” These are warnings provided by the food industry to let you know that their products should be eaten before a certain date; otherwise, the former food instantly morphs into something somewhere between “very nasty” and “probably fatal.” And as a single guy, you’ll have to learn to look before you lunch.

In a house full of people, most food never makes it to the expiration date. But it’s different when you’re a career single guy. Unless I dedicate myself to eating cereal three times a day, without break, my half-gallon of milk is going to expire. So I end up walking through the neighborhood, trying to give away cups of milk, and hoping maybe I’ll see that kid on the side of the carton.

At my house, a loaf of bread is 20% human food and 80% bird food. In my entire adult life, I’ve never seen the other side of a head of lettuce.

Some of the more obvious foods that expire are milk, eggs, and bread. Mayonnaise can go bad, and you don’t want to be downwind when that happens. Sour cream can expire, too, which seems weird. Maybe when sour cream expires, it goes good.

But nearly everything in your fridge or your pantry will expire, eventually, except Twinkies. So the fledgling single guy has to learn to check before you chew. No food lasts forever, not even a single guy’s life-sustaining staples, like microwave popcorn. Or Cheez-Its.

Another element of Career Single Guy Life that can have a steep learning curve is budgeting. Understand, this is not the guy’s fault; no, it’s embedded in his DNA. Budgeting is a potential problem due to the presence of an extra gene: the notorious Single Guy Rationalization Engine. It’s fickle, but it’s there. A single guy is completely comfortable hanging on to the same shower curtain he’s had since Cub Scouts, but at the same time he can justify buying a second metal lathe, as a backup, because, I mean, just in case, you never know.

For career single guys, housekeeping is equally grounded in hard science. Here’s an example: single guys at home tend to navigate from spot to spot along a predictable, narrow path…an endless orbit between couch, kitchen, and bathroom. Therefore, concludes the career single guy, there’s no reason to vacuum anywhere except within that well-trod trajectory. (Scientists call this the theory of conservation of energy. Mothers and ex-girlfriends employ a more colorful term.)

Fashion standards can be elusive for career single guys, but then, they don’t much care. The major fashion faux pas that matters is forgetting to grab a cap before running to the grocery, when your weekend-at-leisure hair still looks like Jack Nicholson before coffee.

So that’s why I spent the last few evenings lobbing various jars, boxes and sacks into my kitchen trash can. Survival tactics. I’d hate to bite down on anything allegedly edible that came out of a container warning: Best if used by the Eisenhower Administration.

Because, after all, the career single guy’s goal in life is like that of most other more-or-less sentient life forms: the important thing is, try not to die.

At least, not before getting a chance to try out that second lathe.

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