Taking Permissions with Love

Apparently Nabisco has just wrapped up a two-month run with their “Cookie Dough” Oreo, which seems as grotesquely redundant as obesity-riddled America would presently demand. Cookie-on-cookie, as it were. (Surely there’s some fetish group devoted to such things.) Though, as relayed within the New York Times video where I learned about this rather sickening little snack, the Cookie Dough Oreo contains no real cookie dough to speak of, as is the case with almost all processed foods, which merely pay lip service to their predecessors. Because real ingredients put limitations on shelf-life and the bottom line, companies rely on complex chemicals and something akin to consumer complicity, a psychological stratagem known as “permission.”

“Consumers will accept a mimicry even if it doesn’t really replicate the original,” the NYT explains. “Often just the smell, or the name itself, or a nice picture on the package… have us willingly trading the real thing for the simulation.” And so we end up with shelves of fake things, with their root inspirations oft appended with “y”s— Chocolate-y, cheese-y, beef-y—inferring semblance enough to be consumed.


Enough. Enough, meaning just passing the threshold of that which is passable. Enough, meaning serviceable. Enough, meaning not exactly perfect. Enough, meaning sacrifice.

It got me thinking about mimicry in love, and the effect of the concept of “permission” in relationships when we get desperate—again—enough. At a certain point, dating feels like walking through a neighborhood Ralph’s, filled with big name brands and bleached white bread when all you want is a real peach off a real tree, some butter churned by hand. But you’re not going to get this in this proverbial Ralph’s, so you look for the next best thing: Some “peach pie” ice cream. That’ll have to do, you think. This is the best it’s going to get. And so you sit down with a spoon and some sticky fingers, never even thinking to just leave the damn store.

I often wonder how many people are in relationships not because of real love and connection, but because of fear-based settling, the belief that there isn’t something better out there, or if it is, it’ll take too long and you might never find it. Better to be with someone passable than live a life alone: Too many people live by this adage.

The closest I ever came to this was after a year-long stretch of being very single. A boy came around ready with all the components of what a person might want from a relationship—he brought me breakfast in bed, read newspapers with me in the park, sent me very cute text messages. But I couldn’t help but feel all of the things that we did ended in something similar to that proverbial “y.” Boyfriend-y, love-y, relationship-y: In other words, not the real thing. I remember feeling very often like I was just going through the motions of what dating was, simply because it had been so long since someone wanted to do any of these things with me. I was doing it out of an obligation to the mimicry of love, an attempt to remedy loneliness with artificial flavors and fillers.

I can’t fake love. I can’t even fake like. When that permission started to leave a bad taste in my mouth, I knew it was time to walk out of the store.

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