Friendships are to pre-packaged meals

Instant food and friendships have more in common than you think

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It was 8:05 p.m. Sunday when I found myself staring at shelves of neatly stacked instant Kraft Easy Mac Triple Cheese, Cheddar Broccoli Rice-a-Roni and spicy Mongolian noodle bowls by Simply Asia at Crossroads. With a grumbling stomach, I grudgingly grabbed the macaroni and cheese cup and a chocolate-chip granola bar on my way to the cash register.

As I spent a few minutes contemplating my dinner options at Crossroads, my eyes glanced over one photoshopped image of food to another, from a perfectly seasoned spoonful of rice to a heaping bowl of vegetables and noodles drizzled in a spicy sauce, which looked more like a $12 dish from Lemongrass than factory-processed microwaveable food. Despite knowing these instant meals are never as luxurious as their packages suggest, I still give into this distorted reality and settle for something much less satisfying.

If only we lived in a world that wasn’t so afraid of revealing and embracing imperfections, then just maybe we wouldn’t have photoshopped images of perfectly cooked meals on packages of instant foods, and just maybe making true, meaningful friendships wouldn’t feel so difficult. I realize that friendships are more valuable than $2.69 and require more time to develop than three and a half minutes, but I crave friendships that aren’t pre-packaged into some perfect illusion.

Maybe then it wouldn’t be so difficult for us to trade in “I’m fine” for “I’m not fine, but sad and anxious,” “Have a good day” for “I am here for you, please talk to me.” Hiding behind that edited image of oversized macaroni drowning in orange gooey cheese is in reality — small, shriveled-up macaroni covered in a pale yellow watery cheese powder. Still, I choose to eat it, and still I choose to accept “I’m fine” and “Have a good day” as a response, even though I know it is heavily censored to protect the truth. 

Am I the only one who would prefer to see the image of watery macaroni printed on the packaging and who would rather hear “I’m not fine” as a response for once? We’re all guilty of saying it, but we’re also all guilty of accepting it as truth from others. Even though we may not necessarily believe it, we still accept it, and that makes the difference.

Even though it may not taste as great as the professionally-taken photo on the packaging leads us to believe, or people’s smiling photos on Instagram with their motivating captions aren’t as genuine as they appear, it’s what I still crave — rawness and unpackaged, unprocessed and unedited friendships.

We accept these styrofoam realities and settle for disappointment and for less than what we bargained for. Friendships aren’t meant to be instant, but they aren’t meant to be so draining to the point where you’re deciphering every message for its speck of honesty, either. Friendship is a ratio and shouldn’t be so diluted or concentrated — “Add two-thirds cup of water. Microwave on high for three and a half minutes. Add cheese sauce mix. Mix well.”

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