Expectations: In Defense of the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s kind of en vogue to hate on oatmeal raisin cookies. There are so many memes about how much we despise these poor, also-ran cookies. It almost seems as if we have collectively decided to shun them. Because this is a thing we do now as a society: We gang up on a cookie.

We are living in the Mean Girls timeline, and we are all Regina George.

How did we get here? Why have we decided to hate on a cookie, of all things? Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, soft and chewy texture…it clearly only wants to bring us joy. What is there to be gained by our collective hatred of this?

If the memes have taught me anything, it’s that we don’t seem to actually hate oatmeal raisin cookies for what they are. On the contrary, we hate them for what they are not. Specifically, we hate them because we were expecting chocolate chip. We saw a happy, doughy disc, ripe with flavor freckles, and we assumed we were getting one thing, when in fact, we were getting another. We had an expectation. When the cookie falls short of that expectation, we blame the cookie for not being…something it never pretended to be.

No matter how great that oatmeal raisin cookie is, no matter how much work the baker put in, if the cookie doesn’t meet that unspoken expectation, too bad. That Yelp review is already written and yes, you would like to speak to a manager.

What about the part you played, though? Not only did you have an expectation, you didn’t even bother to verify before biting in. A cursory glance would’ve shown you the telltale grit of the oatmeal. A simple sniff test would have revealed the cinnamon. Did it not occur to you that those “chocolate chips” were suspiciously rounded and oblong? And wrinkly? I mean, they’re not even the same color!

Y’all out here thinking this could be chocolate chip? Really??
(Credit: Sally’s Baking Addiction)

This is where it gets uncomfortable. Introspection–the lifting of our mental and emotional rocks to see what might be lurking beneath, and where we might hold some (or all) of the blame for our dissatisfaction–is so uncomfortable. Were you not paying attention? Were you looking for a reason to be unsatisfied, because the rejection gratifies you in some way? Did you actually suspect that it wasn’t chocolate chip all along, but you took it anyway, because you didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings?

Or did you just want that cookie to be chocolate chip so damn badly, that you chose to avoid all the red flags that it definitely was not?

Friends, sniff that baked good.

At best, you dove right in, without checking to see if there was water in the pool. At worst, you knowingly dove into an empty pool so that you could make a show of complaining about a sore head later.

(Yes, I just used a metaphor to explain my metaphor. It’s my blog, I do what I want.)

Now, this does not apply to being maliciously tricked. If someone presented you with a cookie and told you it was chocolate chip, but really it was oatmeal raisin, we have a different problem. No matter how good that cookie might be, you’ll never be able to get past the feeling of being tricked. You were sold a bill of goods. You were duped. So go ahead and run that baker out of town. Post that Yelp review and let your rage flag fly. But do it because the baker lied. Don’t blame the cookie.

And for goodness sake, if that baker continues to insist they’ve given you chocolate chip, while you are clearly picking raisins out of your molars, run. Throw the plate at them if you have to, just get away. That is gaslighting. It’s very real and it is not okay. Nobody should be eating cookies that are being stored on a gaslight warmer.

Very often, however, that’s not how it went down. Who goes to all the trouble to get the ingredients, heat up the oven, and dirty a bunch of dishes, just to watch someone spit out the result? A baker wants to be proud of their product. They want you to like their cookie, whatever flavor it might be. I’m not saying you have to love oatmeal raisin; I’m saying you are responsible for figuring out the flavor before you gobble it up. You are responsible for setting the boundaries.

Whether it’s a job, a partner, or yes, an actual, literal cookie, you have an obligation to do your due diligence. You are ultimately responsible for what goes into your mouth, your body, your heart.

I have eaten some really bad cookies, y’all. I have chewed and gagged and chewed some more and tried so hard to make myself believe that eventually, with enough patience and glasses of milk, I can choke it down. If we just try hard enough, right? I’m not about that life anymore. I investigate that plate. I ask questions. I sniff. I break off a little corner to try first. Maybe I agree to split it with a friend so I’m not more committed than I should be at the starting line. I’m no longer inviting cookies into my life without first figuring out what they are, and I’m certainly not keeping bad cookies around indefinitely, once they’re found contaminating my plate.

Due diligence isn’t sexy. Nobody wants to watch a romance where the couple has tough conversations before hopping into bed, or a buddy pic where everyone hunts for the common ground in their life philosophies. We want love at first sight. We want unlikely friendships to endure. We want to see people toughing it out at that terrible job and making it work. We want to believe that we are the special ones who can change that toxic person or survive that ridiculous situation, no matter the personal cost.

Boundaries. They are so essential for protecting your peace. If you’re not sure how to set them, check out this list about setting healthy boundaries.

Start investigating before you consume or commit. Stop blaming the cookie for your lapse in judgment. And, if you’re up to it, maybe give oatmeal raisin a chance. It’s pretty delicious in its own right, if you can accept it for what it is.

You said it, Mary.

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