Growing up, my family never bought the brand name for anything. We would always have the generic or store brand, which didn’t usually matter. But for something as decadent as Oreo cookies, the generic can’t even hold a candle to the original.
When I was in the third grade, I had a teacher who would occasionally reward students who got 100% on their spelling tests with one oreo cookie. In 1988, this was something I coveted more than anything. Unfortunately, I never earned one. Although I was a good student, the elusive 100% on a cookie day I was perpetually denied.
Of course, as many children that age, I had trouble keeping it together in the face of frustration. I was often taunted by my peers for being a crybaby or worse because I couldn’t help crying when frustrated, angry, sad or embarrassed. Whatever the skill set was to keep it repressed, I never learned it.
One day, as fate would have it, I had a pretty good grade on my spelling test, well into the 90’s. As the teacher began making the pass around the room, handing out the coveted oreos, I couldn’t help myself but cry. It was the ultimate torture, knowing I had come so close but would still be denied. I knew that most of these kids probably already had all the oreos they could want in their own home, but I would be denied.
The tears began to well up, and, as third graders are wont to do, the sing song and tattletales began to notice I was crying. There is nothing more venomous and condescending as elementary school children when they turn their judgment upon one of their own. The room erupted in a verbalized dissection which went from noticing me crying to trying to figure out why to pure disgust at the realization it was over something as minor as not getting a cookie.
As hard as I tried to stifle my tears, their taunts just made it worse. I tried to look down, away, anywhere where no one would see. By the time I looked up, the teacher stood in front of me, a look of pure disgust on his face, the jar outstretched for me to take the unearned cookie. There was no winning at this point, not wanting the cookie anymore, but taking one would be the easiest way to end the attention which was not completely centered on me.
In my 8-year-old mind, I was embarrassed, not being able to articulate that I was just ashamed of myself for not getting the good grade and earning it. The oreo, delicious as it was, was completely unearned. To this day, I can’t have one without thinking about that moment. They are still among some of my favorite treats. And, when I choose to have one, I won’t deny myself again, and this is why I insist on the brand name for things like that, and I won’t rely on anyone else to provide me with the things I can earn or purchase for myself.