the smell of my desperation has become a stench


Jon reaches into the refrigerator and grabs the gallon of skim milk. I’m standing two feet away over a pan of eggs, a blood red spatula in my hand. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him sniff the top of the carton, pause, and then sniff it again. Because within two seconds that milk just might smell different. YOU NEVER KNOW.

Unless you’re a psychic. Then, yeah. You knew.

He grimaces in a kind-of-but-not-really-passive-aggressive way to get me to ask him what is wrong.

“You don’t look happy,” I say.

“Smell this and tell me what you think,” he says. There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even have time to start listing them. But I’ll do it anyway since I’m sitting here writing this and not out trying to save the world: the smell of that milk just made him grimace, and now his misery wants company?

Screw it, I’m the one who watches scrotal botfly infestation videos. If I don’t smell it then somewhere in here is a double standard, and since I haven’t had coffee yet there isn’t much in my stomach in case I puke.

I sniff the carton and can’t smell a damn thing. “It’s fine,” I say and then I turn my focus back to the eggs. He pours the milk into the frother, powers it up, and then returns the carton back to the refrigerator. And then he shrugs. No, he dramatically shrugs. You don’t dramatically shrug unless you’re being passive aggressive, and you don’t notice someone dramatically shrugging unless you are looking specifically to nitpick.

“Why are you shrugging?” I ask, looking to nitpick.

“It’s just, the Sell By date on the milk is five days ago,” he answers.

“WHAT?!” I scream. “You’re going to use milk that went bad five days ago?!” Except it sounded like, “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU ANYMORE?”

“I asked you to smell it!” he explained. “You said it was fine!”

“But you didn’t tell me it expired five days ago!”

“Does that date matter if it smells fine?”

“DOES IT MATTER?! Who is going to drive us to the hospital when we both collapse from E. coli, JON? Leta can’t see over the steering wheel!”

He purposefully moves very slowly toward the frother, turns it off and takes it to the sink to pour it out. “You do realize that this was a classic case of spousal miscommunication?”

“Meaning you didn’t communicate to me that the milk was expired?”



  • Mom of JandC

    2011/09/15 at 10:44 am

    Two days before the expiration date in my bible….I don’t care. I am not taking any chances.

  • dianemaggipintovoiceover

    2011/09/15 at 11:15 am

    if it’s winder, which is fresh local milk, it’s not much good after the date stamped. same for the cream (dh likes that. blech.)

    but … when it comes to sniffing milk, i think that’s a bad way to test. leftover milk sticks to the sides of the container, and gets smelly. that’s my take on it, so i only sniff after pouring into a cup.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/09/15 at 11:18 am

    If I was to encounter a container of milk with an expiration date that is five days in the past, I would be calling the CDC to send out a hazmat team for disposal.

  • Mindy Lee

    2011/09/15 at 11:36 am

    If it passes the sniff test – I’m drinking it.

    What I want to know is why when the date on my 1/2 and 1/2 hasn’t passed, therefore I don’t sniff it, yet I poured it into my coffee and it coddled? Damn it all to hell.

  • allisonc-t

    2011/09/15 at 12:41 pm

    This is me and my husband (except I’m the smell test person, he’s the “dump it out if it’s 1 hour past the sell by date” guy. He mocks me endlessly for sniffing the milk, but now I suddenly feel so normal!

  • thegreyattic

    2011/09/15 at 1:34 pm

    I live in the UK and heard about the expiration date ban on the radio. I’m on the fence about the Jon/Heather/milk scenario, probably because milk doesn’t last that long in our house, I have to buy more every other day. But I have become more lax about leaving food out, expiry dates etc. My husband is Filipino, dude leaves food out overnight and eats it for breakfast. Bottom line- we’re both alive to tell the story.

  • nonsequitur

    2011/09/15 at 1:38 pm

    my rule of thumb:

    ‘organic’ milk: 5 days past, if not longer.

    ‘gas station’ milk: 5 days prior

  • tidw0516

    2011/09/15 at 3:05 pm

    I read somewhere once that you shouldn’t judge the freshness of milk by sniffing the top of the carton or jug. Traces of poured milk dry around the opening, and those can start to smell even though the milk is far from expiration. Always pour a little bit into a glass pre-sniff.

    Also… We have a store here that sells the boxed milk that is stored on a shelf (not the refrigerator) for $1 a quart. You don’t refrigerate til you open and it’s good for like six months once you refrigerate it. That should ensure you never have milk in the fridge past the sell-by date. 🙂

  • apricoco

    2011/09/15 at 4:29 pm

    Team Heather here. Y’all can bellow ’til the cows come home that sell by is not use by. My brain says: Date past = OMG DO YOU WANT TO DIE???? I won’t eat things one min past expiration or sell by or the date they chose to print on the pretty container for whatever reason. If there is a date, It is THE DATE ON WHICH THINGS SPONTANEOUSLY SPOIL!

  • kam0520

    2011/09/15 at 7:12 pm

    This is exactly right! I will NOT drink it if it’s with in 1 day, and if it’s been open for more than 5 days. I don’t know what it is, but it freaks me out. My husband says I have him paranoid about it being open for so long now!

  • jearbear

    2011/09/15 at 7:49 pm

    I definitely have to agree with you Heather!! A milk’s sell-by date is obviously the expiration date. I love milk, but it’s kind of an iffy liquid. I don’t like it warm, I can’t get a refill in my milk glass without rinsing it out first, and I DON’T DRINK IT WHEN IT’S PAST THE DATE. I usually don’t even drink it if it’s the day BEFORE the date. If I’m really desperate, I will drink it on the actual date, but only after a sniff test.

    You are not the weird one here!!

    And I do not eat leftovers past 2 days, whereas my husband will eat stuff 5 days later…gag.

  • OddDad

    2011/09/16 at 6:31 am

    I’m the icebox referee at our house. If something is passed the expiration date in the fridge, it gets thrown out. I don’t even bother smelling it. Lately I’ve been lacking in my duties though. I just recently found a jar of peach preserves in the back of the pantry labeled in sharpy: 2009. I don’t care how much pectin is in that jar, it’s too old. OUT! I didn’t even bother to empty the contents into the garbage disposal. I threw the whole jar in the trash. See, I try to avoid smelling old food. I don’t want to inhale any food-born diseases. Keep the expired food away from me and my family!

  • ERStolpe

    2011/09/16 at 12:05 pm

    What’s a ‘frother?’

  • Whitney Soup

    2011/09/16 at 1:38 pm

    lol i love the way you portrayed your husband in this post

  • table4five

    2011/09/20 at 8:33 am

    I am so ridiculously paranoid about milk being spoiled that when I open a brand new gallon, I still sniff it first before pouring. I can’t remember if I had some traumatic chunky-milk-drinking incident as a child or what, but I’m with Heather – I would have freaked out if my husband did what Jon did. Sorry, Jon.

  • Sarah

    2012/11/15 at 10:32 pm

    I know this was from over a year ago, but I wanted to have it known that I love this exchange between you and Jon. Plus this is the only post I have seen with the option to comment.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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