Why you should date Sriracha, snuggle with Ben and Jerry’s and never call mozzarella sticks back.

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We’ve all felt like Cooler salmon: overlooked, scoffed at, irrelevant. Maybe it’s karma? We treat each other like packets of Justin’s nut butters, squeezing and twisting until every bit of our insides is completely sucked out. Occasionally we’ll stumble upon a full carton of Ben & Jerry’s that we’ll hold onto for a while, but largely, we’re surrounded by large bags of gummies—we take what we want, then pass them off to our friends.

More often than not, hook up culture at Occidental is like the sauté station. Whether it be pasta, stir-fry, omelet or potato, we’ve seen it all before; it was a lot cooler and more intriguing when we were first-years, but it’s comfortable and it’s easy, so we keep coming back to it.

Of course we’ve all had nights where we end up with Cooler mozzarella sticks. It’s late, they look good, they’re debatably kind of hot at the time and heaven knows we’re hungry. And why not? Mozzarella sticks are delicious and sometimes mouthwatering! (Keyword there is sometimes.) But as we know, problems can come out of eating junk food all the time.

Now, to me, the problems that arise from hook up culture are not from ordering mozzarella sticks. Issues arise when looking at someone like a mozzarella stick, and they’re looking at you like a mac ‘n’ cheese bite: they’re just another Cooler snack, and you’re the best thing to ever happen at college.

Earlier this year a friend told me, “The root of all problems is unclear expectations.” This was said in a Cooler-at-2-a.m. state of mind, so I took it with a giant grain of seasoned salt, but lately I’ve been thinking he was right. When we fail to express what we feel or want, we fail to make any sort of connections with our partners—for one night, or a hundred years.

There is a fear that being vulnerable or expressing your feelings relinquishes your power, and I get that. But I’m starting to think that more is lost in not saying anything at all, in acting how we think our partners want us to and in driving ourselves crazy assuming what they are thinking.

I think expressing my expectations—“This was SO a one time thing” or “Lets get married in a Good Will tomorrow?”—puts me in a position of power. With everything on the table, you can’t be blindsided by what’s hiding behind the booth.

“Everything will be okay if we talk about our feelings!” is a large oversimplification of an incredibly influential and complex mentality unique to our generation, but I think Valentines Day, when love (Hallmark) is in the air (smog), there is something to be said for learning to say anything at all.

All I know is that, if I’m going to be with someone, it will be because, to me, they’re the last bottle of Marketplace Sriracha, and I have a Kathy sandwich on my plate. Until then, you’ll see me taste-testing onion rings, French fries and the occasional taco truck. But, some words of wisdom: You don’t want to ever wake up next to a mozzarella stick. Fried food doesn’t keep well.