I’ll never recover from my off-brand upbringing

I was raised on knock-off brands, and it was detrimental to my growth.

This morning, I cut my finger as I sliced Aldi-bought strawberries. I let out a half-hearted sigh, which matched the plastic knife I had bought for half its original price. Everything around me was off-brand, and it all felt half as high quality as what would have been the real deal.

As my cheap platelets started the clotting and stopped the blood flowing, I realized the gravity of this situation. I thought of all the events which had led to this moment; this was a culmination of every moral value I was taught during childhood.

It all started with my first trip to Aldi. I raided the shelves of off-brand Doritos, discounted fruit, and buy-one-get-one-free American cheese packets.

After that, I developed a taste for Panda Express that richer toddlers had for caviar and truffle mushrooms. Orange Chicken was my version of 24-carat gold crusted ice cream; fried Spring Rolls, rather than Pumpkin Spice Lattes, were my seasonal dish.

A compulsive tendency to hoard coupons ran genetically in my family. I quickly inherited this, bringing 10%-off slips to almost every grocery store I frequented. When I discovered that off-brand products had lower prices, buying these items became my new addiction.

Take Meijer, for example: Clean & Clear face wash is about three dollars pricier than a Meijer-brand solution with almost the same formula. Meijer-brand food products are almost half the price of any name-brand item; if one has the same lackluster taste buds as I do, the flavor seems almost high-end.

Another one of my favorite off-brands is found at Walgreens. The brand is appropriately named “Nice,” and I can attest to the niceness of the products. They have Nice versions of almost every snack, frozen meal, and staple ingredient of a dish.

If we want a high-quality future, we should be encouraging high-quality purchases in the present.

Growing up, I had visited China a few times. A prominent feature of every store there was off-brand items. From fake Gucci purses to haphazardly-designed clothing items, the off-brand fever had infected everyone.

Over many years, I was able to accumulate a sizable inventory of everything from unofficial Pokemon cards to knock-off Rolex watches to fake Levi’s jeans. The Barbie dolls I bought for my cousin’s birthday weren’t real, but neither of us could tell the difference. Truly, ignorance meant bliss for the mind and the wallet.

Even the meat found in street vendor foods was rumored to be fake meat; after all, mashed up newspaper was cheaper to make into sandwiches. For people like me who grew up on this delectable style of cooking, immunity to newspaper shavings is inevitably developed. Nowadays, the public can barely tell the difference between paper and real meat!

For seventeen years, I was blinded by the discounted prices of off-brand items. It seemed harmless at first; heck, it seemed harmless after a decade practicing this routine.

However, when the strawberry knife pierced my finger this morning, the matrix of my epithelial tissue shattered right along with my blissful ignorance toward off-brand items.

I realized a result of off-brand shopping was an acquired allergy to higher quality products. When I walk into a brand-name store, I can feel my breath get shorter and shorter. It’s as if I don’t belong–as if my off-brand presence is tainting the store’s name-brand existence.

By encouraging the endorsement of half-quality, half-priced products, what values are we teaching the children of the future? Do we want them to put in half the effort into their lives, since half the population accepts this bottom-half mentality? What does a blind-eye say about the greater half of our morals?

We should be striving for 100%; we should be working toward perfection.

Scientists have shown that whole milk is actually the healthiest option. Dairy-free milk is no longer in style. Fat-free milk is no longer in style. A?% milk is no longer in style. Gone are the days of trying to cut down or reduce, for we are in the era of fullness.

Humans spend their whole lives trying to find their other half–their “soulmate.” This elusive piece seemingly completes the puzzle of one’s life. If we are searching for wholeness in the human experience, shouldn’t we hold our purchases to the same high standards?

Why are we settling for less?

Why are we settling for half-quality?

Why are we settling for off-brand?

If we want a high-quality future, we should be encouraging high-quality purchases in the present. Drop the off-brand Cheetos and pick up the real deal. Toss out the Walgreens brand items and splurge on the Halo Top ice cream. Raise children on wholeness, not half-ness.

The next time I go to the store, I’m going to walk right past the Meijer-brand face wash and go straight for the expensive, authentic Clean & Clear.

[Note: This piece was a satire, and I totally love off-brand items and my off-brand upbringing.]