March 13, 2023

Olivia Mele, Reporter

Does anything feel special anymore? 

Your boyfriend just realized that he forgot you birthday was this week, so without a thought, he pulls out his phone and Googles “gift ideas for girls.” He taps on the first resultan Esquire article: “50 Best Gifts For the Scary Teenage Girl in Your Life.” Perfect. In search of something on budget, he quickly scrolls through the list. Gigantic heated cow slippers? A mini “beauty fridge”? Or perhaps he wants to show his thoughtfulness with something personalized—like a jewelry tray with his initials on it. Just a few more taps and it will be arriving at your doorstep in time for the festivities…phew! And don’t worry, he made sure to check the “gift” option at checkout, so you can read a lovely message (under 200 characters long). Well, is there anything wrong with this? Is it the thought that counts? 

The problem is that gift giving, along with most other benevolent acts in relationships, (both romantic and platonic in nature) have faded away into an abyss of empty gestures. Gestures that are lazily and half-heartedly fulfilled out of obligation, instead of being generated from endearing emotions. Of course if there is a specific item that your “significant other” has been specifically wanting, it would be meaningful to purchase it for them. However, in this day and age, love letters—amatory sentiments—which once required expensive ink and paper and even more precious time to create have been replaced with a soulless “ily” text message. Gifts did not used to be wholesale, and children were overjoyed to receive an orange in their stocking. Now “everything” is at our fingertips, but many of us feel emptier than ever; regardless of relationship status. 

Perhaps to answer the original question it is necessary to define what makes something feel special to us as people in the present day. Because that factor is unlikely anymore to be the dazzle of the unknown; for the inside of our DNA has been unraveled, dissected and analyzed. Selfies taken on the summit of the highest point in the world are passed by as mundane as they fly through your Instagram feed. The last quip that ended a stranger’s marriage. A Talaban firing squad video recording. All becomes known in nine second increments, thus it is safe to say that we are constantly and increasingly forced into “knowing”; to the most un-blissfully aware extent. Thus if the shine and sparkle of the intimate, the once-in-a-lifetime—is dead—then what is left? I believe it is thoughts and time, your thoughts and time, that solely remain to illuminate the cobweb-filled corners of the 21st century heart. They are humanity’s homegrown renewable resources and sustenance. Paired with speech and action, or even standing alone, they are some of the most impactful forces that humans can wield. 

They are also becoming increasingly scarce.  

In this universe, we tend to allocate our most valued resources we care for the most. And what you love and tend to the most will either grow and flourish with you, or leave you unrequited and desolate. It is your choice. What I mean by this is that if the majority of your resources go to a “black hole”, then of course there is a 100% chance that you are not getting it back; or anything out of it. So how will we hold friendships, relationships, or our life together? Because of course, people are everything. We come from people, and they are the instigators of the majority of the dynamics in our lives. We are uplifted and depressed when we are around them; and are uplifted and depressed when we are not. They are the “lenses through which we read our own minds” as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it. And (assuming a Mt. Vesevus or worldwide flood type situation does not happen again), we will be buried in the ground by people, near people . By this thought of human connection, it could be asserted that with every effort you make to improve the lives of others, you are in turn improving yours. When something you do for someone makes them feel special, it is impossible to avoid the natural benefit that ricochets back to you. You can however, and too many people do, choose to ignore and undervalue it. As I said before, it really is up to you.

So, returning to the story of your boyfriend and his birthday present quest. I lied, he did not actually get you a jewelry tray with his monogram. What he actually acquired is round and slightly yellow and according to Dan Granke lacks a “kick of camel” but makes up for it in “barnyard undertones”. (Hay? Wood? Animal manure? Who knows….) It’s Caravane cheese, and it’s just what you wanted. Like many foodstuffs, it is banned in Europe but welcomed warmly in select American stores. Which in this case is due to the European commission’s lack of policy on dromedary milk products. (The dromedary is the type of camel whose milk is used to make Caravane.) It is only crafted by Nancy Abeiderrhamane’s company “Tiviski” in Mauritania, from the camels of more than a thousand nomadic herdsmen. I am sure that you know where Mauritania is, but just in case it is slipping your mind; it’s located in northwestern Africa, close to Spain and Morocco. The process to produce it is tedious, requires extensive knowledge in this specific type of cheesemaking, and results in a product that has a very limited customer market. But the bottom line here is that you, me, and everyone in the world act either as Caravane or as spray cheese from the Dollar Store. Or rather, that is the categorical way in which we interpret each other. So sing happy birthday and slice the cake for your guests, but afterwards (and more importantly) cherish their presence and relish the experience of human connection—the dynamic that makes this universe feel special. ♡



(Dan Granke) Shallwani, P. (2008, March 18). To the Cheese Course, Prepare to Add Camel. The New York Times.

How Caravane is made:

Caravane – (n.d.). calcium%20 phosphate,using%20the%20blood%2Drind%20 technique .

Yes, it’s real:

Harano, L., & Kranc, L. (2023, February 6). 50 Best Gifts For the Scary Teenage Girl in Your Life. Esquire.