By: Mary Fran Bontempo

To hear an audio version of this post, click the play arrow below.

Fortune Cookie with  FortuneI was hoping for a million dollars.

One of the pleasures of eating Chinese food used to be the meal-ending fortune cookie. After gorging myself on fried rice, shrimp lo mein, egg rolls and tons of other stuff that’s bad for me, I was always comforted by a sweet, crunchy cookie containing a slip of paper that offered a glimpse of my soon-to-be glorious future.

Generally, I could be assured of a forthcoming myriad of riches, both monetary and otherwise.

You will soon become wealthy.

Good luck will increase your fortunes.

An exotic vacation is in your future.

You will meet a handsome stranger.    

(Okay, after I got married I kind of had to give up on that last one, but if he were a handsome stranger with a million dollars, I don’t think Dave would mind.)

Yet these days, it looks like even fortune cookies have been slammed by the economy.

After a recent Chinese feast, I eagerly opened my fortune cookie, anticipating a windfall to start off the year. I unfurled the thin strip of paper and read:

Your virtues are priceless treasures.

Excuse me? First off, I’m not sure I have any virtues. Second, I’d prefer cash.

Dave’s fortune wasn’t much better: Getting together with old friends brings new adventures.

What is that? And how is it a fortune? Frankly, at our age getting together with old friends never brings new adventures. It just brings a rehash of old adventures as we relive our dubious “glory days” (yeah, that’s a misnomer) with endless rounds of the game, “Remember when…?”

Where’s the cookie optimism? More important, where’s the money? Did some disgruntled fortune recipient, disappointed when the payday failed to arrive, hire a lawyer and sue for false advertising?

Maybe the current crop of fortune writers is a group of twenty-somethings with commitment issues. Today’s young adults can’t even commit to a dinner conversation, preferring instead to engage with their phones while out with actual humans. Certainly they’re not about to put anything in writing promising someone a boatload of money.  

The whole thing is like getting a Hallmark card that says, “Well, you’re not horrible,” instead of “I love you.” Thanks, but no thanks.

I know the whole fortune thing is an illusion designed to make the cookie-eater feel better. We all know that. So why not deliver the goods? Bring back the big money fortune, the vacation fortune, the tall, dark and handsome fortune. And while they’re at it, they could throw in Your children will eventually move out, Your mother will stop criticizing your clothes and You will find a wrinkle cream that actually works, fortunes.

If we’re only going with bland truths, the reality is that the Chinese food in which I’m indulging is way too high in fat and salt for me to be eating it. And if I can’t ignore that by soothing my psyche with a fortune cookie promising fantastic treasures, well, I should probably just have a salad.

How are your “fortunes” shaping up in 2014? Click “comments” below and share!