Crippled by Choices
I recently had brunch with a girlfriend who is living the kind of single life I wish I'd lived when I was single. She's always embarking on some new journey of exploration, whether it's to find the best under-the-radar eatery, the best running trail, or the best homemade recipe for spam. And she travels frequently and often alone, something I've never had the courage or confidence to do. So I always anticipate that our get-togethers are going to be rich with opportunities for me to live vicariously through her adventures.
Over $4 artisanal donuts and coffee we discussed the various goings-on in our lives. I recounted the latest shenanigans of my children and she her excitement over a major upcoming move. I told her about an interesting book I'd just read and she attempted to convince me to try my hand at that homemade spam (#nothankyou #cannedmeatforever). After we'd exhausted these and many other topics, the discussion inevitably turned to relationships and the perils of navigating the choppy waters of love from our respective trenches. I talked about marriage and she talked about dating, and we commiserated over the challenges and rewards of each.
Over the course of this conversation we lingered on the subject of commitment, and why it seems so hard to come by these days; why it seemed to be getting more difficult - and taking longer - for many people to settle down, to exchange the old wild-oats-sower for a ball & chain. The answer - to me at least - is clear and applies not only to matters of the heart but to nearly every aspect of modern life: we're all crippled by too many gall dang choices.
Let me explain. I once sat beside a close friend as she browsed through her online dating profile. I watched in mingled fascination and dismay as one suitable prospect after another was rejected, each because of an insurmountable flaw such as residing in the wrong neighborhood, donning questionable footwear, or being a vegetarian. When I protested in exasperation she brushed off my concern by assuring me that there were dozens more where they came from, so why not be discriminating? I guess I could see her point. You can customize your Starbucks order to within an inch of its life, why not do the same for your potential mate.
And therein lies the problem. In dating life and in life at large, we're faced with an increasingly staggering number of options. Not only has it become more difficult to choose, but any sense of urgency is stymied by the promise of something better waiting around the bend. And those that don't fall into that particular camp swing to the other end of the pendulum...rather than cycling through said options with the casual apathy of folks like my aforementioned friend who knows she can afford to be picky, they are paralyzed by option-overload.
Mike and I fall into the latter category, evidenced by the fact that we live through the same drama every night when we attempt to choose something to watch. We sit there staring into the glow of our tv like we're caught in the tractor beam of a UFO, just clicking, clicking, clicking through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, AppleTV, etc., getting increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated that neither of us can make a selection. And this phenomenon occurs all the time. You should hear us trying to decide on a color to repaint the deck, it's EXCRUCIATING. And don't even get me started on The Cheesecake Factory menu.
I feel for everyone else out there who suffers from indecision the way we do, I really do. I once watched for the better part of 20 minutes as a young woman at the DMV nearly had an aneurysm trying to choose which filter to use on her Instagram post. She kept switching back and forth between them desperately, like the result would change the very course of her life. Juno: success, acceptance, and everlasting happiness. Clarendon: certain death. And then when she finally committed to a filter, she went in to adjust the saturation and I couldn't take it anymore.
I know there are many things to be grateful for in an era where we seemingly have more and more at our fingertips. But there is a big part of me that longs for simpler times. I remember when I was Luna's age, waking up on Saturday mornings and sneaking into the living room to cozy up by myself and watch cartoons. Guess what I watched? Whatever the hell happened to be on the three main channels that we got. I might have had to suffer through a Captain Caveman to get to a Jem & The Holograms, but that was just the cold hard reality of life, man. And though it could stink at times, there was also something deliciously freeing about not having the responsibility to choose. You just...got what you got.
Well. Obviously there's no going back, and we're just going to have to continue to wade through the growing sea of options that inundate us daily. I'm going to have to keep breaking into a flop sweat in the condiments line at Yogurtland, and all the poor single dudes out there are going to have to keep contending with my girlfriend who renounces you for the egregious sin of wearing Tevas. We're all going to persist in evaluating and culling and calculating and appraising every aspect of our lives, and I truly wonder if, at the end of it all, we're better or worse off for it.