We believe choices are highly overrated.
Think Cheese-Its. One tasty product has morphed into asiago, baby Swiss, cheddar jack, Colby, Italian four cheese, hot and spicy, mozzarella, pepper jack, provolone, white cheddar, and whole grain (an option for the health-conscious junk food addict). We just crave plain, old, wonderful Cheese-Its, which are now labeled “original.” Hmmmm. In light of the many Cheese-It choices, that strikes us as a misnomer since “original” can be defined as new and innovative.
Even the basics are challenging. Salt? Simple. Iodized or not. Oops! Not today. Choices now include Kosher, sea salt, salts in a variety of colors, and salts from faraway places and exotic sources.
Oils, too, come in many variations beyond virgin and extra virgin (an interesting term). And, oil’s partner vinegar? Just as confusing. Which vinegar is best paired with a particular oil? Oh, and which vinegar should we use to clean tools, get rid of an upset stomach, or choose for laundry care?
And, of course, there is milk. At one time it was pretty much whole, chocolate, or buttermilk. Then low-fat and skim inched in. Now there is lactose-free (an easy choice for the lactose intolerant), 1%, 2%, soy, almond, goat, and more.
Sodas, sports drinks, and even water offer a zillion choices in flavors, calories, and can and bottle sizes. We thought that diet soda was a gift from the gods. Now it turns out that it makes us fat. Huh??? So, one less choice. Forget your kitchen tap water. Choose from imported or domestic offerings that are flat or bubbly. Heads up! Carbonation can have embarrassing side effects. Okay…another easy choice. Forget the carbonated water.
The variations of ice creams, sorbets, sherbets, and frozen Greek yogurts make choosing something fun and fattening…well, frustrating.
Similarly, we are no longer limited to Bud and Schlitz. Craft beer breweries are booming and festivals are no longer limited to October. Are you drawn to the aroma and flavor of malt, hop, or fermentation? We haven’t a clue! But, beer tastings can be fun. Don’t embarrass yourself, select the appropriate drinking vessel, and… name a designated driver.
Even detergents have proliferated. Scents include linen, lavender, pine, spring, and more. Hmmm…how does one capture spring in a smell??? Adding to the confusion, there are scentless and odorless detergents (is that even possible?), detergents for sensitive skin, options to reduce static electricity, and, of course, eco-friendly varieties. And, don’t forget the myriads of stain removers and stain-removal boosters to pair with the detergent, not to mention the forms in which all these products are marketed…liquid…powder…sheets…balls!
The Food Marketing Institute reports that the average American supermarket now carries 48,750 items, more than five times the number sold in 1975. Wow! An episode of The Simpsons drove this point home when Marge takes Apu shopping in a new supermarket called Monstromart. The store’s cheery advertising slogan is “where shopping is a baffling ordeal.”
We’re exhausted just writing about this plethora of options!!!
Wait…here’s a positive. Remember when you could identify the make and model of every car on the road? Tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevy? Choices in car makes and models today may have multiplied, but, gee…take heart. A sedan? An SUV? They all look the same. That eliminates one element of choice.
Having choices is generally thought to be a positive thing. Turns out…not so much. Not even for younger generations. Researchers are finding that we are more fatigued and less productive when faced with an overabundance of choices. People facing lots of choices…no matter good or bad…have difficulty staying focused. And, in this confusion, we might even forget to take our meds, which can have disastrous consequences regardless of age.
Too many choices also increase our regret over the options we didn’t choose. We become disappointed with ourselves if decisions turn out badly. We constantly face a state of Buyer’s Remorse.
Simply put, we may have reached the point of having too much of a good thing. We’re not really taking issue with Mae West who thought too much of a good thing could be wonderful. We know what she had in mind.
We cringe to admit we are thinking that the old days were simpler, easier. Put that thought aside! Steel yourself for even more choices in the future. To borrow from Justin Bieber’s lyrics, guess we just need to “get used to it.”
So, our wrinkled wisdom for today? When making choices, go with your gut. If the best choice isn’t obvious, don’t worry, don’t overthink, don’t stress out, go with good enough. And, importantly, be specific about your coffee order…medium latte, hot, whole milk, no flavors, for here. If not, the barista will only keep offering you…well…choices.