When I was very young, on the occasion that our family of eight would go to a restaurant to eat, I would sit and stare at the menu, overwhelmed by the offerings. I declared on more than one occasion “there are too many choices”, my brain unable to take in and compute all the options and render a reasonable decision. It’s still that way to this day. Restaurants that offer a 10 page menu tend to make me want to throw up in my mouth a little and my general M.O. is to fold it over politely, set it down on the table and ask my mates “what are you going to get” and make my decision based on the 2 or 3 choices narrowed down by their interests and taste. This self -limiting selection thing has spilled into my parenting. I am a big fan of the “choices” technique in offering autonomy to my children. As in:
“You could choose this or that”
“You may eat this or that”
“You can watch that or this”
Which has served us all well over the years. Here, I must admit that six-year old Andrew’s recent boisterous declaration that “THERE SHOULD BE SIX CHOICES BECAUSE I AM SIX” has thrown me for a loop. Honestly, who can cope with that many choices, man?
Which brings me to this point. One of the recurring questions people pose to me as a repatriating citizen of the USA is something along the lines of “what do you find most difficult about returning to the states?” And while I cannot claim this next bit to be MOST difficult in a list of difficult things, I can boldly declare it to be my personal most OVERWHELMING adjustment to stateside living.
In a word: CHOICES.
There are just too damn many.
In the early days and weeks of our return I managed to avoid any stops at shops bigger than the convenience mart at a gas station. But ultimately, I knew that for the good of me and the good of everyone I am supposed to feed in this family, I would have to break down and enter a supermarket. I started with the local Trader Joe’s which is actually a breeze in shopping for me. I love the sights, sounds, smells and SIZE of TJ’s. As Goldilocks quips, this store is “just right”. But not too long into our stay here there was need (now I cannot even remember what) for me to venture to the neighboring SUPERMARKET to get supplies. It was late at night, I was alone (seriously, I made Don come with me for the original adventures in US shopping) and I was armed with my list. My approach through the produce section was thwarted by the slightly prodigious selection of pre-cut fruits–do you like your watermelon in wedges, spears or cubes?–and as my heart rate rocketed upward I cast my eyes at the empty cart and pushed ahead. I really did okay, looking up occasionally to slide something into the trolley, and it wasn’t until rounding the corner on the salad dressing aisle that I felt I might altogether lose it. Rapid pulse, shallow breath, clammy palms, I literally sat and stared at the WALL of bottled dressings for maybe 15 minutes trying to take it all in. Were it possible to broadcast inner thought, the sound over the muzak would have been “woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, wah, wah, wha, wha, wha, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!” which couldn’t have possibly made me any more of a spectacle than I already was standing stock still, eyes wide open, in front of Paul Newman and his cohorts on the shelf. In a lifetime of sampling, I wonder, can you actually taste all the varieties on offer?
At this point, all I can offer is gratitude for oil and vinegar. And no, I still haven’t looked at the cereal selection.