You can get too much of a good thing
Choice is good, they say. I say there can be too much of a good thing.
I remember the days when you went to the store to pick up a tube of toothpaste, and you had to decide between brands such as Colgate and Crest. There were several brands to choose from, of course, so you grabbed one you liked and took it home.
Now, I go to the store and stand dumfounded in the toothpaste aisle.
(You may have seen me. There are actually quite a few places around town where I can be seen standing dumfounded from time to time, including the lawn of my own home when the sprinkler system doesn’t work and the front steps of the Nevada Legislative Building. But that’s another story.)
The toothpaste aisle nowadays contains roughly 17,850 choices. Yes, there are different brands. But each brand has so many individual flavors, styles and variations that I’m completely stumped.
Say I have narrowed my selection to Colgate.
Do I buy the Colgate with stripes, the Colgate with baking soda, the Colgate with flavor sparkles, the Colgate with whiteners, the Colgate with stripes and whiteners but no baking soda, the Kids Colgate, the Colgate for Mature Mouths, the Colgate with Spam, the Colgate with a miniature Nascar racer inside or the Colgate offering 0 percent financing?
Of course, these are merely the options on one shelf. All of them come in a variety of sizes, and they all probably come in Classic Colgate or, during the holiday season, Christmas Colgate boxes for gift-wrapping.
(OK, so I made some of those up. But Colgate does, in fact, offer a Barbie Sparkling Bubble Fruit toothpaste.)
And lest you think I’m picking on toothpaste, the same thing happens in the shaving-creme aisle. For some reason, I now have to decide whether I want my face to be regular, aloe, menthol or licorice.
Underarm deodorant? Don’t get me started. And I’ve given up on breakfast cereals.
All this came to a head the other day when my wife sent me to the store with a list that included the words “moisturizer” and “facial cleanser.”
Having never spent much time examining moisturizers and facial cleansers, I wasn’t looking forward to the bewildering array of products that would confront me. In fact, I’m not sure I had ever been down that aisle before. It was a whole new world.
Was I looking for a moisturizer that would fade wrinkles? Restore smoothness? Smell like a spring day? Treat oily skin? Treat average skin? Treat crocodiles during the monsoon season?
The prices ranged from $4.99 to $25.99, so I was pretty sure I would be wrong no matter which one I picked.
So I used the same theory I use when buying wine — don’t buy the cheapest, and don’t buy the most expensive.
Then I realized the particular moisturizer I had selected was offering Buy One, Get One Free. OK, so I would be twice as wrong.
Turning to the facial cleansers — which I had previously assumed were called “soap” — I hit on a new strategy. Close my eyes and select the product in the package that felt right. I groped along the shelf until I was satisfied, and a half-dozen bottles were on the floor. Thank goodness they make those things in plastic.
When I got home, Jenny sorted through the groceries until she came across my beauty-product purchases.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Ummm,” I stuttered. “All you put on the list was moisturizer and facial cleanser. So I, uh, kind of decided for myself. If you don’t like them, we can try them on the dog.”
“These are fine,” she said.
Just like that.
I’d spent hours racked with indecision over the exact species of feminine facial fixer to bring home, and she dismissed the choice with a casual comment and flip of a plastic grocery bag.
“Did you remember the toothpaste?” she asked, picking through the goods on the counter.
It was too much for me. I couldn’t bear going back to the store just then, so I settled onto the couch to watch some television.
Now that it’s football season, the Direct TV dish is hooked up. It has something like 492 channels.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.