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Please Don’t Make Me Choose!

October 23, 2011

For two years now, I’ve been thinking about painting the ‘feature wall’ that runs the length of the hall at the top of the stairs and into my (open concept) living room. I even have a colour in mind: ‘light brown’ (the sort of colour you get when you pour a generous amount of cream into coffee).  What’s stopped me from actually buying the paint and putting it on the wall, however, is the staggering number of ‘light brown’ shades available.  I go to Home Depot, stand in front of the wall of paint colours (racks and racks from various manufacturers – I swear it’s at least a quarter mile long), and freeze.  Why?  Because I’m absolutely sure that whichever one I pick, it will be WRONG! With so many to choose from, how can I possibly get it right?!?!?

1008 Basic Paint ColoursWhen I was in my teens, my mother used to have a cartoon on the kitchen bulletin board that showed a confused-looking painter holding a paint can and saying ‘She wants it mauve … is that a colour?’  Her best friend had stuck it there because mauve was my mother’s absolutely favourite colour (it still is).  Back in the late sixties, there were maybe three dozen ‘standard’ paint colours you could choose from, and mauve wasn’t one of them. My mother, however, had had several gallons specially mixed so that she could paint the living room, dining room, and master bedroom walls with it (the cartoon was some sort of weird coincidence). Today, one of the major paint manufacturers shows 188 colours under ‘purple’ on their web site – including every shade of mauve you can imagine (they also have 270 yellows, 408 oranges, 478 reds, 283 pinks, 454 blues, 615 greens, 338 browns, 136 whites, 197 greys, 52 blacks, and 140 off-whites). In many cases, the difference between one shade and the next is practically imperceptible (in fact, I have two paint cards in front of me right now with three shades of ‘light brown’ on each – honestly, I can’t tell the difference between ‘Heirloom Lace’ and ‘Weathered Sandstone’, ‘Arabian Sands’ and ‘Oat Cake’, and ‘Toasted Wheat’ and ‘Classic Taupe’).

It’s not just paint colours that have gotten out of hand, either.  Have you bought a toothbrush lately (soft, medium or hard? which of a dozen different brands? manual or electric? how many bristles? what size, shape, bristle and handle style? Dora the Explorer or Spiderman?) What about shampoo, deodorant, soap, hair dye?  There are dozens of options (and price ranges) from which to choose. Have a headache? No? Well, you will after trying to decide what kind of pain reliever you should buy for your other aches and pains (does anyone else remember when the only choice was between ‘baby’ and ‘regular strength’ Aspirin?)  

Inside SephoraForty years ago, there were five colours for nail polish – red, pink, coral, opaque (‘natural’), and clear.  One of the world’s best-selling brands currently offers over 200 colours (including ‘Kermit the Frog Green’ and ‘Miss Piggy Pink’ from their ‘Muppets’ line!)  A friend recently dragged me into the Sephora (cosmetic and perfume) store at the local mall – I simply stood gape-mouthed in the middle of the store, staring at the aisles and aisles and racks and racks of make up and scents (they sell over 200 brands!)  How on earth do you even begin to choose something from that kind of selection? (And yes, I know they have cosmeticians who are there to help, but we all know they’re trained to promote the highest-priced brands.) 

Beer Store BrandsMy husband has been drinking the same brand of beer for almost forty years.  The only time he has anything different is if we happen to wander into an establishment that doesn’t serve his brand (and believe me, he’s not happy about it!)  I, on the other hand, generally like to try a different beer each summer – but I can spend HOURS standing in front of the board at The Beer Store reading the names of all the various brands (from mega-brands to obscure craft blends) and still have no idea what to choose.  Same goes for wine – it used to be you had your domestic white, your Italian red, your bubbly (Baby Duck).  Now there are multiple wines available in each of those categories from 160 different countries.  It’s next to impossible to select the ‘right’ one (even with those nifty cards that suggest pairings.  I’d like to suggest they put together some basic sample packs!)

I’m similarly flummoxed at the grocery store. I mean, how many kinds of tomato sauce, soup, pasta, coffee, tea, peanut butter, and ice cream do we really need?  I recall when the first ‘mega’ grocery store opened in our city (probably 20 years ago).  Until then, neighbourhood grocery stores were relatively small, and you knew exactly where everything was. I wandered around the new ‘superstore’ for maybe a half hour and walked out (empty handed) thinking, “Who in their right mind is going to spend an hour buying groceries in a store that big?”  Well, that store is about half the size of the one I currently shop in – and it’s not the biggest one in town, either.  The more products that come along (and/or variations of products), the bigger the stores get, and the more choices we have to make. It’s insane!

Lays Potato ChipsI admit that when it comes to buying the ‘latest, greatest’ tool or gadget or foodie item, I’m not likely to be standing in line waiting to pick it up.  I generally tend to stick to the ‘tried and true’ (Colgate toothpaste, Miss Clairol hair colour, St. Ives moisturizers, Heinz ketchup, Lay’s potato chips, Levi’s jeans), and to keep some items (electronics, furniture, cars) for a very, very long time.  It’s not just because I’m old-fashioned (and, yes, I am) – it’s just that I like to buy things that I know I can trust, things that have stood the test of time, things that will last (and boy, do I hate it when something I’ve used for years suddenly vanishes from the marketplace and I have to start all over finding a new brand to become loyal to!)  

As I get older, I want my life to get simpler, not more complex.  After all, I have enough to think about – and way less time to spend making basic choices – now that I’m on … the other side of 55.

Choices

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7 Comments
  1. Kim permalink
    June 5, 2015 5:54 pm

    Ironically my house is all three colors–heirloom lace in the main family room, Arabian sands in the rest of the common rooms and Toasted wheat in our bedroom. I grew up with all the walls standard white and vowed my house would have some color!! You can’t go wrong with all three and then you only need one color card to remember the color names for touch ups.

  2. October 24, 2011 5:50 pm

    Heh, good point with the paint. I once got into an argument with the guys painting my room because I had left instructions saying “paint it light blue” and left for work, assuming the job would be done by the time I got back. I had not idea there was any other possibility for “light blue” but apparently that was not a valid colour and so they hadn’t done the job.

    Although is some places I feel it simply gives life a little bit of of a cheap thrill. For example: My standard routine for years now has been to buy a different brand of toothpaste every month. Just something to fancy up my morning routine.

    • October 24, 2011 6:44 pm

      I like your idea about trying something different on a regular basis – it might make me less reluctant to give up my ‘old standbys’ (which, eventually, I suspect will disappear anyway). But how to choose?!?!?!?!?

      Margo

  3. October 23, 2011 8:43 pm

    Too many choices kind of paralyzes me. What if I pick Arabian Sands and then my husband says, “Why didn’t we paint the wall Heirloom Lace?”

    • October 23, 2011 10:56 pm

      I simply don’t allow my husband a choice in things like paint colours! 😉

      Margo

  4. October 23, 2011 8:36 pm

    If you add in pop culture, you now have 900+ channels of TV, 500+ channels of music stations via satellite, and a gazillion phone apps that do just about everything. Not only do we all have more choices available round the clock, most of us have much shorter attention spans to boot. Not a good combination it seems.

    Nice list, though I’m a Crest person myself…

    • October 23, 2011 10:58 pm

      Too true – and yet – with all those choices – there’s very little worth watching on TV and not much worth listening to on the radio (I don’t use phone apps, but from what I see/hear, most aren’t worth the time/trouble/cost of downloading). And we definately have less time to use all these ‘extras’. Life was definately simpler years ago!

      Margo

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