Sunday, January 04, 2004

Unhappy By Choice? 

I read an article in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines today. (I already disposed of the paper, or I would tell you its title and author – sorry!) Its premise was that our ability to be happy has become more difficult because we have too many choices. The writer started the article describing how he went to the store to buy a pair of jeans. When the salesgirl asked if he needed help, he told her his waist size and inseam length, thinking that would do the trick. She then went on to ask him what type of fit he wanted: slim, regular, relaxed, straight-leg, or boot-let. Then she asked what kind of rise he wanted: low rise or regular rise. Then she asked him what kind of denim he wanted: light fade, sandblasted vintage, stonewashed, sandblasted rinsed…etc. You get the picture. He was stymied. (Obviously not a metrosexual.)

All he wanted was a pair of jeans. He didn’t really know the difference between all of the choices she was offering him. But because he wanted to make sure he got the right jeans, he spent the next hour trying on every kind of jean combination possible. And he still wasn’t entirely satisfied with what he ended up with. Why?

Apparently, all of these choices make us extremely picky, always wanting perfection and never getting it, and therefore satisfied by nothing. Choice Related Unhappiness.

Hmmm, ya know, this almost sounds like it could be a psychologist-inspired label: “I am diagnosing Patient X as a victim of CRU – Choice Related Unhappiness – I strongly recommend daily anti-depressants and a monthly sea salt scrub with vichy shower.”

Occasionally I (almost) wistfully look back on my “poor” days. Not that we was ever truly poor, but I can remember when going out for pizza and a movie with my husband was a once a month treat (if that). When we started making a little bit more money, we would have this treat every other week. Now, if we wanted to we could go out for pizza and a movie several nights a week. But am I any happier for it?

I don’t think so.

Going out to dinner these days can almost be a frustrating experience because we have too many options to choose from. What are you in the mood for? I don’t know -- what are YOU in the mood for? Italian (Northern or Southern? Chain or mom n’ pop?), Mexican (gourmet or franchise?), Cuban (downtown or uptown?), Chinese (eat-in or take-out), Greek (BYOB or bar?), pub food (city or suburb?) -- hell, we can even get excellent take-out grub from the local grocery store. Somebody just tell me what to eat!

Going to a bookstore these days can be equally frustrating. When we were poor, we’d comb through the used book stores in search of the perfect $2 read. Now, I whip out the credit card and greedily buy a huge pile of books and magazines. Am I any happier for it? NO! Why? Because I don’t have enough time to sit and relax and enjoy them all! I skim more books and magazines than I actually read these days.

Why can’t money buy time? It’s what people who work hard to make money need! But we are too hard working to make the money.
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