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It’s overwhelming. Even paralyzing. Having too many choices. What an exquisite thing to whine about in a country, and a world, that offers me, the privileged one, so many opportunities to pick and choose.

I’m set off this time by a visit to a retail store, a women’s lingerie store, as it happens. All I wanted to do was replace a few past-due garments with the same item new. Easy, right? In this small-ish store (no huge warehouse), tables and tables were artfully laid with dainty lingerie. Bins and bins were bountifully piled with more. Signs detailed the SALE prices and the comfort features, marginally different from one location to the next. I wandered around in a daze. I couldn’t find the “exact” item I came for. I wondered how to identify what I came for–or how to select something a little different and “better.” Finally I realized that my simple transaction was likely to take a lot more time than I wanted to spend, and I abruptly left the store. Fled the store would be a better description.

Decision Paralysis. It happens to me in grocery stores, cosmetic stores, drugstores, shoe stores. Online shopping does not ameliorate this panic of over-abundance. Comparisons between items and sites can lead to hours of clicking and befuddlement.

Worst of all, I believe that my impatience with multiple choice is a sign of “old age.” I remember heading for the store with my dad’s shopping list when he was a resident of so-called Assisted Living. This toothpaste, not that. This bath soap, not that other one. Sometimes it was hard to find the sizes and brands he’d been using for decades. (Does anybody remember that icky yellow bar of Dial soap??) Woe unto me if I brought back the bargain store brand of something, or the newfangled easy-open container. He wanted what he wanted.

And so do I. Please don’t confuse me with so many alternatives. All this picking and choosing just sucks up the precious remaining minutes of my life.


Two aisles diverged in a CVS,
And sorry I had to stop and guess,
A lonesome shopper, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it appeared I’d find success,
Then took the other, as straight a line,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it displayed a likely sign;
Though as for that, these eyes of mine
Could scarcely discern a product name.
On shelf after shelf the boxes lay
With every size and every brand
In a vast and colorful array.
Oh! How could I make a choice that day?
My brain cells failed to understand.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Sometime many a headache hence:
Two aisles diverged–bumfuzzled, I–
I took the one to Exit by
And fled from the place in self-defense.

Barbara Loots


  1. I can totally identify — except, what I usually do is buy the first thing I come to that seems to be more or less what I want, and THEN I flee the store. Another source of agonizing indecision is overly long restaurant menus. Again, I look just long enough to find something that appears to be something I might like to eat, and that’s what I order. If I proceed through 5 more pages of choices, I will only start second-guessing myself!

  2. What a fun parody! I can still look through all those many choices and not find the thing I want. The options in toothpaste have multiplied so far that the stores have pushed out my favorite.

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