A Matter of Choice


I’m standing in the snack isle at Whole Foods, starting at what seems like endless rows of granola bars. There’s a Chia bar, it has coconut in it.. I like coconut, but it’s kind of small. There’s a giant Clif bar that seems like it would fill me up, but look at that sugar count! The Think Thin bar seems ok, but do I really want to be the girl who “thinks thin”? Luna bar? Too basic, I can do better.. This excruciating mental process continues for ten minutes until I throw in the flag and leave the store empty-handed. Twenty minutes later, I’m starving.

Just like Carrie Bradshaw once drove herself to the cuckoo point of drawing analogies between men and socks, I’m about to draw an analogy between granola bars and my love life. On the desktop of my iPhone, a folder cryptically titled as “Personal” currently holds three dating apps: Bumble, The League and the inimitable Raya. If used regularly, these apps are capable of spitting out new romantic options at me at the pace of a tennis ball machine – in fact, if I put enough effort into it, I could probably go out with a new guy every night of the week. Given that New York City is one of the most dynamic metropoles on the planet, many of these men are likely to interesting individuals, fully capable of piquing my interest.

That is, until I start analyzing each one of them individually. The Harvard-educated financier from The League? No, I hate finance guys, and would you look at that bald spot? The cute Jewish guy from Bumble? Ugh, but he’s only 5’7, I could never wear heels! The hot Raya unemployment artist? No, I retired those dudes ages ago, time to grow up! Each one of the men is quickly vetoed for one reason or other, until they eventfully start resembling those damn granola bars: soulless, unappetizing, each flawed in their own way. By the time I exit my little “Personal” folder, I am left in a déjà vu of my granola bar confusion, which is eventually replaced by indifference, followed by a hollow feeling of loneliness.

This is not a novel predicament. A dozen years ago, a man named Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice, based on the premise that our overabundance of options isn’t leading to anything good. That debilitating confusion that I feel in the snack isle at Whole Foods, or in the midst of my swipe sessions? It is called Paralysis of Choice – the fear of making the wrong decision that leads to the inability to make any decision whatsoever, potentially hindering the advancement of one’s life. To prevent this from happening, Schwartz recommends lowering our expectations,  acknowledging that nothing – and nobody – in this world is perfect, configuring our individual priorities, and making some damn decisions. Another thing we have to start doing is learning to live with these decisions, instead of always thinking about “missed opportunities”, i.e. what we shoulda / coulda / woulda chosen instead. Essentially, Schwartz suggests doing the one thing that our modern society deems as the epitome of all evil – settling. Except that he calls it ‘deciding’.

As I sit here, trying to configure my consensus on all of this is, my dog lays by my side. Her name is Chloe and she happens to be the product of one of the more erratic decisions of my early twenties. Roughly the size of an overfed rat, she may not be the most beautiful or smartest of all dogs, yet never once did I regret randomly buying her from a dingy Avenue U puppy store in Brooklyn, powered by nothing but a whim and a hangover. Sometimes, the best things in life are happy accidents, sporadic lapses of judgement, uninhibited moments when you stop over-analyzing, go with your gut, and simply let someone in. I’m not telling you to drag your Tinder date to the altar tonight – there’s a fine line between spontaneity and stupidity. But, maybe, sometimes, it’s not about making the perfect choice, as much as it is about treating the choice you make as if it were perfect, until it eventually is.

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