preferences

A quick post since I haven’t had much time to write lately:

My need for a new tube of toothpaste reached a critical stage the middle of last week. For a few days I jumped up and down on a trial size to squeeze out the remnants, and one morning (the date of which I will keep to myself) I just used water and the minty remains that were on my toothbrush. I had another trial size, but didn’t want to use it since it’s the one I keep in my bag, and who knows when I will be on the road and need it? I also wanted to wait until Sunday to see if there were any coupons or sales in the paper.

While that is an interesting glimpse into how I can make a huge situation out of something as simple as a tube of toothpaste, that’s not the point of the story. Since Colgate tubes were buy one get one free at CVS (see! I knew waiting would pay off), I walked into my apartment yesterday with two huge new tubes of toothpaste, which in retrospect is sort of a big commitment. When I took a close look at the boxes I saw that these tubes feature a “two-way cap” – you can either flip it or unscrew it.

Am I supposed to have a preference about how I open my toothpaste? To be frank, those sorts of features leave me silently pleading “please don’t make me care about this”. I care about my voice, I care about my classroom, I care about my friends, I care about my family, please don’t make me care about the cap on my toothpaste.

This happens to me pretty frequently: someone expects me to have a preference regarding something about which it never even occured to me to be fussy! Someone once asked me if I liked fruit cold or room temperature. I usually eat whatever you put in front of me. At the dentist they check to make sure I like the flavor of polish they are going to use, even though I’m pretty sure when I’m in the chair they have the upper hand.

Do all these choices distract us from the substance of a thing? If I get to pick the temperature of an apple will that distract me from the fact that it’s overripe? I don’t care what brand or texture the bandage is as long as it covers up my skinned knee. I don’t care if the music at mass has organ or piano as long as the person on the bench can play. And when I come up with silly preferences, as if they will help to define who I am or give me some sort of agency, all I am doing is preparing myself for the disappointment of finding that my toothpaste doesn’t open “the right way”.

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2 Responses to preferences

  1. Stryker says:

    You go, Meg!!! I totally hear you on this one… Living in other countries has made me realize the plethora of choices that are available (and unavoidable!) everyday in the good U.S.A. It almost seems to program us to become picky and demanding, rather than simple and appreciative of what we do have, focusing on things that actually matter. So, big thumbs up with your observation (and I, too, squeeze out every last drop of toothpaste to the point of raising more than one eyebrow when people catch me in the funny act of doing so!!!)

  2. Emilia says:

    This ridiculousness of choice is what consumerism hath wrought. I don't believe it's all one big conspiracy, but I do believe that the attitude that everything can always be improved upon (and therefore sold in greater amounts), that there is always some new, better way to make a change to toothpaste caps despite that they've worked just fine for decades, is a plague, and that marinating in it as we do prevents us from caring about important things because we do get so caught up in all of this petty shit. Coke or Pepsi? Red Sox or Yankees? (I know, I know, that one is important – but they're all still overpaid.) What about questions to which there is no one-word answer? What about solving environmental problems, or curing diseases, or learning what actually is at the bottom of the ocean, or telling your own story, or listening to others?

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