Whether it's having to choose new siding for the house or a Halloween costume for the daughter or the background color for the school picture or any number of other decisions that had to be made in recent weeks, almost no day goes by that I am not reminded of this:
There are a lot of choices out there -- often too many -- and not just with sneakers, backpacks and big-ticket items such as cars and computers.
It's the everyday stuff, too. Like bandages.
There was a time when parents with kids in tow may have steered clear of the candy aisle. These days, while tearing through the supermarket with my 5-year-old, I try to avoid the bandage and toothpaste aisles.
Why? Because on less hurried visits, she has gotten giddy over the Scooby-Doo, Barbie and Disney Princess bandages and practically collapsed over the toothpaste possibilities for kids -- many of which, and this is no accident, come packaged in girly pink.
Until this summer, I thought we had the cereal thing under control. We pretty much stick to three types, including an organic granola we probably pay too much for. Then, while spending part of a day at some friends of ours, she had -- Fruit Loops! Yes, Fruit Loops!
How tasty, I told my daughter as she raved about them the whole way home -- her lips still smacking.
Buying blue jeans is a story in itself -- the Lee company once estimated that the average woman tries on 16 pairs of jeans before she finds one that fits well -- as is finding the perfect wallet or winter hat.
Even hosiery is a workout. Silky sheer? Ultra sheer? Sheer shapers? Reinforced toe? Invisible reinforced toe? Sandalfoot? Control top? Enhanced control top?
The choices are baffling. Will I embarrass myself if I wear "classic day sheer" in the evening? Will I be able to sit still at my desk wearing "sheer energy?"
There are so many colors to choose from -- with clever little names like Barely There and Travel Buff. And so many sizes -- AB, CD, EF, Do, Re, Mi -- and color-coded size charts to examine.
So what happens if your height and weight fall borderline? Do you go bigger and wear your pantyhose up to your armpits?
Or smaller and risk the chance of experiencing what one of my dear cousins years ago termed "pantyhose blowout"?
And that's not all. I recently spent a good 10 minutes chatting with a total stranger as she tried to select a down comforter at a local store. There were selections galore -- and some helpful printed guidelines, too -- but that did not stop us from feeling every comforter in sight, sharing what we knew about thread counts, fill powers, stitch details, etc.
And then I dared to bring up the question: Will you be choosing a duvet cover, too?
I have some friends who are swimming in paint swatches, trying to find the perfect shade of red or green for their walls. I get dizzy at magazine stands (how many magazines have the word "country" in them, after all?) The array of toothbrushes out there scare me.
And I have seen more than my share of glassy-eyed kids and parents in the costume aisles this Halloween season (did I mention I think Disney princesses are taking over the world?)
Of course, it was upsetting enough to find myself looking at costumes in the first place. My big plan had been to make a costume, assisted by my young daughter, in a rewarding project I envisioned her remembering for years. But things did not quite work out that way this year. Enough said.
As for all those choices out there, these days when I hear the phrase "Hundreds of choices to choose from!," I want to run the other way.