Monday, June 30, 2008

I Do Not Need 437 Toothpaste Choices

I went grocery shopping this weekend with D. Typically D does not come shopping with me for a variety of reasons, one of which being that our grocery bill is generally $20 higher when he does. Unfortunately, D has this inherent weakness for products that boldly proclaim they are NEW!!! or IMPROVED!!!


D: Ooooh! Can we get these?

Me: But you don’t even like pretzels.

D: Yes, but they’re NEW!!!

Me: But you don’t like them.

D: Maybe I will this time. They’re NEW!!!

Me: But they’re still pretzels.

D: (throws them in the cart)

Me: (rolls eyes) *sigh*

2 months later:

D: H, are you ever going to eat those pretzels?

So you can see why I generally do my shopping alone. Aside from this, it always takes me ½ hour longer to do the shopping with D comes along. For some time (i.e. ever since I’ve known him) I’ve tended to blame him for this. I stand at the end of the aisle, silently thinking to myself, “Seriously, how long does it take to pick out toothpaste?? Just grab one and go.” I tap my foot impatiently and I make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes, although we both know I want to.

This weekend, that all changed.

This weekend, as we stood in the toothpaste aisle for what seemed like an eternity, I looked around and realized that if you don’t normally do the grocery shopping, it certainly would take you 10 minutes to pick out toothpaste. Why? Because there are 437 varieties (my estimate). Do you want mint or cinnamon or vanilla? Or maybe children’s bubblegum flavor? Or cinna-mint (which sounds disgusting, in my opinion)? And if you want mint, do you want spearmint, wintergreen, or just plain old toothpaste-mint flavor? Do you want to fight tartar? Gingivitis? Bad breath? All of the above? Do you want to whiten your teeth while you brush or are you just trying to get in and out of the bathroom without any of your teeth falling out? And once you figure out what kind you want, do you want it in a traditional squeeze-up toothpaste package or do you want the fancy squeezable plastic bottle?

Oh, and you might need a toothbrush to go with that toothpaste, as well. Do you want the plain kind, the kind with the tongue-brusher thingy, or the kind with the colored circle in the middle of the brush that will turn white when you need to switch toothbrushes? None of those? How about the kiddie ones that light up for exactly 1 minute so that your kid keeps brushing for long enough? Then there’s always the trusty battery-operated rotating toothbrush, if you’re really hardcore.

Don’t even get me started on floss.

What’s your point? you ask. My point is this: we don’t need that much toothpaste. Period. There is not one single reason why we need an entire aisle for toothpaste aside from the fact that toothpaste makers keep trying to out-do each other for the sake of the almighty dollar. And it isn’t just toothpaste. Tampons: an entire aisle. Seriously? You can only use one at a time, you know. Cereal: an entire aisle – both sides of the aisle. Are there really that many redeeming qualities that cannot be put into one cereal? And you know what we do in these aisles? We stand there and hem and haw and complain that we can’t find what we really want. Yes, but what I really wanted was a chocolaty breakfast cereal that is multi-grain and 100% organic with little pink marshmallows that look like pigs. Guess I’ll have to settle for whatever crap they have in the cereal aisle.

Too much choice is not a healthy thing. For starters, psychologists studying the phenomenon found that when we have too many choices, it actually impairs our ability to make a decision. Hence, D’s deer-in-the-headlights look / 20 minute sabbatical in aisle 5. We simply can’t process that much at one time. But secondly, why are we that picky in the first place? Really, what is it we think this magic toothpaste is going to do? Why do we think we need 437 choices?

We are far too spoiled as a society. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m guessing there are places in the world where there is *gasp!* no toothpaste (da da dan…. insert sound effects here). And maybe, *double gasp!* no breakfast cereal (ear-piercing scream)! Now I know I’m sounding like your mother looking down at your plate and telling you that there are children in *insert 3rd world country* who don’t even have green beans, so you’d better finish what’s on your plate. Bear with me. It’s not that I think we shouldn’t have toothpaste or breakfast cereal. It’s just that I often wish things were simpler. Yes, modern life means that we don’t die of smallpox or polio and it doesn’t take us 2 weeks to hear the news from the next town over and we can all read this blog (even if you don’t know who I am). Yes, modern life is nice, which also means that modern life can be a bit complex. But does it really have to be further complicated by the sheer number of toothpaste choices we have?

I don’t mind life being a little complex because I can better keep track of the people I love. I don’t mind life being a little complex because I have access to the authors I love. But complexity based on toothpaste profit margins? Give me a break.

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