As anyone who spends time with young children knows, choice is important. For instance, you don’t tell a child it’s time to put on her pajamas, you hold out two pairs of pajamas and ask which pair she would like to wear tonight. Ditto with eating vegetables. You don’t announce, “You’re having vegetables with your dinner!” You ask, “Would you like carrots or green beans with your dinner?” That may not guarantee success, but it does improve the odds of actual vegetable consumption.
I haven’t been a child for decades, but I have kept some of my childlike ways. And one of them is that I, too, like to be offered choices. When I book a room at a hotel, I study the types and prices of rooms on offer and select the one I like best. If I need a dress for an upcoming wedding, I try on several before choosing the one that is the most flattering and comfortable. (If I have to choose between flattering and comfortable, I go with comfortable, because I’ve reached the age when flattering is a relative concept.) In short, having the ability to make choices is just as important to me now as it was when I was a toddler myself.
Which explains why I’m having such a hard time dealing with situations in which my choices are being taken away. I prefer to cook on a gas stove, because it’s so much easier to control the temperature. As someone who routinely sets off the smoke alarm when I’m preparing a meal, I truly need all the help I can get in the kitchen. But I’ve heard that gas stoves are becoming increasingly expensive and will soon be phased out entirely, so I’ll have to struggle with an electric one. Similarly, I don’t like online banking, but banks are slowly but surely pushing customers into it by cutting branch hours and raising checking fees. Soon online banking will be the only “choice.”
One of my favorite ways to spend time is browsing through a bookstore, picking up any book that looks interesting and skimming through it to see if I like the writing style. But all across the nation, bookstores are closing. Clothing stores are also being slowly replaced with online shops, but how can I tell if a pair of pants, or worse, a swim suit, will fit simply by looking at a tiny photo? A photo also doesn’t show the quality of the fabric or the true color. Face it, as brick and mortar stores keep closing at a record pace, soon everything will have to be purchased online. And we’d be fools to believe that free shipping is going to be offered once the online stores have a monopoly on the market.
I’m not against change or progress, but I don’t appreciate the steady erosion of choices that often masquerades as progress. We never really outgrow the desire to choose what we like, and I don’t think we need to apologize for that. Lack of choice often translates to lack of control, and it’s only natural to resent it. More importantly, having options means the freedom to make the decisions that work best for our unique personality. It’s a way to respect the diversity of our community. And that is why I will always choose to have a choice.