I used to think of myself as a low-maintenance woman. I used to believe I was easy to please. But now I know better, and it took Starbucks for me to realize the truth.
My order at Starbucks is a vente iced green-tea latte, breve, no melon, light ice. I love my drink. It's a treat I give myself a few times a week. I give myself all manner of food rewards, because I'm an emotional eater. Can you think of a better reason to eat?
But back to Starbucks. I was standing in line behind a tall sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte with nonfat milk no-whip, who was standing behind a grande iced nonfat no-whip mocha. When it came to my turn, I watched my hard-working barista like a disapproving mother, to make sure he didn't add the melon.
One time, my barista made a mistake and added the melon. I took a sip and then threw the entire drink away. I won't drink it with the melon. And I couldn't bring myself to ask the barista to redo it, because I couldn't admit to him or myself that I'd become a woman who refuses to drink something that isn't exactly the way she wants it.
But I have.
I always order salads with the dressing on the side and no croutons. I always use Splenda and not Equal. I like half-and half or light cream in my coffee, but not milk. I like strawberry preserves, but don't come near with me with strawberry jelly.
How did I get like this?
I was standing in Whole Foods the other day, mesmerized by the yogurt. I used to be fine with normal vanilla yogurt; then I switched to strawberry. But here I was, dazzled in the dairy aisle, astounded by white yogurt containers gleaming like pearls on a strand. There was normal yogurt from cows, but there was also goat's milk yogurt, buffalo milk yogurt, nonfat yogurt, low-fat yogurt, and yogurt in a bottle, so you could drink it. There was even yogurt with normal bacteria and yogurt with special bacteria.
Uh-oh. I had no idea how to choose a strain of bacteria. Generally, bacteria is the kind of thing I like to avoid.
How do you pick a bacteria, and does it come in hazelnut?
In short, I could have it the way I wanted, but I wasn't sure how I wanted it. Then I started to wonder about when all these choices began, and when we started to customize germs.
Maybe it goes back to Burger King's "Have It Your Way" campaign. Before then, back when we didn't know better, we ate hamburgers with whatever they put on them. The Burger King campaign was a response to the McDonald's "Have It Our Way" approach, which meant that every burger came with a pickle, ketchup, and chopped onion bits.
In those days, if you didn't like the pickle, you were forced to take matters into your own hands. You had to handle the situation all by yourself. You had to take the pickle off.
Likewise, if you didn't like ketchup, you had to cope. You either had to eat your hamburger with the ketchup and try to live another day, or you had to find yourself a plastic knife and scrape that ketchup right off.
We were like MacGyver then, full of ingenuity.
But those days are over. We started having it our way, and we never stopped. And somewhere along the line, there sprang up 300 million choices for every product, and I became the pickiest person on the planet.
That's it. It must be Burger King's fault. Because it can't be mine.
But here's the hard question: Have all these choices made us happier? Am I really, truly, happier for all of those choices?
I love it. I love having everything exactly the way I want it. I work hard to earn the money to buy myself my food rewards. I'm like a puppy giving myself Milk-Bones - which come in cheese, liver, and regular flavor.
And I even love the dairy aisle, dazzling me with choice. When I clap eyes on all those yogurts, my heart swells with American pride. I'm lucky to live in a country with such a robust economy, armed with powerful marketing weapons, all of which are aimed at little old me. They've succeeded in convincing me that there really is a difference between these products and that the difference is critical.
And so I choose.
In fact, I'm going to start sampling soon, and in a week or so, I'll have selected my absolute favorite bacteria.