Multiple choice – the curse of civilisation

WE are choosing the paint.

There was a time when choosing the paint meant deciding on whether you wanted mission brown or wood. Then we all grew really civilised and the choice expanded to include white and (if you lived in the city) magnolia.

I used to think it was cream, but that’s because I’m a Philistine. It was magnolia.

We’ve come a long way since then. Ordering paint is like ordering a meal. Aubergine, cherry, avocado, peach, cucumber…

Or having sex. Passion, fever, lust, sensuality…

We are drowning in choice. I mean, how many shades of red do we really need to keep us happy?

And it’s not just paint! For instance, how many kinds of loo rolls do we really need? Have you seen the supermarkets lately? They have whole aisles devoted to toilet paper. There are only two ways of wiping your bum, but 16,742 different kinds of paper to do it with.

Same with cereals. Do you know the number of different ways you can process a grain of wheat to turn it into a breakfast cereal? Enough to have a different one every morning for the rest of your life!

And pet food! This is the biggest joke of all. We are approaching a time when there will be more varieties of pet food on supermarket shelves than people food.

They’re just pets for heaven’s sake. Dogs and cats, mostly. If they were living in the wild they’d eat rat and enjoy it! No self-respecting cat would turn down a rat just because they had it yesterday. Or because it didn’t come with gravy.

It’s not education, or our legal system, or art that defines our civilisation. It’s choice. If choice is available, you’re on the ladder of civilisation. And if you can actually afford it, you’re a Success.

We had lino on the floor when I was a kid. The walls were white. I don’t think there was much else to choose from. But we seemed to be happy anyway. Now I can cover the floor with tiles, bamboo, carpet, vinyl, stone, wood or concrete. And I can paint the walls the colour of Arctic sunsets or babies’ toenails, sauteed mulberries or steamy saunas.

Oh boy, am I successful!

But it’s a mug’s game, painting the bedroom. It starts with: “Why don’t we paint the bedroom?”

And ends with: “Why didn’t you clean the brushes?”

Somewhere in the intervening period ‘we’ disappears and ‘you’ takes over.

Also missing from the conversation is a whole lot of stuff about sanding down the surfaces, filling the cracks in the plaster, washing everything with sugar soap, scraping the excess of the windows and getting someone in to clean the carpet when you’ve finished.

The actual painting is the easy bit! And your wife will do it. Single-handed. Friends will visit and there will be no evidence of ‘we’ or ‘you’. It will be ‘I’ and ‘he’.

I chose the desert dusk (this is a colour, not a tour opportunity); I painted the walls; I painted the doors.

He ruined the carpet; he forgot to clean the brushes, he chose the brown.

My wife says it’s because I was never any good at multiple-choice questions.

I tell her she’s right…

“Will you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife…?”