You know, today I feel there’s too much pain in the decision-making process. You have everyone and his brother chiming in with his or her opinions. Also, there are too many options available, and consequently, the basic issue many times gets lost in a cloud of dust or political correctness.
When I was a kid, my father would say, “OK, let’s go for a ride.” He didn’t say where. He just said, “Let’s go!” and we’d jump in the car. No requests for our thoughts. Dad was the decision and, for the most part, the rides were an adventure.
Today, many fathers say, “OK, let’s go for a ride. Where would you all like to go?” Jimmy says, “Let’s go to Lido Beach.” Billy says, “I don’t want to go to the beach. I want to go the zoo.” Mary says, “Yuck, that place smells. No way. And I don’t want to go to the beach either. The water’s too cold.” The mother, sensing that the ride will be fraught with impending doom, says, “I don’t want to go for a ride. I’d rather have everyone stay home and pitch in and help clean the garage.”
So, you can see that asking for too many opinions, or introducing a host of options, can spoil a basically good idea.
Let’s look at another example. This is my pet peeve. When I was a kid, Mom would serve dinner. That’s it. “Here’s dinner.” There was no asking what everyone wanted. She simply served the meal, and you ate it. If you didn’t, tough luck. You’d go to bed with a void in your stomach. The same was true the next night, and if you balked at that meal, the void got bigger. Unbearable pain would set in. By the third night, you were so famished that you’d eat a termite-ridden log. We quickly learned to eat everything that came out of the kitchen.
Today, Mrs. Cleaver asks her family of five what they’d like for dinner, and then, sometimes, prepares five separate meals to keep everyone happy.
And how about taking the family out for dinner? In the old days, Dad would take us to Ludwig’s Hofbrau. No request for opinions. He ordered for us, and we ate it. If you didn’t, you knew you’d see it again for breakfast.
Here’s how I foresee taking the wife out to dinner today. I’d announce, “We’re going out for a romantic dinner. Just you and I, sweetheart. Where would you like to go?” Oh, oh. I just opened the door!
“How about Sushi Imperial?” she suggests.
“Naw, I refuse to eat anything fishermen use for bait. How about Burgers ‘R Us?”
“No,” she says. “Too much grease.”
“Well, then I’m asking you, again? Where would YOU like to go?”
“Forget it,” she says. “We’re never going to agree. Let’s just stay home, and I’ll make a thin whole-wheat crust pizza with no-fat cheese, and organic tomatoes.” The chief has spoken! And with that pronouncement, my dreams of a half-pound hamburger, smothered in onions with a side of creamy cole slaw, and a succulent piece of Key Lime pie, go down the drain. Are you getting the idea?
We used to have a single garbage can that was left at the curb on pickup day. Now they’ve introduced recycling cans, an added option. Sometimes I throw something in the recycle bin that, according to my wife, is not recyclable. When she gets through explaining the recycling concept and why I was wrong in my choice of containers, I feel as if I’d committed one of the seven deadly sins. She allowed me to plea bargain my way out of it. My punishment was 100 hours of community service (doing the dishes, bathing the dogs, making the bed, etc.) Then, she insisted on taking over the responsibility for the cans herself, and, since then, thank God, we haven’t had any crimes against society.
And how about getting married? Back when I was of marrying age, a guy would kneel down and say to his sweetheart in the glow of a setting sun, “Will you marry me?”
She’d gush and, with tears bubbling from her eyes, she’d say, “Yes, yes! A thousand times, yes. Oh, I love you so, my darling!”
With that, he’d whip out a small box containing the ring she saw at Macy’s.
“Oh, it’s just what I wanted,” she says. “You remembered.”
They’d kiss just before the sun dipped below the horizon, and the deal was done.
A well-designed event, wouldn’t you say? Speaking of design, I have a friend who shrewdly eliminated all the options in the marriage proposal process. He asked his gal to marry him in the shadow of Mount Rushmore. He figured she could never say “No” in front of four presidents. My kind of guy!
Anyway, let’s look at what might happen to the marriage proposal today. As you will see, the world has become a bit more complicated!
A couple is sitting at a table for two at Warbucks, both sipping their café delicato grandissimos.
“Honey,” he says, “I want to ask you a question.”
“No questions now, Rupert. Let’s savor our grandissimos.”
“I can’t wait. I’ve got to ask you now.… Sweetheart, will you marry me?”
“Whaaat? Why would we want to do a thing like that? And please don’t say ‘sweetheart’ so loud. Someone may hear you.”
“Because I love you and I want you to be my wife.”
“We’re living together. Isn’t that enough?”
“No, I want us to formalize our relationship. I want to call you my own.”
“Well, I don’t want to be owned by anyone. That’s silly. I’ve got a great job to worry about, and I have to own myself. Where do you get these crazy ideas?”
“Getting married is not crazy. I want you to be at my side forever.”
She looks askance at him. “Forever? Whoa! That’s a concept I’d really have to evaluate. Look, Rupert, you’re taking a big job in California. How does that work if I’m in New York?”
“I thought, of course, that you’d come with me,” he says.
“Come with you? Are you out of your mind? My career path will have me at senior partner within seven years. I’m not about to make any decision that would jeopardize that. I couldn’t consider being married for at least 10 years, if then. I just don’t need the distraction.”
So there it is. Just too many options, too many skewed opinions today to make solid decisions. I won’t mention our politicians in Washington. With a Congress of more than 500 potentially different opinions on any piece of major legislation, it’s a wonder anything gets done.
Well, anyway, enough of my protestations. I’ve got to get home so my wife and I can discuss whether we’re going to church tomorrow morning at 9 or 11. This’ll be an all-nighter!
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Frank is an international speechwriter (speechmeister.com), and a member of the Naples Writers Forum. You can reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, type Frank Forker into the upper right search bar at www.naplesnews.com