Menu Anxiety Disorder

Dear Steve,
I don’t know what I want from life, especially from a woman. I don’t know if I want a blonde or a brunette, a French girl or a Japanese girl, long hair, short hair, a nice girl or a mean girl… you name it. Are there exercises I can do to help me learn what I want, like some kind of meditation thing, only not as hard as meditation? Seriously, I’m semi-miserable about my inability to make a decision about girls, like a decision about who I should pursue. I’ve been very fortunate to connect with women I like, I’m just never sure what I’m looking for, so I never commit to a girl. Then, a couple of years later, I find myself thinking about the “one that got away,” you know what I mean. How does anybody know what they want? Is it a chemical or genetic thing? Is it environmental? Do you know what you want?

I want the Redskins to crush the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Then, I’d like a nice bowl of soup. The tomato soup at the Palace Restaurant in Santa Fe is the greatest soup I’ve ever had in my life. The first time I tasted it, I almost cried. I felt really good about my decision to order that soup. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at other things on the menu – I just saw the soup and knew that I wanted it. I had faith in my decision, faith in the restaurant, and faith in the soup. You, my son, have no faith. You’re afraid you’ll order the wrong dish from the Girl Menu, because you don’t have faith in yourself, faith in the restaurant (God), or faith in the soup (women).
You have what I call Menu Anxiety Disorder (M.A.D. for short). Most people go into a restaurant with a good idea of what they want (meat or fish, sweet or sour), but MAD people have no idea what they want. They have to read everything on the menu (even the stuff they know they don’t like), they have to ask everyone else what they’re having (to prevent “food envy”), and they ask the wait person lots of annoying questions, hoping they’ll learn something to make the decision easier – “well, the calamari is good, but the risotto will make your dick bigger.”
What causes Menu Anxiety Disorder? Fear and desire. You’re such a greedy little monkey that you want everything, and this desire for everything makes it impossible for you to have anything, and in this way, desire disables you. Also, you’re afraid of making the wrong decision (“oh my god, what was I thinking, I should have had the risotto!”). The name for this tension (between desire and fear) is despair. You despair of what you want (“a blonde or a brunette”), and you despair of what might have been (“the one that got away”).

…it is possible to become lost in possibility in all sorts of ways, but primarily in two. The one takes the form of desiring, craving; the other takes the form of the melancholy-imaginary. Legends and fairy tales tell of the knight who suddenly sees a rare bird and chases after it, because it seems first to be very close; but it flies again, and when night comes, he finds himself separated from his companions and lost in the wilderness… So it is also with desire’s possibility. Instead of taking possibility back into necessity, he chases after possibility – and at last cannot find his way back to himself.
-Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

That pretty much says it all; so let’s talk about me. A long time ago, I chose to love the Washington Redskins – that choice has brought me some pleasure, and a great deal of pain. Like last Sunday, when the Redskins lost to the New York Giants. That’s the problem with making choices. Sometimes, they can hurt. If you’re not prepared to be hurt, you’re not prepared to make choices (and you’re not prepared to be happy). The trick is this – having faith that you can survive your own choices.

The believer has the ever infallible antidote for despair – possibility – because for God everything is possible at every moment. This is the good health of faith that resolves contradictions. The contradiction here is that, humanly speaking, downfall is certain, but that there is [hope] nonetheless. 

-Soren Kierkegaard, ibid

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Filed under Advice, Dating, Philosophy

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