Date: 31 August
Location: Pastuso, this neat new Peruvian place on ACDC Lane, named after Paddington Bear.
I had such a great education. My parents are both scientists and encouraged me to look at the world curiously. My primary school was bilingual, taught in both French and English. I attended a private girls’ school and learned to make the perfect scone. I have two undergraduate degrees (with honours!) from a prestigious university. I’m admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria. I should be set, right?
And yet, I find my education severely lacking in so many ways.
Like, what is superannuation and why do I need to make it ‘rollover’?
Why don’t I know how to knit?
Do you need to wash pants, ever?
Which bit of meat belongs to which part of the animal? (And why is the ‘butt’ the shoulder? That’s just being tricky and trying to make us immature ones laugh.)
Do I need pet insurance?
What’s the trick to hanging pictures straight?
This weekend past, I made my first ever roast chicken. It was, and I’m not even going to pretend to be modest, an epic success. But as we gazed in self-congratulatory wonder at its crispy skin, we realised that we had no idea what to do with it. How the heck does one carve a chicken? Thank god for the internet. (When describing my carving-panic later to a friend she was concerned that I ‘found the tastiest bit – the oysters’. You’ll be pleased to know that I did not say the first thing that came to mind: ‘no, it was a chicken’.)
So, it’s been a week of learning, including from Barry Schwartz’s ‘The Paradox of Choice — Why More Is Less’. The crux of Barry’s book is that:
1. Some choice is better than no choice. If you hate Rice Bubbles, it’s great when you have the choice of a Rice Bubbles and Cornflakes for breakfast.
2. However, more choice is not better than some choice. Schwartz cites a study by Vanguard, a financial services company, and notes that the more superannuation funds (those curious rolling beasts!) an employee had to choose from, the less likely he was to actually make a choice. The same has been found with grocery shoppers and jams: give him three jams to choose from and he buys one; give him twenty-one to choose from and he buys none. Why? Heaven knows. Humans are weird. The more academic theory goes that the more choice you’re given the easier it is to make the wrong one. You become paralysed, weighed down under all the factors you need to evaluate and price, and refuse to make a choice for fear of stuffing up.
Barry talks about a cartoon of a simple fishbowl containing mama fish and baby fish. Mama fish is saying to baby fish, ‘hon, you can be anything you want!’ It’s funny, because baby fish is a fish, in a simple bowl. And yet, Barry notes, we all need a fishbowl of some size, limits that help us make decisions.
Right now, unemployed, single and without property to my name, I could do anything, go anywhere. (Ok, re-reading that sentence it sounds entirely negative! What I mean is ‘open to new opportunities and entirely mortgage-free’.) It’s overwhelming.
Barry Schwartz, ‘The Paradox Of Choice’ is the story of my life right now. And I need a fishbowl. Preferably one filled with margaritas.