Two Cents

at 11:35 PM

When my wife wants to know which of two outfits looks better, which scarf, which pair of earrings, I become Mr. Rick, fashion consultant. A glance at each applicant is all I need to make my choice. "That one," I confidently reply and go back to shaving. When she wants to know whether to tint her hair this shade or that, I become Monsieur Richard, hair stylist to the stars. "Definitely that," I answer swiftly, and return to trying to brush some whiteness into my teeth.

I would not have you believe that my personal hygiene is of greater concern than my wife's not quite gut wrenching ambivalence. But really, what does it matter what I decide? Someone else might make a different choice. The important thing is that I have made a decision. The reason she was ambivalent was because either choice would have been okay. It's win-win. My wife goes away feeling good, knowing (a) I have shown an interest in how she looks and (b) she made the right choice of two right choices, having chosen both in the first place. Meanwhile, I acquire a very local reputation for decisiveness and watch with amazement as that confidence overflows out of the bathroom and into the rest of my life. Having made decisions for another, I am more able to make them for myself. I wouldn't call it a lesson, just something I have learned. That with most minor problems it is more important to make any decision - and a quick one - than to let them linger. Your mind rarely trumps your gut. Given more time and information, you will be less likely to choose or miss your chance to make a choice at all.

Making decisions is probably right up there with public speaking among things we would rather not do. But we are human doings as well as beings, and my experience as Mr. Rick and Monsieur Richard has given me a positive liking for them. Not that I walk down the street looking for choices into which to gratuitously drop my two cents. I'm just less afraid of making bad ones. At least, most of the time.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.

Richard Friedlander works as a mediator. He lives in the East Bay.