summermilk When did milk become so complicated? The other day I counted six different types of it in my fridge.

This is preposterous because there are only five different types of people in my house. Somehow, we have Shape for me, Lite White for my son, Lite Soy for my husband, Full Cream milk for my daughter and expressed breast milk for the baby.

On this particular day, there was also rice milk. I’m unsure how it got there and it remains unclaimed. Looking for something to put in your tea? Approach my fridge with extreme caution. One slip of the hand and you may know more about lactation than any adult should…
When I was little, milk came in bottles. Hi-Lo was the only – impossibly exotic – variation. Life was simpler then. Less choice, more headspace. Now, the explosion of options in every category of grocery item is doing my head in and not just because I am an indecisive Libra.

The supermarket has become a battleground for me. Take me there without blinkers, a detailed list and a strict time limit and I will wander the aisles for hours, dazed and confused. There are just Too Many Things. Like Baked Beans. As if brand and can-size weren’t troublesome enough, I’m now forced into more decisions. Salt-reduced? Ham? Weight Watchers? BBQ? Organic? Sausages? Steak & Bacon? Rich tomato? Cheese Sauce? English Recipe?

I don’t have TIME for this. They’re BAKED BEANS. And I’m trying to have A LIFE. There should just be one type: Heinz. Normal. Medium-sized can. The end.

Bread is worse. It used to just be bread. White. Tip Top. Vogel if you were a bit hippy.

Now the bread aisle stretches 100m and you must consider things you never knew could go in bread like oatbran, pumpkin seeds, iron soy, linseed and Omega-3. Isn’t that fish-oil? Do I really want fish with my bread? Well, yes, maybe I do. All these fancy-pants ingredients make you feel negligent if you choose the bread WITHOUT the fish.

Are you still with me or have you had a panic attack?

I understand. My favourite place in a supermarket to have a panic attack is in front of the feminine hygiene products. Buying them in public always makes me slightly squirmy. I know we’re all adults and I should get over it but I can’t. The squirm factor has been amped up recently because there are now a gazillion different types. Dear Tampon and Pad Companies, I do not feel empowered and liberated by having so many choices. I feel overwhelmed and short of breath. OK?

In simpler times, you could quickly identify what you needed, sweep it into your trolley with barely a reduction in speed, nudge it discreetly under the box of Sultana Bran and keep on trucking down the aisle towards dishwashing detergent.

But now? Now you must stand there conspicuously for 20 minutes weighing up the relative benefits of bizarre words like ‘wings’, ‘aloe’, ‘breathable’, ’flexia’, ‘silk’, ‘barely there’, ‘body fit’ and ‘invisible’ while your fellow shoppers trudge past with knowing smirks. You may as well be wearing a t-shirt saying:

“Hello! I Menstruate And I’m Confused!”.

Recently, columnist Sam de Brito sounded off about his loathing for homewares shops and women’s love of them.

I’m here to tell you Sam, not all women love them. They overwhelm me like supermarkets. I dislike them so much I’m just short of a breaking out in a rash.

Several years ago when I was selling my house, we did that thing where you tart it up for the inspections. In a bid to infuse it with some style I did not have, I asked a Martha Stewartesque friend to come over and give it a jooojsh. “You need some monkey balls in a bowl on this coffee table,” she pronounced. I nodded as if I’d known that all along.  She told me where to find them and the next day I made my Monkey Ball pilgrimage. It was one of those fancy homewares shops that Pru and Trude might work in, the type that makes men want to dash to the nearest hardware store to replenish their testosterone levels.

There’s a word in Yiddish that describes its contents perfectly: chochkes which roughly translates as small, decorative objects you don’t need.

After 20 horrible minutes, this is the message I hissed into my friend’s voicemail: “I’m here looking for monkey balls and, well, what the hell is a monkey ball? I thought I’d recognise one when I saw it but now I’m just having a panic attack. Maybe ‘monkey balls’ is just a euphemism for any kind of small object you can fill a bowl with? In that case I’m stuffed because there are dozens of bowl-stuffers here. Are they these kind of silver things or are those Christmas decorations? What about shells? Can they be monkey balls or do they have to be round? Ceramic? Paper? Oh dear, gotta go, no oxygen, call me!”

The call came too late. I was never going back to that shop. Instead, I filled the bowl with lemons. Lemons are good. They only come in one type.

Do you get overwhelmed by choice? How many types of milk in YOUR fridge right now?



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