07/15/2011 01:28 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2011

A Short-Lived Tyranny (of Choice)

"A college campus is habitat of abundance and access, with a fluid and fairly ruthless vetting apparatus. A city also has abundance and access, especially for the young..." - Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker

In the sweltering New York City heat, the sunglasses on my face not only shield me from the sun's rays, but cause perspiration to drip down the bridge of my nose. Sure, roughing it and squinting is an option, but then I would miss the constant string of beauties parading across my sight-line down 3rd Avenue, and they would surely see my gawking eyes with polarized lenses abdicated.

Life is a smorgasbord and we are all part of the buffet. Being in college, or subsequently flying the coop upon graduation, liberation prompts recklessness, a throwing of caution to the window. Abundance. Access. Bars open 'til the wee hours, eager to serve any given day, with patrons eager to down Patron or the various $12 wares affronted them. With this abundance and access, it should be easy to find someone, shouldn't it? Maybe so, but because of the inherent flaw in this method -- how easily reproducible it can be, how easy it is to find this one, the next one, the one after that -- we fall victim to the "tyranny of choice." That is, the idea that with an abundance of options, it is more difficult to make a selection. So we wait, biding our time, or dragging our feet, or we temporarily settle until we can trade in the old model for the next best thing, ad nauseam until each encounter is just a cursory precursor to the next, each person a stepping stone to the top of a mountain that never peaks.

Is it absurd to think this is true? It happens all the time in business. The ladder of success stands so tall and even those who reach the stop strive to ascend further. Wealthy traders don't need the money from insider trading, but they fall prey to the human condition of greed, knowing more is out there, knowing they want to take it. Won't how we work carry to how we play? Especially while we are young and the pangs of regret are merely mosquitoes we can swat at before they bite?

The most important question for those who were raised thinking there is someone for everyone and that marriage or long-term happiness in a relationship is the noble conclusion to adolescence and commencement of adulthood is: Can this be combated? Or, in counterargument, does it need to be?

Are we designed to be monogamous, faithful, unwavering? Or are we temporal, polyamorous, ephemeral -- is it simply our nature to Tweet pictures of our Weiner even though we may be married, or blind side even our super hot actress wife with infidelity like some kind of outlaw Jesse James? Unfortunately, I can't come up with the answer easily and say that fairy tale romances are out there for everyone, and that they all end in happily ever after. The current college lifestyle of frequent and inconsequential hookups does little to support the cause, but our trials and tribulations are far from over, and maybe when they are we will wind up happy and committed on the other side.

When I look through my darkened lenses at the girl in the sundress walking by, I wonder who she is, what she does, and if we could work out together; and for that moment I think a traditional relationship is possible, until I see the next girl and the same thoughts begin again, taking a grip over my self-conscience, frightening me into believing I can never be satisfied.

Maybe I'll grow out of it. Or maybe I just need to move out to the country ...

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.