In Chisinau I was on a date with a girl who doesn’t drink. She was going to order tea but I insisted that a toast to our health and happiness was in order. She asked me to order for her so I selected a Riesling. Usually I’d get scotch, but I decided to live dangerously. I ordered a Grand Marnier on the rocks.
We made a toast and took a sip of our drinks. Her face immediately turned sour. “I can’t stand the taste of alcohol,” she said, “but it’s okay, I can drink it.” My GM was very sweet for me, almost like a dessert drink, but I savored the orange flavors and finished it quickly. When I ordered a second round for myself, I urged her to give it a try. “Maybe you’ll like it more than the wine,” I said.
She took a sip and cringed. “That’s awful! How do you drink that?” she asked.
“I’m an alcoholic,” I joked.
She then took a big swallow of her wine, raising her eyebrows as if she was surprised. “My wine tastes a lot better now after I’ve had your drink,” she said.
I wasn’t surprised by her statement. The next logical thing to do was for me to launch into a monologue.
“It’s easy for you to choose which of the two drinks you like best. You didn’t even have to think about it. Now imagine if there were 25 drinks on the table, some of them similar to each other, and some very different, and then I ask you to choose the best.
“You’d taste all 25 to reach your decision, but what would happen is that after the complete tasting, you’d forget the initial drinks you tried. You’d have to taste them again, but the second tasting won’t be perceived by your senses as the same, because your taste has been slightly altered by experiencing the 24 other drinks. What ends up happening is that you can never arrive at an objective favorite. The taste will change with each round and each drink, even though the drink itself, chemically speaking, doesn’t change.”
She looked confused, so I took a step back.
“What I’m saying is one drink affects how you perceive the next drink, which then affects how you will perceive the initial drink if you try to remember it. You will never be able to duplicate a taste, so trying to choose the best becomes very difficult. In life, the more you experience, the harder it is to separate experiences or neatly categorize them. Since experiences constantly affect each other, what happens is they get mixed together, and your mind fails to make meaningful comparisons. It’s hard for humans to compare a lot of things—we’re just not designed to do that.”
“So I shouldn’t experience too much?” she asked.
“No, just understand that too much experience makes it harder to know what you want and what is best for you. The first three countries I’ve been to were Italy, Spain, and Venezuela. If you asked me then which was my favorite, I’d instantly say Spain without having to think about it, just like how you picked the wine over my drink. But now I’ve been to 25 or so countries. Ask me my favorite and I can’t give you a confident answer. I’d be unsure even if you put a gun to my head.
“I keep traveling in order to find the country that fits me best, but the more I keep searching, the harder that decision becomes. In fact, any decision I make today will be one filled with doubt. If I simply picked Spain years ago, when I had little experience, I’d feel less doubt and anxiety than if I picked Poland today, a country that I can confidently say is better than Spain.”
My ramblings started to get out of hand, as I was now speaking for my benefit than to build a connection with her, but I’m glad I worked through it, because it made me realize that out of 25 drinks already on the table, one was sure to go down warm and please my spirit, and that there was little benefit in sampling 25 more.
Read Next: Everything Good That Happens To You Is Bad