I have a hereditary disorder that makes it very difficult for me to make simple purchases. The symptoms fall into one of two classes:

1)  Buy the cheapest possible version of an item and then complain bitterly when it turns out to be cheaply made.

2)  Research the item you need so exhaustively that you never reach a point of purchasing anything at all.

Let us consider the nonrandom example of the birdfeeder.

Last fall I bought a window-mounted birdfeeder with an eye toward entertaining Spike, who is the more active of our two cats. I diligently followed the process outlined in #1 above: I typed “window mounted birdfeeder” into Amazon, sorted by price (lowest to highest, obviously — sorting the other way is solely for gawping at how much some people choose to spend on things), and made my selection. I mounted it to the window with the provided suction cups, put seeds in it and waited months for the birds to realize it was there. 

It did not get as much traffic as I would like — apparently birds do not find it pleasant to eat seeds with Spike periodically slamming into the other side of the glass — and it began to fall apart two weeks ago. I know this will startle you, but a plastic birdfeeder that was delivered directly to my home in one day for $9 did not last long enough to pass along to the next generation. The manufacture of good quality items at an unadjusted price point that would have been pleasing in 1958 is dead in America, I guess. 

I went looking for a pole-mounted feeder, which I had avoided at first because our yard is laden with squirrels and I did not feel like launching a suburban-dad sitcom war against them. And here is where we move from Class I symptoms of my inherited disorder to Class II. I googled “squirrel proof birdfeeders” and swiftly realized that I was never going to be able to make a decision. There are dozens of different options, all of which come with reviews and testimonials that fall, like my symptoms, into two types: 

1)  “This squirrel-proof feeder is the only one that really works! I was skeptical too, but not only has it saved me literally hundreds of dollars, but it has rid my entire county of squirrels and attracted birds normally only seen in Costa Rica. This purchase has literally changed my life for the better in every way. MUST BUY. FIVE STARS.”

2)  “This so-called ‘squirrel-proof’ feeder was entirely destroyed by a squadron of rodents in 45 minutes, and I heard them laughing the whole time. When I called customer support, they laughed at me too and screamed ‘NO REFUNDS!!!!’ I have bought many dozens of birdfeeders over the years and am a retired professor of birdfeederology, so you must listen to me that this so-called ‘squirrel-proof’ feeder is a SCAM. DO NOT PURCHASE.”

Fortunately, I learned not to read community reviews of anything in about 1997. So I asked my colleagues if anyone had pole-mounted birdfeeder recommendations. They produced a dazzling array of expensive options and also a collective hope-dashing that I was going to be able to keep squirrels from eating some percentage of the seeds I had provided. I was annoyed about this until I realized that if the point of the feeder is to entertain the cat, squirrels will get that job done just as well as birds. 

Now I’m leaning into the squirrel-feeding. If you can’t beat ’em, feed ’em, right?

I might have a form of Stockholm Syndrome, but Spike doesn’t seem to mind.