About that deep, torturing guilt at having done something wrong

There is buyer’s remorse and buyer’s fury.  The other day I bought another little bottle of Manzanilla Sofia, eye drops for my dry eyes, a condition many of us older people seem to be experiencing of late.  The tiny container was neatly packed in a pretty little lime-colored box with daisies on it. The box contained a folded piece of paper (also with daisies), explaining all the things the eye drops can do.  So far, so good.

I then tried to open the small vial of restorative eye drops. The top wouldn’t turn, at least not for my fingers. That was odd. I had bought the product before with no problem.  I examined it carefully. No instructions like how to squeeze it or cut the top like one does a wine bottle.  I finally went to bed, dry-eyed and wondering why they were making products not only difficult for a child to open but impossible for those of us who need them.  I thought about the plastic bottle of miel de tapa that took me three days to wrench off its top, and the glass bottle of chunky salt with the handy grinder top that sits on my pantry shelf in fear of my dashing it to the floor.

For some reason that made me think of the phrase, “Buyer’s remorse.”  It is foolish to have buyer’s remorse about a small thing like eye drops, buyer’s fury, perhaps and a desire to stomp on the damn thing you are trying to open, but remorse is something else.  It is not just regretting having bought the wrong thing.

According to my trusty dictionary, at the bottom of remorse is a “deep, torturing guilt about having done something wrong.”

Buyer’s remorse is a pretty common occurrence when you move to a new country. I have been a first-time buyer of a number of new and used things since I moved to Costa Rica.  When you rent an unfurnished apartment here, it really is unfurnished. The kitchen is as bare as are the empty living room and bedroom. If you are new to a country, you probably don’t even know where the furniture stores are, and if you are trying to furnish a kitchen with a stove and refrigerator, what brands are considered trustworthy?  There are many opportunities to experience buyer’s remorse.

The most familiar is house buyer’s remorse.  “Do I really need five bathrooms and a swimming pool just because my last house had only one bathroom?  I’ll go broke buying toilet paper!”

There is trip remorse:  “Why did I choose to visit this country where I can’t understand the people and I don’t like the food?”  And expat remorse:  “Why did I choose to live in this country where I can’t understand the people and I still don’t like the food?”

Bride’s remorse?  “What have I done?  I’m supposed to be looking for a super sperm donor.  I don’t want bald children!” And there must be plenty of bridegroom remorse, too.  “What have I got myself into?  I am supposed to be spreading my sperm around.  I’m not wired to be monogamous!”  (I think I am getting carried away into Woody Allen territory.)

One thing I enjoy and seldom regret buying are books. I don’t remember ever having had buyer’s remorse with books, except one or two expensive textbooks that seemed pretty useless.  I do regret ordering the sequel of the Kindle edition of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” finding it impossible to finish the first.

But usually there is little to regret about buying a book.  For the price of a book you can experience what it is like to visit another country or even live in one or learn about the life of a real live person whom you’d never have the opportunity to meet.  You can be scared out of your wits, held in suspense, or laugh yourself silly just reading a book.  Or even learn how to operate something you’ve just bought.  With that thought, I opened my dry eyes and turned on the light.  The pretty little mini pamphlet that came with it had no instructions on how to open that little dispenser.

I wonder if buyer’s remorse is just another form of culture shock, and buyer’s fury is another side effect of entering what Jane Fonda smilingly calls the “third act of life.”

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