Sex. Money. In-laws. To the enduring litany of couples’ dilemmas, I nominate a new entry: IKEA.
IKEA does not discriminate. IKEA’S troubling influence transcends race, religion and sexual orientation, requiring only two people in a relationship. Like all archetypal clashes of domestic life, it’s wicked inevitability starts innocently enough.
Here it is: You and your significant other decide to spend a Sunday alone together relaxing and affirming all that is good between the two of you. Things proceed wonderfully at first. You linger in bed, then spread out the Sunday Star-Tribune in the sun room, with a pot of steaming Dunn Brothers coffee and two chocolate croissants to nourish your bodies and souls.
Then (one of you): “I wish we had a better chair for this room.”
A pause. A silent moment at the precipice when sanity could reign. Oh, yah.
The reply: “We could go to IKEA and get a better one.”
Because we are talking human nature, the rest is inevitable, a slippery slope of denial and desire. You must have a new chair and it must be today.
In no time, you are racing down the highway, clutching your IKEA catalogue, earmarked to the exact chair you will purchase. You begin your doomed avowals:
“We’ll go straight to the chair section and be out in forty-five minutes.”
“No meatballs this time.”
“We will absolutely avoid the kitchen region.”
You arrive fresh with hope and determination. But wait, it’s Sunday afternoon. Not only have you arrived, but so has one-third of the population of the Twin Cities.
The parking lot is a vehicular battle zone. The escalator groans with the weight of the masses, ascending. The air smells of meatballs and the adults around you are emitting a strange vibe of anticipation and dread. Some are fidgeting, like hyperactive children. You can barely look at the actual children, who are hanging precipitously from the escalator. You begin to tremble.
Really, you meant well. But you do not head straight to the chair area. In fact, you must now look at nearly everything. You check out bookcases and entertainment centers and couches and nesting coffee tables. You inspect bizarre dayglo plastic furniture you wouldn’t buy for your nephew’s dorm room. You ponder towel racks and toilet paper holders. Finally, you are in the kitchen region, designing an entirely new kitchen from scratch.
Three hours later, dazed and confused, you go to the chair section and try out twenty-three possibilities before selecting the one you earmarked in your catalogue. You eat the meatballs, with gravy and mashed potatoes, then get some cheesecake for dessert. You snap at each other about who gets the last bite of cheesecake. You understand you are regressing. You realize with horror that you must escape. But families of heavy people have formed blockades in the aisles in front of you, staggering zombie-like and moaning incomprehensibly.
You push past the poor victims of IKEA, and find a cart, then proceed to the furniture pick-up area. Despite the fact that you once again have chosen a listing cart with a bum wheel, you make it to the check-out line, which is longer than one promising a blessing from the Dalai Lama. You snap at each other about which credit card to use. You leave in pretty good shape, however, with only two chairs, a bookcase, a lamp and a kitchen cart with a nifty wine rack. Everything surprisingly heavy and unwieldy.
You race home, too tired to say much. You arrive home.
Is it over? Of course not. It’s just begun.
Together, you will now assemble the furniture.