The Ikea Relationship Test
Like any good broke millennial, I own a little of this and a little of that from Ikea. My collection contains, either second-handed (yeah, secondhand IKEA...) or purposefully bought, a few tables, a dresser, a wheeled cart that holds my plants and candles, and a kitchen countertop cart. Compared to the amount of furniture I do have (a lot for such a small apartment, I confess), surprisingly little is from Ikea.
My boyfriend David has his whole bedroom mostly outfitted by Ikea. He's into that hospital room style of creepy minimalism... which is only partially why I don't mind that we spend most of our time together at my place. Anyway, he decided recently that there were still a few pieces of stark white, character-less furniture missing, and so that's how we ended up spending Saturday morning (on our official three-months-together weekend) together at Ikea. (Thanks (or not) to the New York City parking gods, it was impossible to leave my car anywhere near his apartment, so I had to circle the block while he lugged the gear up and left it for later, and no assembly occurred that day.)
That's right, friends. We dove head-first into the Ikea Relationship Test. Of course, I had to make things as scary as possible by Googling the above phrase two days before we went and reading articles like that one and this one. (It started as a joke. I didn't think I'd actually come up with information that would leave me shaking in my flip-flops.)
You guys know I'm a planner. Him, not as much. He's a strategizer, though: he did remind me before our Ikea adventure that we planned out our first few dates via multiple email exchanges with several options for weather-corresponding activity ideas. Last week, I was all "Let's just look online and see what you want so we can go straight to the marketplace and go." He was all "No, it'll be fine, let's take a peruse through the showroom and we'll be in and out." So I was all "That has literally never happened in the history of Ikea." In the end I conceded, because I'm trying to not be the most annoying person on earth 100 percent of the time.
Here exactly is how Ikea tests your relationship: It combines obstacles no one likes to deal with in the first place, places them all under florescent lighting, and slaps them into a space that is meant to make you feel like you're literally trapped and walking in circles.
1. You have to deal with your own financial or home-related shortcomings, because every single display of everything from the cozy living room down to the perfectly-arranged bathroom shelving unit makes your home, in comparison, feel unfit for human occupancy because you don't have enough potted plants, perfectly-tossed throw blankets and pillows, or candle clusters on the right mirrored plates. Why you even bother, you don't know.
2. You have to deal with either clumsily carrying around breakable objects in your arms or in the free-for-all that is the yellow bag, because you didn't remember to grab a cart on your way in because you thought you were going to be in and out. All the while, you have to grab the corresponding cards or take photos of the items you'll need to retrieve in the warehouse, which is a recipe for accidental topples and spills. Conversely, you did remember to get a cart, and now you're trying to navigate it around the packed store without ramming it into tiny humans who appear to be both completely unsupervised and devoid of any education in manners or decent public behavior. Which brings me to...
3. You have to deal with other people. I shouldn't need to elaborate, but for non-curmudgeons who don't understand this frustration, I will. Ahem. Most people are totally unaware of their surroundings, the amount of space they take up, the station and mobility of others and objects around them, and the assault on senses they commit when screeching across the store about whether the Kallax or Expedit will be the better fit for the alcove in the hallway. Honestly, slow-walkers and spatially-unaware people wielding giant, overflowing bags of breakables or carts with (at best) three out of four functioning wheels make EVERYTHING more challenging.
Throw them all together, add in your hangriness because an Ikea excursion is never less than fourteen hours long, and it's a miracle any of us have ever made it out of that place alive.
I had mixed expectations. On the one hand, David and I went into the grocery store a few weeks ago and were in and out in less than 10 minutes. We barely spoke to each other—which is my preference when grocery shopping—and he did not slow me down one bit. No complaints about my speed, no questions about my choices, no comments other than a helpful assist in selecting the check-out line. Oh, it gave me such hope.
But on the other hand, I was nervous about how unconcerned he seemed to be about the whole thing. "We'll be fine," he was certain. "Let's just go and see what jumps out at us," he suggested. Sure, a lovely strategy...for amateurs. And then—oh, and then!—t'was the morning of our adventure when we realized we had completely different ideas about the location of our adventure. There are two Ikeas in driving distance, and we were each thinking we'd visit a different one, and didn't realize this until minutes before we walked out the door. Surprises and unexpected relocations on Ikea day are never a good idea.
But, even despite these obstacles AND my guy's refusal to eat breakfast, ignoring my warnings about the being hangry within an hour, survive Ikea we did, and the relationship did as well. I even managed to get something not-stark-white into the cart! I will proudly take credit for the two fake plants and two red candles that now reside in my guy's apartment, if only for the fact that they're proof that we made it through a day at Ikea without inflicting bodily harm on one another.
That last point is especially a cause for celebration when you learn that you're dating a man with a propensity to turn into Ikea Obstacle #3 when given the chance.