Minnesota Couples: Beware IKEA!

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

You arrive fresh with hope and determination.
But wait: it’s Sunday afternoon. You have finally 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

Together, you will now assemble the furniture.

Linda Morganstein is a personal trainer
and freelance writer who lives in Saint Paul, 5.3 miles from IKEA. Meet her on Saturday, March 22nd, at the Sixth Annual Write of Spring Conference
from 1-2 p.m.

Saturday, March 22, 2008 from 12-4 p.m., Once Upon a Crime Mystery Bookstore, 604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis; 612-870-3785.