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Posts from the ‘casa’ Category

stealing shampoo

I use “The Ethicist” column from the NYT as a moral barometer of sorts. It’s nice to check in every Sunday and verify that one is measurably less insane than the people who write into the column. Until, that is, you read a column and disagree with the Ethicist’s response. This happened to me last week, when someone wrote in about whether it was ok to take home the mini shampoo and conditioner bottles from hotel rooms. The Ethicist responded (basically) that those bottles are provided for your use under the condition that you use them inside the hotel room. Yeah, I know. WTF.

Screw the Ethicist. In my mind, not only is it ok to purloin those bottles, you would be a fool to leave them behind. When I get into a hotel room, after checking the bathroom floor for stray hairs, my first order of business is to immediately put all the miniature bottles in my bag, so that the housekeepers will put out new bottles of product at turndown. The next morning, I wash my hair with the Garnier I’ve brought from home, and then put the turndown bottles in my bag, so I can get new bottles when they clean the room. And so on and so forth. And here’s the thing. The housekeepers know I’m doing it. It’s not like they can’t see that the bottles are gone, or that the bottles aren’t in the trash can, which the housekeepers empty. No one’s reporting me. Because, you know what? They expect me to take the bottles. They NEED me to take those bottles.

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primo minis from a recent trip to san diego

I’m going to pause here for a second to address the hotels that have replaced the mini bottles with communal shower dispensers. First of all, nothing says luxury accommodations like communal dispensers. Second, you can stick whatever label you want on the outside of the dispensers, but everyone knows what you’ve got in those dispensers is bottom-of-the-barrel Suave Awapuhi and VO5, which just means that you are dirty, cheap liars. Third, you’re not using dispensers for the environment, you’re using them because you want to save a buck, so stop pretending otherwise.  Communal hotel dispensers make me so mad that sometimes I am tempted to empty them out, in silent protest.  But that would be wasteful and petty.

I just want to be on vacation. I’m already doing my part for the environment at home. I recycle. I compost. I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth. And I grudgingly do my part at hotels. I reuse the stupid towels and sheets even though the main reason I go to a hotel is so I can sleep in crisp sheets that do not smell faintly of my kids’ urine, and luxuriate in the weight of a fresh towel that I can’t afford at home. I turn off all the lights and AC when I leave my room, and do the rest of the hotel’s bidding. So give back the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, ok? Jesus, I feel like crying.

If you think I’m weird, consider that I use those mini bottles for the gym, and travel to places that don’t provide product (e.g. vacation homes). So I have a real use for them. I’m not like my husband, who takes the mini bottles to use at our house, where he has access to regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. For reasons unknown, Tom seems to prefer using products in miniature. Miniature bottles of product are great because they are free, but when you get right down to it, they are kind of a pain to deal with. I mean, they are notoriously difficult to open and squeeze, and once squeezed, they never stay upright, and end up spilling all over your shower. It’s a real problem for me, because as the only space in my house that my kids don’t have access to, my shower is my refuge. I sometimes shower twice in one day, just to escape my kids. Anyway, I like a neat and tidy shower. So it drives me nuts when I have to deal with something like this.

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If you don’t think this is weird, let me just point out for you that the miniature bottles are all l’Occitane bottles that Tom brought home from the Four Seasons in Seattle. That big bottle is filled with the SAME PRODUCT that is in the little bottles. The labels look different but trust me, I know, because years ago Tom demanded that I ask l’Occitane what product they put in their hotel minis. Which I did, like the loving wife that I am. And the shampoo in their hotel minis is essentially the same stuff in that big purple bottle, which he demands that I procure for him at regular intervals, while I lather up with the Garnier. And still, he continues to use the miniatures. Is this not weird? I think it is totally insane. Every time he does this I stand in my shower with the water going cold, staring hard at the bottles, just trying to make sense of it. And I never can.

But whatever. I say nothing, because I want to support Tom’s hotel product benders, which probably save me at least $27 dollars a year in man-tastic beauty products, which I consider less fun to buy than even diapers or dishwasher tablets. As for any lingering qualms I might feel because of the Ethicist’s stupid column, here’s what I have to say to him, who as far as I know, lacks ethical credentials of any kind. He is not licensed in psychology or sociology, or morals. I, however, am a lawyer. As such, I might not know morals, but I damn well know conditional use. Those miniature bottles are mine. I paid for them with my hotel room, and if you want to say they are conditional even though those words appear nowhere on the bottles or on my hotel terms and conditions, go right ahead. But you’re wrong.

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eaten alive by toys

Tom and I recently went to a parent education thing at our kids’ school. Actually it was six hours over a Friday night and Saturday morning, so you know it must have been killer when I say it was worth my entire weekend. The Silent Journey, as it is called, is basically an opportunity to experience the work and materials that our kids experience in their Montessori classrooms, and to see it all from their perspective.

Throughout the experience, we filled out answers to questions designed to make us think more deeply about what we were observing. One of the questions was something along the lines of “How does this classroom differ from your child’s environment at home?” Something like that. I don’t remember the exact words, because as soon as I read the question, I started feeling hysterical laughter bubble up inside me, and had to concentrate on not erupting in a maniacal bray.

Here’s my kid’s school environment.

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photo by an vu

Here’s my kid’s home environment.

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Asking me to compare Finn’s home and school environments is like asking me to describe the ways in which an orange is similar to a monkey. There is no common ground. Actually, given that oranges and monkeys (Orangutans?) are both orange-colored, that’s probably a weak analogy. But I digress. Because here’s the sad truth: my kids’ environment at home, unlike their environment at school, is one never-ending mess that needs to be cleaned up. I don’t even mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally. From the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, I am cleaning. Because, if I don’t, I will be eaten alive by my kids’ stuff.

They are children. As such, their primary joy in life is to take shit out of shit, and explode it all over the place. I have two kids, so if I’m cleaning something up with one kid, the other is in the next room opening up the Candyland and throwing all the cards in the air like that scene from Scarface where Al Pacino throws all his $100 bills after snorting a line of coke. I don’t know if that’s really a scene from Scarface, but if it isn’t, it definitely should be.  By the way, what the hell is with all the throwing?  Today I watched from the kitchen sink as my three-year old calmly filled a glass with water, walked out onto the back deck to drink it, and then hurled the glass off the deck when he was done.  He grinned from ear to ear when it shattered into pieces.  They like the cause and effect, I guess.  I’m going to go with that, because the alternative is just too scary.

Anyway, in the three hours it takes you to sort the 17,000 Lego pieces from the 12,000 Playmobil pieces, you really start to question life. Like, why do I even allow them to have toys? Sometimes I fantasize about burning everything in a bonfire and putting a gun rack on the wall with three Nerf guns on it. Simple. Minimalist. Like a Donald Judd. Nerf guns are all they want anyway.

So why not tell them to clean up, right? I do. But here’s the thing: my kids are really shitty cleaners. Like, SUPER not thorough. I mean, I have no doubt that they’re putting a spit and shine on the stuff they clean at school, but when they get home, it’s not happening. Here is my all-time favorite photo of Finn, from when he was four. I had asked him to clean his room. After a sulky 2.5 minutes, Finn proclaimed that he was done.

Look at his eyes. He clearly knows it’s not cutting the mustard. At this point it’s like a big game of chicken. He knows it’s a half-assed job at best. And I know he knows it. But do I really want to engage in another round of verbal sparring with someone who can barely conjugate verbs? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll just save my breath and get back on my hands and knees and start separating the Jenga pieces from the Lincoln Logs.

the Costco effect

I have a complicated relationship with Costco.  When I was young, my brother and I would spend Saturdays there with my parents, shopping for food and cigarettes for the smoke shop that my parents owned inside a tall office building called the Pacwest Center.  A smoke shop is a convenience store that sells food and cigarettes and lottery tickets.  A lot of smoke shops are owned by Koreans.  We spent every weekend unloading inventory on the loading dock where the trash bins are kept, and I spent a lot of hours working the cash register and selling Snapples to lawyers and architects who often looked down their nose at my family and talked really sloooowly to us while buying their Powerball tickets.  Two years after my dad died, the property managers decided they wanted a change, and kicked my mom out of the store to which she’d given more than ten years of her life.  That’s a real immigrant story.  I became a lawyer so I’d never have to feel that powerless again.

Anyway, spending time in Costco reminds me of those years of my parents’ backbreaking labor, which put me through four years of an Ivy League education.  In case it is not evident, I feel a debt to my parents that I know I can never repay.  The point of all this history is to explain why I don’t enjoy shopping at Costco, when I am capable of enjoying shopping almost anywhere else, including GNC and Hot Topic.

Personal stuff aside, I also don’t enjoy shopping at Costco because it has been my experience that it is not possible to leave that store without spending at least $300.  I’ve tried it, and failed, repeatedly.  Eventually I cut myself off completely, and didn’t step into a Costco for years.  But recently, my family’s vast consumption of fruit got me thinking about Costco again.  And when my friend Suzanne told me that she treats Costco like her grocery store, and can get out of there on her weekly visits without paying more than $100, I decided it was time for a reappraisal.

I’ve gone twice since I got a new Costco card.  And here’s my reappraisal, with all due respect to my dear Suzanne: it is still not possible to get out of a Costco for less than $300.  It was exactly as I remembered.  Now, as then, Costco makes me do some crazy ass sh*t.  Like this:

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I eat garbonzo beans like ten beans at a time.  At that rate, I will get through this bounty in approximately four years, during which time these cans will take up a lot of valuable pantry space.  I like garbonzo beans.  I do.  But liking has nothing to do with it.  When I see a flat of eight cans of garbonzo beans being sold for less than $6.00, I feel that it would be morally wrong not to buy them.  I feel this emotion often at Costco.  I call it the “Costco Effect.”  When other people see things being sold for extremely low prices, they think: bargain.  When I see things being sold for extremely low prices, I feel the extreme guilt associated with stealing.  I mean, how is it possible to pick, process, and can eight cans of garbonzo beans and sell them for $6.00, and still make a profit?  It can’t be.  And though it is completely irrational, the only way to assuage my feelings of guilt is to buy the product, and lots of it.  It’s how I play my part in a completely messed-up capitalist society.  My role is to buy.  And so I do.

At Costco prices, you just keep loading up your cart, because everything seems so damn cheap.  And everything they sell is so damn good.  The insidious thing about Costco, of course, is that it doesn’t take that many items at $12 or $15 each to add up to $300.  There are few shopping experiences worse than the feeling you get at Costco when all your items are on the conveyer belt and the cashier is scanning all your items, and as you watch the tally, you feel the urgent need to start removing things from the conveyer belt.  When I was younger, I was too self-conscious to do anything about it, but now I have a mortgage to think about.  So this time around I pulled off a whole fillet of salmon, a flat of Vitamin Water, and Tom’s Fusion razorblades.

It’s sad, but if something’s gotta give at Costco, it’s usually gonna be Tom’s stuff.  Especially if the item is a package of razor blades that costs $45.  You can buy 50 cans of garbonzo beans for $45.  That’s a whole lot of hummus.  While I’m on the subject, what is the deal with Gillette razor blades?  Unless each of the five blades on each cartridge is hand-sharpened by some blacksmith in some forge in Scotland, I fail to see how Gillette razor blades can cost as much as they do.  You can get a KNIFE for $45.  Like, a Wusthof.  I just don’t get it.  Which is why, until Tom can justify the expenditure, he can enjoy some Bic disposables.

Anyway, Costco.  For cheap.  I say it can’t be done.  If you think it can, please share your tips, for the benefit of all.

sleeping with the enemy

I enjoy being home without Tom, for short periods of time.  I have behavior that I save for Tom’s trips, like the cleaning out of my food cupboards (by mouth), and the voracious reading of the romance novels that Tom loves to ruin when he’s here, by snatching them from my hands and reading aloud the choicest bits in a pirate voice.  It really interferes with the fantasy when he does that.

The thing I enjoy most about Tom’s absences is that I don’t have to share our bed with him.  I read an article long ago about how sleeping in separate beds can improve a marriage, because most people experience more restful sleep when sleeping alone.  I remember reading the article and feeling a frisson of recognition and the thrill of possibility, but I tamped it down because the idea seemed unworkable—mostly because I couldn’t afford two beds at the time.  Aside from the practical aspects, the idea of getting married only to sleep apart seemed absurd.  In some sense, I got married in order to obtain the comfort that comes only when you’ve locked down a warm slab of human who is obligated to sleep next to you.

My issues with sleeping with Tom are myriad. For starters, Tom seemingly lacks the bodily mechanism that regulates your body temperature during sleep.  Which is to say that immediately upon falling asleep, Tom turns into a wood-burning pizza oven.  If only he produced wood-fired pizza to go along with all that heat.  I imagine some of the heat is a result of the fact that he insists on wearing tube socks to bed, no matter how warm the night, or how little other clothing he might be wearing.  By the way, nothing says romance like tube socks.

If I’m not sweltering in his man heat, I’m freezing, due to the TJ Frankfurter.  This isn’t that kind of blog post, and “TJ Frankfurter” is not a euphemism.  Instead, it’s Tom’s signature move, where he tucks one edge of the duvet under him and then progressively rolls the duvet towards his side of the bed until he is rolled inside the entire down comforter like a wiener dog.  His head sticks out one end and his tube socks stick out the other.  I am left to fend for myself with whatever part of the flat sheet hasn’t gotten sucked into the TJ Frankfurter, and a spleen full of bitterness and resentment.

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It’s easy to get bitter and resentful in your sleep when you have no blankets AND no pillows on which to rest your head.  Our bed starts out with four pillows: two on his side, and two on mine.  Each night, Tom wages some epic battle in his sleep where he is the hero, I am the enemy, and our pillows are the booty that must be wrested from my evil grasp.  Apparently I am much weaker in sleep than when awake, because I lose the battle every single time.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I woke up and Tom was luxuriating on all four pillows, but the worst part is that after stealing my pillows, he throws them on the floor on his side of the bed.  I give and give, and for what?

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If Tom could ring in, which he can’t, because this is my blog, I’m sure he’d say I’m no peach to sleep with either.  My extremities get notoriously cold and the most gratifying part of my day is the high-pitched screeching that ensues when I stick my ice-cold feet on Tom as I climb into bed.  He also thinks the soles of my feet are scratchy, but frankly, I think he’s overplaying his hand when he complains that my heels feel like daggers.  The coarsest of sandpapers, perhaps.  But daggers?  Come on.

Anyway, it’s nice when he’s away.  Right until I wake up, and reach for that hot bundle of TJ Frankfurter, and find cool blankets instead.  Then I miss Tom, and wish he was home.

*Thanks to Finn for filling in for Tom in these photos while Dad’s away.

remember the Gateway

At a car dealership last night, I wanted to buy a new car and the salesperson was making it really hard to say no. Luckily, Tom was there, doing his best “tough guy.” As the price dropped lower and lower, Tom leaned back in his chair, folded his arms across his chest, and played hardball, both with the salesperson and me. To the salesperson: “We aren’t looking to buy right now.” To me: “Yoona–remember the Gateway.”

Whenever I want to buy anything on an impulse, Tom brings up the stupid Gateway computer I bought 12 years ago. Recent transplants from NYC, we had just rented an apartment and were keeping our purchases modest. But eventually all things come to an end, and so it was with my frugality. I can be disciplined, financially, for periods of time. But inevitably, I crack. The severity of the cracking is directly proportional to the length of time that I have deprived myself. And so it was that one evening, after months of penny-pinching, we walked past a Gateway store, and I decided I had to have a computer, that very night.

Boy, was it a beaut. The monitor itself was probably three feet square. It had a 40 GB hard drive and less memory than my current digital camera, but back then, it was top of the line. Everything I would need for gaming, said the Gateway rep. I nodded my head in silent agreement. I didn’t game, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want the option of becoming a gamer. Same with the speakers. Back then, I didn’t know how to play music on a computer, but it seemed silly not to have the subwoofer, when all was said and done. With all the necessary embellishments, it cost something like $3400, which is the current price, I believe, of an entry-level Kia. But being newlyweds, Tom was still eager to please me, and also eager not to be single in a town in which he knew no one. And so he nodded his acquiescence, even though his eyes were troubled. As for the computer, it was probably obsolete by the time we drove it home.

I shouldn’t have bought the Gateway, but that doesn’t mean I should have to hear about it for the rest of my life. I remember the damn Gateway. I could hardly forget it, as it’s currently sitting in my basement in a huge cow box because it weighs 7000 pounds and is too heavy to dispose of. I shouldn’t have to hear Tom’s voice in my head when I stand at a Starbucks counter waffling between a grande and a venti, reminding me to “remember the Gateway.” Enough already.

downers: composting

Six months ago, as part of its ongoing bid to secede from the United States and get annexed by Scandinavia, Portland instituted mandatory composting. The city provided every house with a cute 3-gallon composting bucket, and began picking up garbage bi-weekly, instead of every week. The second move was a brilliant piece of brinkmanship, as it forced recalcitrant families to compost into their yard bin, in order to save their now-precious garbage space for primo trash, like diapers.

Compost bucket

composting as nature intended: full of healthy juicing scraps. bin and photo, Grant Us the Luxury

As with other nature-related things (e.g. camping, the ocean, birds), I love the idea of composting more than I love the reality of composting. I mean, I support the idea of reducing waste–if you can’t get behind that, that’s weird–but the reality of composting has added a layer of stress to my already stressed-out existence. And sometimes, it’s not even just stress that’s added, but abject fear, and horror. And those are emotions I shouldn’t have to deal with in performing a household chore, unless I’m cleaning my boys’ toilet.

Why the fuss? If you don’t compost, let me lay some groundwork for you. The cute little 3-gallon pail sits on your kitchen counter, and you fill it with table scraps. Any kind of food scraps, including meat and fish bones. Once that bucket fills up, you transport it outside, and dump it into the curbside yard waste bin, which gets picked up every week. The first issue is that table scraps–especially when mixed with other table scraps–are gross. While it may not be ecologically sound, the beauty of putting table scraps down the disposal is that once they are disposed of, you don’t have to look at them again. With composting, you are confronted with what you had for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, over and over again, every time you open up that pail to put more scraps in.

So why not just empty the pail more frequently? Because emptying it more frequently would mean more frequent trips to the curbside bin. And what lies in wait inside that green bin, simply put, is some scary-ass shit.

Not even the fecund mind of Stephen King could do justice to that green bin and its contents, but I have to take a stab. The bin gets food waste dumped into it every day. For a full week, the food waste sits there and does what food waste does, which is to rot and attract wildlife–and I’m not talking about puppies and kittens. I’m talking about the kind of animals that are more properly characterized as vermin. In the winter, it’s not so bad, because the food just rots in the cold. But now that we’re getting into summer, the things happening inside that bin are downright primeval.

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Unfortunately, as it turns out, you can’t transfer scraps to the bin without opening the bin. There’s a lot to deal with once that lid is open, so it helps to have a game plan. Here’s mine. First, stop breathing. The noxious odors and gasses coming from the inside of that bin are most certainly poisonous if inhaled. Best to close your eyes too, because the one time I opened them I swear I saw movement inside, and that movement may have been maggots. As a child, I was scared of two things: nuclear war and maggots. So it’s a real thing for me. Third, close your mouth. You have to open the bin with your mouth closed, or you may accidentally ingest one of the 100 flies that will fly into your face. Fourth, and this is the important one–for God’s sake make sure it’s light out. At night I get so jittery and panicked that I might encounter a rat, that I have missed the bin entirely when dumping out the contents of the pail. It makes me sad when Tom has to pick spaghetti and meatballs off the driveway on his hands and knees, in the dark. Especially because there may be rats out there.

I suppose there’s a chance that time will take the edge off of the composting. But it’s been six months, and it’s still scary.  I get the value of composting, like I get the value of carrots, and math. And being forced to compost has made me a lot more mindful about not cooking excess food–which may, ultimately, be the real benefit of composting.  So I’ll continue to compost.

But no one, not even the City of Portland, can force me to like it.

downers: Saran Wrap

The hardest thing about this blog is not giving into the temptation to use it as a platform to rant about all of life’s minor annoyances. But everyone has their limits. And I reached mine with Saran Wrap, the plastic cling wrap that does not cling.

I’m not going to write an essay about it. Let me just say that this product is intended for one purpose: to cling to plates and create an airtight seal so that your food is preserved. It’s not like I’m using a product for something for which it is not intended–like the tennis ball I throw in the dryer to keep my sheets from balling up. Hey, if that tennis ball lights my dryer on fire, I get that I probably don’t have a great product liability claim against Wilson.

is this a joke?

But Saran Wrap: you anger me. Because you do not cling, tightly or otherwise, to glass or ceramic, the materials that constitute 99% of all dishware. I mentioned how much I hate Saran Wrap to my friend Josh and he told me that his trick with the stuff is to wrap the entire plate with it. If you manufacture a cling wrap that requires you to wrap the entire plate to create a seal, or requires a “trick” to get it to work properly, I submit that you (SC Johnson) are in the wrong business.

the ross method

So I’m calling you out, Saran Wrap, and imploring my readership not to make the mistake I make every six months. Which is this: to stand in front of the plastic wrap section of the supermarket, trying desperately to remember which brand it is that does not cling, and then to choose Saran Wrap, because you think “hmm, the stuff is generically called Saran Wrap, so that must be the one that works.”  It’s not, it’s not.

black thumb

My mom believes that indoor plants are good for a home because they purify the air.  Her house is virtually a terranium full of lush, living things.  She wants me to breathe pure air, so she keeps giving me plants, and I keep taking them and killing them in due course.

When she offers me plants, I should say no, but I never do.  First, I’m Korean, so I’m programmed to avoid saying no to my mom whenever possible.  Second, I usually think that despite the dead plants littering my past, I might have better luck with the next one.  Third, my mom always assures me that the plants she gifts require minimal care.  I think her definition of minimal care is to water once a week.  My definition of minimal care is less co-dependent, and is based on the assumption that the plant should be able to fend for itself, as nature intended, without relying on the assistance of others.

I currently have three plants in my house in different stages of distress.  Actually, one of them no longer feels distress, because it is dead.  But I believe the other two are still alive.  The first one, commonly known as a Christmas Cactus, lives on my third floor in indirect sunlight.  My mom has the plant that this plant was cut from, and the mother plant blooms bright pink flowers every December.  My plant has never bloomed, on Christmas or otherwise.  But I try not to hold it against the plant, since I only remember to water it once every two months.

The second plant is the newest addition to our home.  It looks pretty green and its leaves are relatively shiny, but I’ve also only had it for eight weeks.  In his Montessori classroom, my toddler and his classmates learn how to care for their plants by wiping the leaves clean.  At home, Tate practices on this plant.  You can see the scars from his tender loving care.  Tate also likes to say hello to the plant by karate-chopping the leaves.  I fear for the plant’s continued health.

Lastly, my air plant.  I’d been coveting one when my friend Monica gave me one as a gift.  I can’t be 100% certain that it’s dead, because even when it was alive, it didn’t look very alive.  But I do recollect that it looked more green than it currently does.  In my defense, it took me by surprise that in spite of its name, an air plant requires more than just air: you have to spray it periodically with water.  If I can’t be bothered to water a plant with a cup, chances are slim that I’m going to be spritzing it with a water bottle on a regular basis.  As it turns out, the chances of that happening are actually zero.

teeming with life

I recently submerged the air plant in water in an attempt to shock it back to life, but so far, there’s been no discernable change.  I’ll keep you posted.

IKEA-fied

I’m a big fan of IKEA.  I think their products improve my life and are a good value to boot.  As a parent, I often wonder how people furnished their kids’ rooms before IKEA, especially when I see the prices at stores like Serena & Lily.  Half of my adult furniture is also IKEA, because my kids ruin my furniture, and I feel better about them destroying a $600 couch than a $4000 one.

All that aside, if I get divorced one day, I’m fairly certain IKEA will be a contributing factor in my marriage’s collapse.  IKEA furniture generally requires that it be assembled at home, by you.  And there is nothing more unhealthy to a relationship than the joint assembling of furniture.  In my house, the experience of shopping at IKEA is a gloomy one, because Tom and I know that no matter how awesome we feel about our purchases in the store, something terrible is going to go down during the assembly process back home.

I’ve thought a lot about why the process of building IKEA furniture is so unpleasant for us.  And I think it comes down to the combo of two factors: my micro-managing tendencies, paired with Tom’s apparent belief that the ability to assemble furniture is a part of his manly essence.  It’s a perfect storm, where tempers collide and egos are left in shreds.

tom and finn, building together in 2009

The assembly process begins with the frenzied opening of boxes, during which some integral piece will go flying across the floor and down our heating register.  The haste is due to the fact we never return from IKEA before 4:00 PM.  It doesn’t matter if we start out at 10:00 AM, or 3:30 PM–we will not get home before 4:00 PM.  It’s one of the unsolved mysteries of shopping at IKEA, along with why the wheels on the shopping carts refuse to direct your cart in a straight line.  But I digress–we’re ripping open the boxes because it’s 4:00 PM and we want to get the thing built before dinner, which adds another level of stress to a situation already fraught with tension.

After the initial splaying out of the box contents, we will inevitably come to the moment during the first 15 minutes of assembly where Tom will throw his IKEA wrench on the floor and state with utter conviction that the item we have purchased is defective and/or missing parts.  Usually the part in question is either taped to the inside of one of the particle boards, or Tom is sitting on it.  It’s best to ignore this initial tantrum, which is merely an amuse-bouche for what’s to come.

Assembly will continue apace for another half hour or so before we get to the point in the pictogram instructions where we can no longer figure out what IKEA is trying to tell us.  IKEA’s pictograms were presumably designed to strip the instructions down to their barest elements and to make things as simple as possible for the builder, by removing all words from the process.  But words are not a bad thing, especially when you are confronted with a pictogram like this:

I mean, what the hell is this telling me?  For starters, you will note that in the first picture, there are slats on the bed.  Then: no slats.  What happened to the GD slats????  After struggling for an hour to get to this point, a pictogram like this can be rage-inducing in the extreme.

We will muddle through, until somehow, we make it to the last page of the instructions.  And this is when it happens: the OMFG Moment (“OMFGM”).  The point at which it becomes apparent that one of the pieces from early on in the sequence has been put on backwards or upside down, so that everything needs to be taken apart and put back together again.  The beauty of the OMFGM is twofold.  One, IKEA doesn’t play around with its screws–those suckers are meant to be screwed in exactly one time.  Try re-screwing an IKEA screw after you’ve already screwed it in once.  Fun!  Due to those screws, during reassembly, you’ll have the demoralizing sensation that you are putting together a Frankenstein, something that will inevitably fall apart as soon as it is complete.

The second thing about the OMFGM is that, about an hour prior, I will usually already have hinted to Tom that the incorrectly assembled piece is on backwards, or upside down.  We built the bed in the pictogram above for Finn last week, and about 30 minutes in, I suggested to Tom that the headboard was on backwards, and he informed me, with withering disdain, that the unpainted side of the headboard was meant to face out.  Even though this made zero sense to me, I didn’t press him, because it has been my experience that it is kinder to tell a guy that he has a small penis than to suggest that he is improperly assembling something from IKEA.

Of course, an hour later, as we finished up the bed by trying to insert the mid-beam into holes that were MIA, we discovered that the headboard was, in fact, on backwards.  I consider it a measure of my personal growth in recent years that I helped Tom take the entire bed apart and reassemble it without once saying “I told you so,” even though I had to bite my tongue so hard that it almost bled.  And it’s a measure of Tom’s personal growth in recent years that once the bed was finished, he looked at me and said “I’m sorry, you were right.”  If this incident had happened five years ago, one of us would have slept on the couch for three days.

This week, we bought and built a sofa and coffee table, sans drama.  Never mind that the only assembly the sofa required was the insertion of the legs–it’s a thing of beauty when your IKEA assembly works as it should.  The thing is built, it looks ok, and when I sit on it gingerly for the first time with my quads bearing my weight, it doesn’t collapse.  Great success!  When things end this way, I am so elated that I don’t even mind the four leftover screws laying on the floor and Tom’s scary assurance that “all the necessary parts are in.”  In that way, building IKEA furniture is a little like giving birth.  The end product is worth it, and you forget all the trauma you went through to get there.

karlstad sofa ($599), stockholm coffee table ($199).  both, IKEA