Monday, December 1, 2008

The Furniture Row

Mike and I belong together, this much I know. What is baffling to both of us, and to many of our family members is how we figured out that we belong together without killing each other. The writer and the engineer, the creative and the math-nerd, the seat-of-the-pants flyer and the extensive analyzer.

We somehow managed to get through the first year and a half of our relationship by cracking each other up while enjoying many of the same outdoor activities. I think all of the skiing and hiking and wrestling with my dog and laughing like crazy was enough to keep our minds off of the fact that we are fundamentally and absolutely complete opposites to our cores. We drank a lot, too, so that probably didn’t hurt either.

After that first year or so, he stuck by my side, no questions asked, while I went through the hardest thing that has ever happened to me and the subsequent grief-stricken personality 180 that accompanied it. Strangely, though, even with a personality 180, we still remained opposites, and while I won't attempt to explain how this is possible, I'm sure Mike could provide you with some analysis of the situation if you really need to understand. Anyway, this led to us moving in together two years ago where it quickly became clear that we were going to have to work really hard to overcome our giant personality differences. We have worked at it, and so far no on has gotten hurt, at least not irreparably so. We remained in love and happy and meant for each other. Until this week, after almost two years of living-in-sin bliss we decided to make our first large purchase together.

We need new furniture. In a very bad way. We needed new furniture two years ago, but it kind of got away from us, and so we have spent the last two years attempting to make my ten-year old, first-apartment, American Furniture Warehouse clearance special look clean in lieu of the fact that it has survived Blue's puppyhood along with several out-of-hand red wine nights with the girls back in my old apartment. The dog hair is permanently woven into every inch of the fabric of this couch; no amount of vacuuming or brushing can remove it. The arms of the once-trendy and decorative chair were destroyed during a particularly traumatic time in my cat's life. The once silvery-grey color is now a musty brownish-green, and the pillows are so misshapen that they resemble musty, brownish-green sacks of trash. This is not the furniture for classy grown ups to have in their cute little Park Hill bungalow. This stuff is at the end of its life, and even desperate college students would have put it out of its misery months ago. Off we went on our mission forgetting momentarily how horribly we shop together.

I knew there was trouble when Mike and I first moved in together. I asked him to go grab some dish soap at the store while I wandered in search of mascara. After getting my preferred brand of mascara, and then poking around with some of the fancier lotions that Target has to offer for a few minutes, I went in search of Mike leaving a scented trail of green tea and freesia in my wake. I rounded the corner into the household aisle and stopped short. There was my boyfriend at the end of the aisle reading the labels of two large bottles of dish soap. His forehead was creased in concentration and his lips were moving, reading the words on the back of each bottle. Then he stopped reading and actually started to think. He was thinking about soap. Really hard.

“Hi,” I said, although I was reluctant to break his concentration. He looked up at me, his eyes still glassy from his soap coma. “Come on, just get the one that’s on sale” I grabbed the bottle from his left hand.

“That one is more expensive per ounce,” he informed me, “this one is a better deal, but it could be drying to our hands”

This very important four-dollar decision took about 20 minutes and a couple of math equations. Furniture costs a thousand times that. That is 20 thousand minutes of analysis according to my math. I didn’t think we were going to make it through this. But alas, we did.

Tuesday night we headed into Sofa Mart after I got done swimming at the gym. This is when we discovered that shopping for sofas after a day at work followed by a strenuous workout is very similar to grocery shopping when starving. Every couch I threw myself down upon suddenly became the most comfortable couch I had ever encountered. I was just so happy to be off of my feet. As the only customers in the giant store on a weeknight during a recession, we quickly became the salesman's favorite people in the world. Especially once I began lying down and dramatically stating, "We'll take it" or "Sold" over and over on every single couch with Mike turning narrowed eyes on me each time. I sat on every leather couch in the place, found one that was attractive, fit into our budget, and seemed to me like it would fit into our living room, and told Mike that we should get it. The salesman perked up from his spot on my future recliner and moved to get the paperwork. "We'll sleep on it", Mike said, causing the poor guy to slump back into the chair.

On the way home, Mike explained to me that we still had several stores to check out, many more couches on which to sit, and numerous additional sales people who were all dying to be bothered by us. I was confused. I had done my furniture shopping, had made my decision, and was eagerly awaiting the date of delivery so that my living room would look gorgeous and modern. Mike had other plans entirely.

And these plans involved graph paper and rulers and some advanced schematic design.

He put himself to work, one eye on the Nuggets game, one eye on his project. He measured and drew a to-scale rendering of our living room, and then cut out mini-versions of the furniture I had chosen based on the specs the salesman had given him. He then proceeded to move the little paper cutouts around in circles on the page until he declared that the furniture I had so painstakingly decided on based on amenities such as “brownness” and “proximity to the entrance of the store” would simply not fit in our living room. “Ummm, ok,” I said, eager to be helpful, “we just won’t get the ottoman.”

Mike shook his head and went back to his nerds’ version of paper-dolls while I stared at my laptop pretending to write while trying to think of ways to get out of going to look at more furniture even though I did actually care about what we ended up with. With electronics, it is much easier. I feign stupidity and tell him that he can decide, and I will chip in for whatever he gets as long as I am not forced to go and look at seven-point-three million HD, LCD, flat screen, super-duper, crystal vision, sports-monster televisions. The TV that I bought at the same time I bought the godforsaken furniture was 100 dollars at Target, and it is a Daewoo. I’m not kidding. Daewoo. And guess what. Ten years later, the picture is still great, and we can even play RockBand on it. Who needs a 1500-dollar Samsung?

After four days of shopping in seven furniture stores, three trips to Macy’s, and only one argument, we will have our new furniture in just a couple of weeks. And we even both learned something. I learned that not every single decision can be made on a whim (although I stick to my guns that this method has served me well for my life thus far.) Mike learned that, at some point, it becomes time to simply decide, even if not every single sofa in the 48 contiguous states has had his ass in its seats. And as usual, we both remembered that our differences are what keep our relationship so fun and interesting and stimulating, and yes, sometimes frustrating, but usually in a good way. We love each other and are capable of making large and important decisions together despite our differences, which is a skill that will serve us well in our long, healthy future together.

Speaking of which, what in the hell is taking him so long with that ring?

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