For the couple who wishes to hasten the pace of their hostilities toward the inevitable climax of divorce, there is no better destination than IKEA.
IKEA is many things to many people. It’s an inescapable maze filled with cheerless retail captives. It’s a seemingly harmless way to fill the void with shopping and meatballs. It’s a source of cheap dorm room furniture that will never survive the move to your first real apartment.
But most importantly, it is an altar upon which couples may lay their marriage to determine whether it is fit to continue. IKEA is like Anubis’ scales in the afterlife, weighing your hearts against the feather of truth to see if you will exit this strange temple together with a new sofa, or separately with a set of new silverware in one hand and some first-Tinder-date-enhancing tea lights in the other.
No one knows how IKEA came to wield this dread power, but everyone understands it instinctively as they walk through its mystifying tableaux of a cheerful and orderly life that you cannot seem to build, no matter how many umlauts you buy and assemble. Everyone has felt the existential dread of rounding the corner and finding the very same futon you’ve been fighting about for months, the ugly chair that was a gift from your mother in law that you are not allowed to disparage, or the crib that neither of you wants to look at, much less discuss.
IKEA is a dark mirror of domesticity, throwing all your expectations of an ideal home and partnership into haggard relief under harsh lighting. You think you’re buying a display cabinet, a bed with faulty slats, a cheap end table? No, you’re buying a version of your parents’ marriages rendered in this season’s muted colors. You’re buying a modular retro refit with the veneer of progress spread thinly over your prescribed gender roles. You’re buying physical manifestations of resentment and urns to hold your frustrations and set them on the mantle until you have to dust them, and then you put the dust inside, too. You’re deciding between a lamp that illuminates your pettiness and a frame that showcases how your partner loves to nurse a grudge. You can choose between a hide-a-bed for the friends that she hates or a breakfast table that only seats two because you’ve always been ashamed to bring people home anyway. (You think she never cleans up, she’s been keeping a secret chart to prove that the ongoing filth is, in fact, all your doing. If the two of you make it out of here, you will see the chart in 6-8 weeks, when she has so much data that you cannot possibly argue the case.)
You’re buying the life you were promised, but it turns out to be melamine where you thought it was oak. The instructions were not included. The hardware package is short at least one screw, and it is all of it, without question, your fault.
If a divorce isn’t what you came for, clutch your ring hand tightly and pay extra for assembly, for delivery. Nothing will fit in your car and the burden of this place will surely follow you home as you fume about it over the thirty-mile drive. Let your new shelving unit arrive as whole and perfect as if it came from the stork. Do not let IKEA divide you. It is already too strong. It is growing stronger. It is feeding on your misery every time it measures you and finds your hatchback, your bedroom, your marriage wanting.
If you don’t have an IKEA in your area, Costco will probably do the trick instead.