Monday, September 7, 2009

Why shopping for a couch is like dating

I had the perfect couch in mind--the couch of my dreams. I would sink into it like arms were closing around me. It would be a couch for napping, for dreaming. It would be something tasteful, like a light blue stripe, and it would have pillows. I could see it clearly. Now why couldn't I find it?

I haunted the garage sales. There was the moment of hushed anticipation as I saw a line of parked cars and old ladies sitting under sun shades. The long tables, the cluster of items..but my heart sank every time. No couches! Was everyone hanging on to their old furniture, thinking that a known quantity was better than going out into the wild unknown? Did everyone have a couch but me?

I asked around at work. Someone knew of someone else who might have a couch in storage. That did not pan out. Someone else had heard a radio ad, but the couch was gone, snatched away immediately. An army of people fanned out around the town, scouting, but came up empty. Maybe, I pondered, this town was just too small for quality couches.

I went to the lone furniture store. The salesman extolled the virtue of a hard, mean-looking couch. It was narrow and unfriendly, besides being eight hundred dollars. Eight hundred dollars! I couldn't fathom owning a high dollar couch. With my dusty hiking clothes and lack of pretensions, we would be seriously incompatible.

Next I gave in and tried online couch hunting. Ebay, craigslist, even IKEA and Sears. Nothing seemed quite right. A lot of places wouldn't deliver to my area, and the idea of a long-distance couch frightened me. Without trying it out, how would I know if the couch and I could co-exist peacefully? What if some strange couch showed up and stayed and I couldn't get rid of it?

Maybe, I thought, I didn't really need a couch. Maybe I was buying into the dream that everyone should own a couch. After all, does it ever really work out? Eventually all couches end up at the dump. Or perhaps I was being too picky. The sweet green loveseat I had left behind had been all right, although its length and general uncomfortableness never inspired passion. Was I comparing all these prospective couches to the couch of my childhood, a magnificent orange squishy one that resided proudly in the basement?

Then I approached a yard sale. Finally, a couch. It was white and long, with pillows. It bore a few stains and smelled weird. I lay on it awhile. The price was right, but something just felt off. It seemed like this couch bore too much baggage from the past. I got up and walked away. Maybe I had blown my last chance for a couch, but I was willing to live with that.

On my way home I saw a sign for one more sale. I had no interest or hope in finding a couch, but perhaps I might find a computer desk, another item I lacked. I drove up and poked around in the open storage units.

In the murky depths hid a couch. It was totally wrong, of course. First of all, the color! It was red, not a burnished, mellow red, but an unashamed brothel red. Also, it was too short, and I had always preferred taller couches. Its fabric was a crushed velvet. I started to leave, but something called me back. There was something about this couch.

The seller seemed anxious to be rid of it. He dropped his price to $50 and threw in an armchair. "I just want it gone," he said. It seemed cavalier, this discarding. Maybe he had upgraded, found a new, younger model, a trophy couch.

The couch now sits in my living room. It is too soon to tell if it will stay. Who knows, really, how things will work out? We are trying each other out, the couch and me. I like how unashamed it is, how its take-it-or-leave-it color shows it doesn't care about conventional colors. It makes me smile when I look at it in the way other couches never has. It is funny and irreverent. It is a bright spot in my day.

To all other couch searchers out there, don't give up! A couch is out there, looking for you. It may take years and years and lots of ugly couches, but you will find it. Don't let the lumpy futons and rock-hard "sofa sleepers" get you down.


  1. Wow. Do you mean to tell me that a couch is out there for me? No more orange velor futon?

    Is there a similar unwillingness to get rid of the couch you have because you've had it for so long and it's too much work to get a new one?

  2. We couldn't find the right couch until my mom finally came along and picked one out for us.


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