My Ex-lover, IKEA

One night when faced with a remarkably greasy, caked-on sauté pan sitting in my sink, I made an impulsive decision to not clean the pan. Instead, I threw it away.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot muster the emotional energy necessary to switch from disposable to cloth diapers. I know the cloth diapers of 2014 are easier and more evolved than cloth diapers of yore, but I just can't get over the ease of disposable - no matter the financial costs to me or the environmental costs to my great-great-grandchildren. Sorry progeny!

Sometimes, when cleaning up the "clutter counter" (a small 2 x 4 surface in my kitchen where bills, kid drawings, mysterious trash, winter hats, lone chocolate chips, and junk mail congregate) I find an odd penny, and in a mad fit of decluttering, toss it into the trash.

I have done all these despicable, wasteful things. And yet, I'm not exactly cavalier about this "throw-it-away" attitude.  I won't be getting a "I throw away pennies" bumper sticker in the near future.

But, like any other clutter-hater would attest, throwing things away just feels so good.

In that sense, I've very much bought into the disposable culture that currently reigns supreme.

"They don't make 'em like they used to," the service technician marveled, walking by my 30-year old Maytag dryer en route to replace a broken garbage disposal.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"They were losing money. Nobody ever needed to replace it. Now the parts are made of things more like plastic, breakable parts. Now people replace them every 10 years."

Then he replaced my 2-year-old garbage disposal.

Even though, in my own (dishwashing-phobia) ways I subscribe to this de rigueur disposability culture, I really, truly despise it. I want to buy something that lasts. I want heirlooms. I want things of substance, with a long-shelf life and a true purpose. I do, in my heart of hearts, want to stop throwing away pennies.

Which is why I need to stop throwing them at IKEA.

I get it. IKEA is great. It's cute. Easy-going. Fun. They have everything, and will you just look at that funky nordic print on those bedsheets, and can't you just picture this armchair next to our dresser, and will you just look at those prices. Plus, meatballs!

It's a seductive sell.

Now wait a minute. Before you look at that EXPEDIT or POANG next to you and feel offended and think I need to get off my high-horse, let me tell you, it's actually not a horse, it's like a small, raggedy pony. I'm riding real low here. I may not have IKEA furniture anymore, but what that really means is I don't have hardly any furniture. I don't think people who love and buy IKEA are silly, junk-loving peons. I truly do get the allure. I'm not looking down on anyone here, except a culture at large. (And without IKEA, amazing things like this would have never happened.)

I too once loved IKEA. But something always felt a bit off. It took me many trips languishing through the set-pieces of IKEA's sprawling lovesong to urban/sub-urban living before I could figure out what bugged me so much about it. (Moreso after I'd bought the pieces into my house, only to have each and every one of those particle-board pieces break.)

IKEA is disposable design. Lorem ipsum furniture. Stuff you get until you can afford to get the good stuff that you really want. Furniture for the noncommittal. It's a cheap thrill, in every sense of the phrase.

(And the history of the company is fascinating, in case you were wondering, which you should, because this article is really good. And it prompted this diatribe.)

After fawning over the novelty of everything in the giant blue and yellow warehouse like any good American did, the concept of IKEA quickly came to lose its veneer just as fast as the furniture did.

My materialism shifted gears and now I craved things that were beautiful, thoughtful, designed, functional, and most of all, that would last. I wanted a coffee table I could count on. I wanted to fall in love and truly commit to something. I wanted to get married, and IKEA was kind of just a cool boyfriend who like, went on study abroad and spoke a phrase or two of conversational French but who was never going to get serious.

I was bored to tears antiquing with my grandmother as a child, but I think I'm starting to get it. I want something with a story. I want heirlooms. I don't want $7.99 side tables that are mass produced and that show up in every other American tract house and whose legs have been hollowed out to save money on  shipping. I don't want lame furniture. I want furniture that looks alive, clawfeet that could get up at any moment and dance.

I want meaning and goodness in everything around me, including my furniture. I also want a three thousand dollar Amish-made, Mission-style sideboard in my living room. That's not too much to ask, right? (Not to mention original art?)

And, for instance, things made of real wood. I mean, have you looked at wood? It's lovely. Even that orangey 80's oak can be lovely in a way. (Don't get me started on painting over wood - a cringeworthy practice that I will not go into much now. Hey, I have opinions. Sorry.)

The soul-crushing effects of cheap furnishing were easier to overlook in the days of apartment-living in Morningside Heights, where I literally pulled my furniture off the street at the end of each Columbia semester (the majority of it IKEA!) where students would just abandon perfectly adequate furniture on the curb. In one instance, I solicited a homeless man to push a large chest of drawers to my apartment in his shopping cart, for five dollars payment.

It was easier to overlook in a rental house, small enough I could afford to furnish the whole thing, transient enough to know I didn't really have to commit to any real pieces.

At first it was easy to overlook in a house with young kids because, well, they break and puke on everything anyway. Might as well throw it away. Get another one next year.

IKEA's not the only enemy though, just an easy target I suppose. It's a symptom, not the cause. I'm not actually totally sure what the real cause of disposable culture is, but I'm sure it's about the transience of life and being irresponsible stewards of the earth and I'm also sure it's about money to be made.

There are plenty of other places for me to complain about, since I guess complaining is what I'm doing.

Walking into a Forever 21 or even Old Navy sometimes makes my skin itch (as often do the clothes).

Disposable clothes, cheaply made, cheaply worn, easily discarded. New wardrobe each season. Another absurd concept.

Don't even get me started on how depressing the mall is.

Then there's disposable media. Post-modern media, television so riddled with pop culture references that week  later it feels irrelevant and/or unintelligible. The majority of YouTube, a million views today, a thousand in a month, zero in a decade. The late 1970s, just because I'm picking that decade, were an amazing time for movies that still hold up so well. Most of the movies of this year will show up in the $5 DVD bargain bin next year. They're made quickly, mass-produced, made to make money, not to make a difference. We need more classics, less self-referential crap. We need well-built media, movies and shows built to last and have meaning and that don't star Katherine Heigl.

We need stuff that is lasting and good and true.

After the service tech fixed my garbage disposal, I looked at the remains of the old one in the trash. Shiny, black, plastic.

This weird little expensive food-eating device that just cost me more than a hundred bucks to replace, that I will likely replace again in 5 years. This little device that helps me clean my dirty dishes. Unless, on that day, I decide to just throw them away again.

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

As far as social gatherings are concerned, dinner parties are second only to karaoke outings in my book. There is something magical and intimate about gathering together 10 or 12 of those you call your closest friends or those whom you soon hope will ascend to those ranks.

Who doesn't adore a dinner party? I've never met one I don't like. I should throw them more often, said the new mom who doesn't sleep and whose shower schedule is dismal. In lamenting my recent nonattendance of any social function (unfortunately, only a slight exaggeration), I got to thinking about who I'd invite to my fantasy dinner party. AND.

I put together a DREAM TEAM of dinner guests.

The rules of the game are simple: pick 12 people (living or dead, fictional or in the flesh, human or not) who you'd like to break bread with.

Speaking of breaking bread, He's the obvious first choice as one of the most dynamic people/deities to have ever lived. I can't think of anyone I'd rather interrogate. (What's it like walking on water? Creating the universe? Being the most perfect person who will ever live?) It's fair to say I have more questions for Him than I did for J.J. Abrams at the end of LOST. And clearly an excellent dinner guest. Can talk history, politics, agriculture (mustard seeds). Well-traveled (intergalactically even perhaps). Omnipotent yet humble. Tells charming parables.  Plus if the party starts to lull, he can literally bring it back to life.

Everyone is sick of hearing me talk about this dude. I'm sick of it, too. Sorry, I have a big time philosophical crush on him. I'd sit Jesus on the one side of me and him on the other so I could pick his brain for awhile. I would even let him wear that dumb bandana to dinner.

Every party needs a provocateur, and he is the stickiest stick in the muddiest mud. I'm sure he would end the party by making some ruinous hilarious comment. I wouldn't want to talk to him I think, just sit back and watch him work the table. Obviously, I would stick him at the opposite end of Christ and not serve him anything close to a Cobb salad.

I've got a strange obsession with him. (I want him to speak at my funeral.?) Also, he fills the quota for foreigner, and would likely make remarkably opaque comments about the transient nature of soufflés. ("The plight of the common house egg is horrendous. What has fate wrought for this helpless chicken embryo who is damned by the brutality of our appetites. Boiled, poached, fried, destroyed. Life taken before life can be fulfilled.")

Among his other conversational and improvisational skills, he does a great Werner Herzog.

Lest my dinner party get too sausagey, I'd pick this Georgian heroine to level the playing field. She's smart, observant, witty, and one of the best female protagonists of all time. (Yo Lizzy Bennet, I'm really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Elinor Dashwood is one of the best period piece heroines of all time! Of all time!). I think she could be my literary BFF. I'd put her next to DFW, and hope they'd hit it off. It which would make a fantastical romantic match for the ages.

Clearly the top choice for dinner party doyenne, she does current events better than anyone and can talk on really any subject. And I could count on her to dress for the occasion, dinner jacket and tie.

It was down to him or George Bailey to fill the Integrity/Moral Fictional Figure slot, and I think Saul is a little more flawed and interesting. What is it with Saul that you just want to like confess all your sins to him? He's that weird combination of father figure, professional mentor, love interest and best friend rolled in one. One of the best characters on the small screen in a long while.

My dinner party needs some Old Hollywood glamour and glitz, and I think she's one of the snappiest characters to hit the silver screen. Just wind up this bon vivant and watch her go! She sings! She cries! She adds the perfect amount of drama and snark to any occasion. She'd sit next to Mr. David. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night with Margo at the table.

Who doesn't love Bill Cosby. Or chocolate pudding. Both of which should be present and abundant at any good dinner party.

The only person I love more from FNL than Coach Taylor is his wife. She could sagely dispense her advice to all guests in that lovely drawl. I think I'd put her next to Herzog. I'd love to hear those accents next to each other.


Ok, now how can I make this real?
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20 months

At 20 months Milo is primarily doing two things: talking up a storm and reverse engineering all his toys. This is one (of many) reasons we can never own a gun - he would figure out how to completely assemble it in minutes. And he'd probably turn a simple handgun into something far more potent and destructive. But knowing him, he'd use it for good, like to help overthrow Assad.

I'm happy he's so mechanically-minded. Someone in this house is going to have to learn to fix things, and it certainly won't be me or that other WRITER who lives here.

He is talking non-stop. He loves to count to ten and sing the alphabet and write his name in the tub with bath crayons. He is a budding copywriter, having coined his own slogan for nursery ("Nursery: Girls! Boys! Toys!"). I love being able to actually have little conversations with him.

Bathtime is probably the highlight of his life. Like his mother, he loves being in the water. Like his father, he'd take impossibly long baths if given the opportunity.

He remains an easy and mild mannered kid, but one who will not sit still. He is the social one in the family. He wants to say hi to everyone, including the employees of the grocery store. He routinely greets inanimate objects. Hi cup. Hi diaper. Hi iPad.

When it comes to food, he loves the good stuff - dark chocolate, cheese (including bleu?), Indian food, homemade bread. However, his taste in literature and film leaves something to be desired. (Thomas the Train? BORING. Even Alec Baldwin's narration can't save it. And where did RINGO?) And Elmo. Holy smokes, Elmo. That little red shaman has some magical pull over toddlers that I don't quite understand.

Two points of conflict/interest:

He is asking to be toilet-trained. Ok. I wasn't going to attempt this yet, but I think I need to run with it. Oi vey.

He's already showing interest in women. Or more accurately, in "pretty lad[ies]". He points them out constantly.

We watched White Christmas last month and when Rosemary Clooney came on the stage in her Veronica Lake dress and evening gloves, he stood up, entranced. He ran upstairs and came back 30 seconds later with socks. Jared and I looked at each other confused at this action. He then proceeded to try to put them on his hands. "Oh" we realized. "He wants to wear evening gloves." We helped him put his socks on  his hands while he ran up to the tv screen and said "preettty laady."

However, he's showed no signs of interest in Liza Minnelli or Barbara Streisand, so I think he's genuinely into women, and not just evening gowns.

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