Kyle on Style
Oh, you bought all the stuff we put in the kid’s room.
We’re standing in the Children’s section of IKEA. There is a large sign overhead that says “Children.” To get here we wandered through wardrobes and tallboys, pulling their drawers in and out, again and again, slowly and swiftly, questioning aloud, back and forth, about space and cost and how much stock we should put into the condition of these manhandled floor models. Emily thinks the one next to the one I’m knocking around is cute. She takes a picture, then looks closer and sighs. “Temporarily oversold.” she says. She’s mentioned this one to me before. She saw it at Moni’s house. I believe the pearlescent thing I’m bruising is similarly cute. The proportions are oversized and the drawer handles are bulbous half circles. The surface is smooth, the corners of the drawer-faces are restfully rounded.
I wonder what Moni would think. Does Moni shake furniture like this? Would she wonder how the materials age, or would she be more, oh, present with her intuition? And would she, say, compliment it for being bright or geometric or snug when she sees it in our house?
Moni’s house is a dream. Also, Moni’s house is a beauty standard I will not hold my house to. These days, houses have too much pressure from unrealistic expectations, what with the cabin porn and all. Moni’s walls are light and covered with shelves and her shelves are filled with perfect color hierarchies and storied tchotchkes and, I suspect, unmeasured golden ratios. Hers is a space ready to be embodied.
And when you get up close to anything, to everything, there’s a certain utopian universalism to it all: the rustic laid down with the modern, the IKEA with the handmade, the pattern prints with the solid textiles. Moni creates space you want to live in.
But I live in my space.
When we first moved in we made do with the furniture we had knowing there would be a reconstruction, a revival, a re-imagining once we knew what the space wanted—knew how it breathed. So, here we are! A revival! At! The Children’s section! Of IKEA!
So, we’re asking “how did we get here?” and all that.
Back in the summer before my sophomore year of college, on that trip to New York with Matt, and fast fashion was not a word yet, we went to Soho with a singular focus on H&M, Top Shop, and ZARA. I bought a gaudy grey pullover sweater with a single brown button on its flowing collar. When I cat-walked it out of the crowded dressing room, Matt told me I looked demure. All boyish blue jeans shrunk smaller in its presence. The thick knit of its weave became the great standard of the demure-ity I didn’t know I needed. All for $18.
In the twelve years since, I’ve bought some daring pieces in the hope of recreating the just-won-the-powerball gut punch of adulthood that came from that sweater. I’ve rarely bought anything so potent, but plenty as cheap. Along the way, I’ve had a few W’s. And even some of my wardrobe is nice (in the sense that it isn’t specifically engineered to deteriorate), but the rest, the most, is a collection of seasonal, replaceable, stack on stack on stack of mostly shirts (which kind of looks like a Hot Topic pop up shop and is an actual retaining wall I’m constructing to damn up the wellspring of youth).
I wonder what Matt would think of it. Sometime, probably the year of that trip, Matt said, “You don’t buy basics at Nordstrom.” (He also said, maybe moments later, “You could play full-court basketball between the racks at Nordstrom.”) Somehow, Matt dresses perfectly. It’s like, he’s the measurements they base all measurements on. Matt is prepared for all occasions, never over-dressed, always exactly dressed. His wardrobe is a beauty standard, etc.
I suspect, unmeasured golden ratios. Matt wears clothes that you want to wear.
But I wear my clothes.
So, how did we get here? The Children’s section of IKEA? Well, I am a child—forever caught in the space between an adult salary and a child’s buying habits.
And so, back at the self-serve shelves of IKEA, we have decided on buying $200 worth of (children’s) furniture. “I suppose this is hiding the problem more than it is creating a solution,” I say to Emily as we search for the necessary parts. She responds sympathetically. Maybe she knows better than to get caught in the river of my fixations.
Emily heads back to retrieve the drawer handles, the cute geometric half-circles, which we somehow overlooked in the Children’s section. I am alone and struggling to lift the largest flat-packed piece onto the cart. It’s as tall as I am. It must weigh 50 pounds. I imagine the hulking men we will hire the next time we move (the seemingly inevitable exit from Oakland which I dread and forecast and anticipate with each heavy furniture purchase).
We spend the rest of the afternoon assembling it. I am depressed, and have difficulty assembling the drawers. Emily is gentle with me. I imagine when this thing we are assembling finally rots, however these composite woods rot, how I will wiggle it down the street on top of my skateboard to leave on some curb and make another trip to IKEA to heft and assemble the latest in their clothing storage solutions.
(Later, on Steve’s first visit to the apartment, as we give him a tour, he says of my office, “Oh, you bought all the stuff we put in the kids’ room.”)
I imagine every dad giving up their rare open Sunday to assemble a clothes holder. The surface is smooth, the drawer face corners nicely rounded. Every dad is standing in the innocent corner of their home, made light with blond pine bed frames and abundant colorful cushions. Every dad does a final test, shakes the massive assemblage, checks that he hasn’t constructed the sword of Damocles, then secures it to the wall. Somewhere outside every neighbor kid is sucking on the collar of their t-shirt. Every dad bends down slowly, stuffs wrinkled jeans into a drawer, and steps back to place hands on hips and look down on their creation. They take a nap and dream of a home with vibrant color hierarchies and traveled tchotchkes and storied golden ratios.
Every dad’s mouth droops with the warm certainty of order.