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The Ikea Game I Like to Play: Bae or Brawn?

I was in Ikea today. Yall know how I feel about Ikea. A long time ago I devoted an entire post to the wonder of the cheap chic home furnishing mecca.

Today was one of my comp days after working eight grueling days straight. So after getting a restful sleep, I hightailed it over to Ikea, because among all of the other things I have going on right now like graduate school and a full-time job that seems to want me to do more as of late, I’m redecorating my bedroom.

Looking for the perfect dressers and nightstands to go with my new bed arriving on Friday, I wound up at Ikea on a weekday before lunch.

First of all, my ovaries thanked me for abstaining and safe sexing it about 94 percent of the time over my entire life. Because I’m not about that mom life. During the weekday, it appears stay-at-home moms and even day care providers throw their hands up and say screw it, and take the munchkins to Ikea to burn off energy.

Then when I got in the cafeteria line to cop some Swedish meatballs, that ended up being crab cakes (yes, Ikea has crab cakes now, not bad either) I noticed a woman ahead of me who ordered three kids meals and a little sumthin for herself and her total came to $5. My eyes bugged out of my head.

Then I saw the specials for each day of the week. Those little jokers eat free on Tuesdays! No wonder the moms and the day care folks were literally having a field day.

So while I found the furthest spot away from everyone to eat my lunch, I reflected on how happy I was not to have the responsibility of parenthood in my life right now. I know it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t knock that choice, but it’s not right for me at this stage in my life. Yes, I’m 32. Yes, I’m supposed to have some kind of clock, but I don’t get all excited around other people’s kids. I don’t want to cuddle them, I don’t want to smell them. I’m just not envious of that lifestyle. I’m good. I’m great.

But the one thing that did interest me were the couples or couplings of people.

I’ve decided when it comes to Ikea, the man you bring to Ikea is bae (as the kids call the main man, your steady Freddy) or your brawn.
So, I like to play a game called “Bae or Brawn?” I basically look at how a couple interacts and I decide if guy Ikea escorts are boyfriends/husbands or dudes brought along simply to schlep, haul and assemble.

Let me break it down for you.
Your bae is your man. That fool is contractually obligated to go with you to Ikea, even if you don’t plan on buying a damn thing and you just want to go for “inspiration.” This means you are nesting, and you want him to agree with all of the stuff you like. Women just wandering with dudes, are either boyfriends/husbands/ are dudes who are on that track. Men who simply want to smash, they aren’t going to even go through the charade of walking around Ikea with you because you always have to walk through the entire store. Unless you are a chick with a Brawn YOU WILL WALK THROUGH THE ENTIRE STORE, ALWAYS. EVERY INCH, THE WAREHOUSE AND IT’S JUST BOXES. BUT YOU’LL STARE AT THE BOXES AND SAY YOU’LL COME BACK. You’ll look at the rugs, the lamps, the art. You’ll think of reasons to buy a 40-piece dish set because it’s $29.99. You’ll get hangers for your skirts and hangers for your pants. You’ll lust after the fancy kitchens and paw the granite counter tops, you’ll rest on a bed, you’ll open and close closet doors to see if they squeak.

If you are buying something with bae, he’s going to be the one to schlep it to the car, tie it down securely and help you get it into the house and set it up.

You are contractually obligated to fix him a cool glass of water, lemonade or iced tea whilst he’s building that Swedish instrument of torture (because someone always gets hurt in the process), later fix or order him a good meal and then put it on him something fierce and hope you don’t break the cheap ass furniture he spent all day assembling. You’ll wake up in the morning together admiring his hard work and your great taste. A house is now a home.

Now the other category dudes fall in when going to Ikea with a female is the Brawn. Actually, there’s one more. Your gayfriend. He’s helping you get your decorative life and making sure you don’t make a horrible decision. He’s telling you when to pass on the cheap stuff and invest in a quality piece or fabric from someplace else and cracking jokes about other patrons to your delight. He’ll be down for that 75 cent frozen yogurt on the way out.

But back to the Brawn.
If you are a single gal and you don’t have a bae, but you still need to get some Ikea furniture transported to your place and assembled, you may have to look to Mr. Brawn.

Brawn is a guy you are cool with. You’ve probably let him hit a couple of times, and you put it down good enough but don’t harass him about much else, that you can call in such a favor without him being worried you are trying to be in a serious relationship with him and he won’t actually flake.

When men hear about Ikea, they get nervous. So when it comes to Brawn, you have to be direct, have a plan and a time to use him and his large truck.

With Brawn, you don’t need him to walk around and pick out stuff or get inspiration. That is going to frighten him and annoy him. He’s not your man. You know this, he knows this.

With Brawn, you better had already walked around and figured out which area of the self-service warehouse your stuff is in and what aisle and bin your non-descript large brown box of pieces are located.

With Brawn, you take him directly there, have him load the crap on the cart and go directly to the check out line.

Brawn will load his vehicle and take your stuff to the house.
This might seem messed up, but I suggest you also fix brawn a cold glass of water, and change into some boy shorts and order that man a pizza.

***The alternate plan is to let him bring the stuff in the house and you assemble it yourself, semi-independent woman. You can send him home and not even worry about the rest…

You may also want to get it in on the newly assembled furniture with Brawn as you would with bae. The same risk hazards are involved in the assembly of Ikea furniture, so Brawn needs to get broke off proper too. Face it, you’ve done it with him for much less.

If you are totally single with no bae or brawn, you can always pay extra, have it delivered and assembled, tip the dudes and still order pizza and eat it in your boyshorts on your new furniture and pour yourself a glass of wine because you got the job done!

Either way, get you some new furniture girl!

Ode to Ikea

Ikea was pulling me in before I ever realized they were doing it and doing it oh so well.

I was probably in middle school when they sent large catalogues to my house. There was something about this store with the short funny name.

Was it pronounced eye-kee-ya? Ick-e-a?

Page after page, I’d see beautiful, organized homes, with happy people relaxing and entertaining. My parent’s home was cozy enough, but man what would it be like to live in places like that?

Unfortunately, when I’d flip to the back cover of the book–my head filled with dreams of what my house would look like as an adult, so chic and modern (which makes perfect sense for the successful magazine editor I wanted to be)– my dreams were crushed. The closest store was in some random place in New Jersey. My parents weren’t even thinking about new furniture, let alone Swedish furniture that none of us could pronounce. The other U.S. locations in the 90s were no where near as plentiful back then as they are now.

It wouldn’t be until I went to college, I’d make the trek to the magical place with the unmistakable blue and yellow logo I dreamed about as a preteen.

The building was massive. As I walked through the showroom it was like the catalogue I flipped through as a young girl came to life. I sat in the chairs, hugged the patterned pillows, sprawled out on the mattresses. I looked up close at the photos on the wall, books on the shelves and clothes and shoes in the perfectly organized closets that made it all seem realistic, but not intrusive to the imaginary family living in those rooms.  Even as an “adult” and a story-teller by nature, I made up stories in my head about the people who lived in the rooms.

A lovely bookcase I built. From...Ikea!!

When I was learning about starting a business we talked about psychology and shopping. How a brand makes you feel, how they present themselves and offer their services.

Ikea is an amazing case study on this particularly here in the U.S.

We want stuff that looks good.

We love stuff that’s cheap and makes us feel like we got a deal.

They know we have a lot of shit we don’t need and won’t get rid of and being able to hide it effectively in our homes and in an organized manner not only appeals to us, it titillates us.

We are quite obsessed with home improvement and competing with others and feeling like we have lovely homes.

We get hungry when we shop.

One of the most genius things Ikea did was offer food. As a broke college student and a broke adult writer, I’ll be the first to say, there were times I went in there not even thinking about furniture, dishes or home accents.

I wanted the $.50 hot dogs and $.75 soft serve ice cream cones.

When they expanded the cafeteria (you can get a pretty darn good meal for $6 using real plates and utensils) it set something off in people. It was another victory for the brand (and for guys taking girls out on dates…”yeah girl lets pretend we are furnishing our future home..let me feed you another meatball girl! You deserve it, boo. Hell, let’s get some ice cream too!”)

Families could sit down for civilized meals while they shopped in a clean, well-organized environment. No cardboard boxes or paper cups.

A bookcase I converted into a TV/entertainment center! Ikea!!

I know I may sound like an obsessed Ikea stan right now, but think about it. Those Swedes get what we as Americans wish we could be and wish we had the time to be.

We are loud and messy and unorganized.

We eat terribly. We are addicted to the quick gratification that comes from a $.75 ice cream cone or a $39 bookcase that actually looks pretty nice.  We can gussy up our bathrooms with some new vases, we can finally frame those photos we’d been meaning to get to and display them on our walls, giving our living spaces a much-needed, yet simple and inexpensive transformation.

Most of us can’t afford interior designers, and after hours and hours of HGTV marathons, we feel empowered to give it a try ourselves.

Ikea gives us the go ahead.

Ikea makes us feel good. It makes us feel like although we did something seemingly small, like buying a rug or a new set of dishes, it’s a pleasant change significant to our everyday lives.

We go to this store in hopes that if we buy these nice hangers (NO MORE WIRE  HANGERS!), our closets will be more organized. If we buy the bookshelf, we’ll stop letting all those classics from college collect dust in the basement in a large plastic bin, and we’ll also show our friends we are smart and sophisticated when they stop by.

If we are more organized, we can be better people; our minds will be clear to finally do all of those things we swore we’d do. We can look like those happy people in the catalogues hosting parties sipping out of cute wine glasses, serving perfect finger foods on lovely cheap platters that our friends will gush over and ask us where we got this great stuff from. And proudly, as if we have given away a secret only known to ourselves, we’ll smile, and say, “Ikea, and you won’t believe what I paid.”

The reality is they will believe it, because they have the same “Karby” rug in their house too.

It’s all quite calculated. The flow of the showroom, walking from area to area, and then like being let loose in the gift shop at the end of a museum tour “the marketplace” of Ikea awaits you at the end. It’s climatic.

You reward yourself with a snack for $2.00, and you go home excited to add your new embellishments to your home. Good bye to that old, worn-out ratty bathroom rug!

Here’s to the dream. I’ve got to go. I have a “Bild” and a “Ribba” to hang in my bedroom!   

Gonna frame and hang this tonight!!!

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