Do you remember the first time you went to Ikea? I do. I was in high school, and I was on a summer exchange program in Oslo, Norway. My Ikea guides were two young Norwegian women who had befriended me and were shopping for furniture for their new apartment. I remember being totally bowled over by the size of Ikea, its blue exterior, the clean lines of all the designs, and how comfortable I felt trying everything out.
My memory of the shopping trip is still so vivid. It made such an impression on me that I thought for sure I had taken photos of it. But I looked back at my album, and there’s no sign of Ikea anywhere. In fact, there’s only one photo of my two friends, and it is of them with their new sofa(?), in a shop that’s not Ikea. I suppose at the time, the photo mattered because they had maybe accomplished their mission. Decades later, though, I can’t help but notice that I was really into taking photos of unremarkable things that were only worthy of forgetting. That is, except for the farty street signs (and you know the photo of the flowers is terrible if you have to label it "flowers.").
The second time I went to Ikea was when I went to college. I was with friends looking for bookshelves when I suddenly realized I had been there before, only in Oslo. I hadn’t bothered to remember “Ikea” because I thought the store was a Scandanavian thing I’d never see again. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Memory is such a funny thing. Some memories are so vivid, some just disappear, and there are the hazy ones where you know you were there because there’s a photo of it. There is also all the science that tells us that every time we retrieve a memory, it changes, so we can’t really trust that we remember everything exactly as it happened. Right? Maybe. But for the purposes of real life, getting hung-up on the very specific details is to miss the bigger picture. I mean, if your boss jerked-off in front of you, his aiming into a potted plant is a good detail, but totally not the point. I’m so glad that, this week, from my perspective, people seem to be believing more victims’ accounts than usual. As I read all the #MeToo statuses on social media and reflect on my own #MeToo, I realize that I’ve always assumed that every woman I have ever met has been, at the very least, sexually harassed during her life, and likely worse. We’ve all learned to deal with it. “Dealing” takes many forms, including tolerating, ignoring, avoiding, and getting therapy. Consider all that daily effort by so many women, while the perpetrators carry on as usual with the patriarchy’s support. Do you remember the first time you experienced or witnessed harassing behavior? It starts early. I remember in second grade being told to “grow a tougher skin” so the daily, stomach-churning harassment of a boy could continue but wouldn’t bother me. After all, the refrain of the grown-ups was, “Aww. It's fine. He just likes you!” Unchecked, bad behavior of course only gets worse. Like in seventh grade wood shop when the boys would surround me, the only girl, to taunt me with talk and gestures of blow-jobs while the teacher hid in his office. I eventually transferred into an art class. And then there's what we deal with as high schoolers, and as grown-ups. We must raise better boys, and we must also hold accountable the grown-ups who are behaving terribly.
But let me get back to Ikea. Memories of Ikea. And the reality of Ikea today! I hadn’t been to Ikea in years, but we took Wyatt this weekend. As far as I can tell, Ikea has only changed for the better since I was there last. The small living spaces with perfectly arranged, just colorful enough furniture and accessories make me feel like I could totally move in. I mean, there are even clothes hanging in the closets.
We weren’t shopping, but we did buy hangers and dishtowels (I dare you to go to Ikea and buy nothing), and Wyatt got a stubby pencil and catalog as souvenirs. More importantly, though, Wyatt left with context for Catherine Newman's One Mixed-Up Night, which he has now heard twice. I read it to him the first time and Marc the second time. “Didn’t you love it?” I asked Marc. “It’s one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. But yes, it’s great,” he responded. While I didn’t find it that sad, I do understand where Marc’s coming from. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to read and decide for yourself.
This trip to Ikea, I didn’t forget to take photos.
And in further recognition of Catherine Newman's work, and my own need to not spend a moment more in the kitchen than absolutely necessary, we ate nachos for dinner on Sunday. Her nacho cheese sauce is really good. Our somewhat unconventional toppings included tomatoes, chopped fermented dill green beans, hearts of palm, lettuce, pepperoncini, and black beans. Weird salad on chips. With nacho cheese sauce! You know you want to try it.