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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The New Couch


Due to a not-so-recent death in the family, we have found ourselves sitting on the promise of a small windfall of cash. I say “we,” but it is actually my partner’s money that his father left him, which Bill is more than willing to share with me, should he ever actually see any of this money. His dad died almost six months ago, and so far we have seen $186. I realize these things take time.

But we have decided to go ahead and spend part of the anticipated funds on some furniture and home improvement type stuff. The first thing that had to go was the sectional sofa in the den, a room that is actually a foot narrower than the sofa itself. We had to tilt the couch at an angle against the wall to get it to fit in there. It makes for easy cleanup, because all the crumbs roll down to one side, where they can be easily accessed for removal by our dog’s tongue.

When your average, beer-guzzling, dirt-under-the-fingernails, blue-collar straight man envisions the home of a typical homosexual (which, of course, happens a lot), he thinks: Liberace. Crystal chandeliers and gold leaf, silk upholstery and sparkling candelabras. One look at my house, and you suspect the decorator to be that same average, beer-guzzling, dirt-under-the-fingernails, blue-collar straight man.

Being adolescent boys in our 50’s, we tend to not pay attention to the care and maintenance of our furniture. We’ll think nothing about spending an hour mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges in 98-degree weather, then stripping down to our underwear and flopping our sweaty, foliage-sprinkled bodies onto the couch to watch an hour of Judge Judy. This behavior tends to create, over time, shiny black marks on the couch, giving the upholstery the appearance of being freshly varnished with a double coat of used motor oil. To restore the dry-clean only fabric, I didn’t think twice about unzipping everything and throwing it into the washing machine. I actually ran it through the cycle twice, because the first-run rinse water looked like something that would come out of a pot at Starbucks. After everything was dry, I re-stuffed the pillows, but they didn’t have those nice smooth lines that they had before the wash. You could hardly even call them square. They looked more like large, amorphous tumors that might have been surgically removed from John Merrick’s body. (I am not an animal! I am—a sofa cushion!)

We lived with this sectional for almost five years. We bought it at a secondhand shop for $400. It was amazingly comfortable and long and deep enough to double as a bed. Hundreds of man hours were spent sleeping on this piece of furniture, causing us to miss lots of must-see-TV. As comfy as it was, the seat cushions tended to slide forward, and every night the back pillows had to be moved so that the seat cushions could be pushed back in place. This was sometimes the most exercise I got all day, so now I will have to actually spend time at the gym to make up for this cardio workout void. This is good in theory, but in reality, I consider my gym nothing more than a dependent. It gets a monthly allowance that is automatically dispensed from my credit card. In return for this, I receive nothing. It’s just like having a child, but without the noise, the drama, the orthodontist, or the college tuition. A steal at $36 a month.

We concluded that it was time to invest in a new couch. For weeks we shopped at furniture stores in the greater tri-county area. We had no idea what kind of couch we wanted, or the dimensions of the den (we don’t learn from past mistakes), and we had no list of possible colors in mind. We had two requirements: 1) that it be comfortable and 2) that it be easy to clean dog vomit off of. We looked at sectionals, sleepers, and regular sofas. For a while we thought about two overstuffed chairs instead. I lobbied for a Craftmatic adjustable bed until I decided that I’d have to make it up every day, and that was the end of that idea.

Neither of us has the gay decorating gene. The odds of a union between two men who both lack this skill set are the same as winning at lotto. Clearly we were hiding under the bleachers at the University of Queerdom, smoking dope while everyone else was inside, striving for the highest grade in Color and Design 101. (And yes, they do have a stadium at the U. of Q. You don’t expect us to stand to watch figure skating, do you?)

Our take on home decor has nothing to do with the fabulous, but is all about function. For example, for blocking out the sun, a couple of beach towels stapled above the window works just as well as tailored, made-to-order, lined draperies. Three out of five pieces of furniture in our living room came from thrift stores, and it’s easy to guess which three. Our dining room table is the same one I ate Thanksgiving dinner off of when I was 5 years old. I have refinished it twice, and it has slapdash brush marks and dried varnish drippings on it, but it still serves a valuable function in our home. That purpose is to be the default holding area for everything we are too lazy to put in its proper place. It is the repository for mounds of junk mail dating back to the Carter administration, a mixture of clean and dirty laundry, spare change, candy wrappers, grocery store receipts (you never know when you might have to return a bad papaya and need proof of purchase), and cardboard boxes that are the perfect size for something, but I’m not sure what yet.

We are trying to do the best that two interior decorating special ed students can do. Our final decision on a couch was solely based upon the fact that the salesman was gay, and, we suspected, a Q.U. valedictorian. We figured if he liked this couch, then it was possible that we were, for once, making the right furniture decision.

This couch marked a milestone in our aging process. You see, we have reached the point in our lives where we suffer no embarrassment from the fact that we are ready for furniture that—dare I say it—reclines. That’s right, this three-seater couch has a recliner at both ends. But we haven’t completely thrown in the towel. At least the couch doesn’t have built-in cup holders and snack trays. We are pretty sure that will be the next step, in a decade or so. Cup holders, snack trays, Craftmatic adjustable beds, and those electric chairs that push your tired butt out of them. Surpassing that era, I am hoping we’ll live to be old enough to just get rid of all the furniture and live on a Jazzy. Hopefully by then they’ll make two-seaters.

But for now, we’re happy with the couch. Unfortunately, everything else in the room is now wrong, wrong, wrong. The wicker coffee table has got to go, as does the tiny maple nightstand that formerly sat next to Bill’s twin bed when he was in first grade. And those curtains (cut out of a bedspread from Pier 1) are history. And those surround-sound speakers must be moved back, and an updated rug is a must.

Hmm, maybe I didn’t skip as many days of Color and Design 101 as I thought. I should just go and re-take the class. Maybe I can even find my old textbook. I’m sure it’s on the dining room table. Everything else is.

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