I cried on the street when the couch wouldn’t fit. In the middle of the street, next to the truck, in front of our new apartment, my fiancé, future in-laws and any new neighbors who may have been peeking out their windows to see what the ruckus was all about. My future family looked on with what I’ll call empathy, but was likely pity and exhaustion as they’d just spent the better part of two hours trying to coerce the 96-inch overstuffed grey tweed behemoth up the stairs, over the banister and through the angled, two-foot doorway of our new apartment. Finally, I called it. It wasn’t fitting. My couch would have to go.
It was a good couch. Durable. Comfortable enough for numerous overnight guests (some of them even sober) to get a full eight hours, and large enough for me to lay on easily, which for me, as a six-foot tall woman, is a very desirable quality in a couch. Purchased just three years earlier with two roommates who quickly moved on and whose shares in the couch I bought when they did, the couch had been good to me. Through three years of independent living in a small Park Slope apartment, five new roommates and countless movie marathons, the couch sat solidly, unchanged. Only to be—reluctantly, tearfully—set aside on the eve of the biggest change in my life.
We were moving in together. After six years of dating, seventeen months of engagement and eight years of city living, Andrew and I were finally cohabitating. We both moved to a new neighborhood—though technically I moved only two blocks, I transitioned to “up-and-coming” Gowanus, from “up-and-come” Park Slope. We were getting married in 21 days.
We were shedding Craigslist roommates, chore charts, and passive aggressive reminders that rent is due tomorrow in favor of the permanent roommate solution and, in doing so, were agreeing to forgo all private space, assume full responsibility for the electric bill, and basically get comfortable with never being alone in our bed again, ever.
All of which I was pretty jazzed about. I like private space, but I work from home, so, hey, plenty of time alone in the apartment. I was ready.
We’d spent a full day moving two apartments into one, carrying more boxes than I understand, because holy crap, how can we have this much stuff, but with relatively few problems. I knew The Joining of the Things would be a perhaps unpleasant experience, mostly because Andrew had a lot of navy blue and dark wood and I like everything I own to be teal, but I assumed we would reach a happy medium, and eventually seamlessly blend my things with his things and then buy a couple new things to round it all out.
And then the couch didn’t fit and cohabitation became a very bad idea. Never, when I thought about The Joining, did I think we would have anything other than my couch in our living room. I might have to mount a 40-inch television on the wall, or clean beard hairs off the vanity in a bathroom used regularly by a dude, but at least, once I was finished and thoroughly showered from said bathroom cleaning, I could just chill on my couch.
When that assumption proved false, I cried. I called the Sofa Doctor for an estimate of how much I’d have to pay to saw the couch in half and reassemble it. I decided I couldn’t justify paying the same amount to temporarily destroy the couch as I had for the brand-new couch. Then I stood up, decided I would let go of the couch but never replace it with something from IKEA, and helped load it back into the trailer to go live temporarily on Long Island in my future brother-in-law’s living room. I made a real go of tamping down my new fears of what our shared apartment would be like and continued moving.
Three months later, we were married, and almost finished decorating our apartment. Largely, we ended up starting from scratch. We bought an IKEA couch, much to my dismay, when we realized the only way a full-sized couch would enter our doorway would be in pieces. We ordered a new coffee table to replace the hand-me-down from my parents, saved a card catalog from Craigslist to center under the 40-inch and bought two armless chairs I immediately realized were a mistake but which I refused to pay to ship back. My husband didn’t keep much from his apartment, aside from two sets of Scotch glasses and a dark wood bookcase I repainted teal, but he took full control of our kitchen supplies. I got to keep my grandmother’s hope chest, a throw pillow that sits on our navy blue comforter and the best ever knife for cutting chicken, even though I never cook, and Andrew worships at the altar of the Global Knife.
I like our apartment. It will never be featured on HGTV, for sure, but it’s cozy and good for actually living in, as opposed to taking pictures of and perching on uncomfortable furniture. There’s less single-life stuff than we thought there would be, and we did more of the “buying new things” than our budget expected. Which, of course, brought on a whole new dilemma—now we weren’t just Joining Things, we were Compromising on Taste. We weren’t choosing whose rug to keep, we were investing in new rugs that we both had to like. Which we’ve managed to do (mostly) successfully, if you don’t count those awful chairs that neither of us want. Budget aside, though, I suppose new stuff for a new chapter is appropriate. And the Joining of the Things has mostly worked out.
The most important part of this story, of course, is the fate of my wonderful, faithful, single-life couch. Two months after the last time I saw it, my couch did me one final solid and got itself sold for $100, an amount far less than I felt it was worth, but which was just enough to cover the new rug we both picked out for the living room.