7.20 Widows & Divorcees

If you've been wondering and can't tell from some of these blog postings, I'm single and have been single for far too long. At a Stories We Don't Tell event in the summer that I hosted, the general theme revolved around jokes about how lonely I've become. There's no use sitting around moping, you might as well laugh at our sadness, right? Um...right?

I've had that bug lately. That feeling when I went out to a social engagement and think, Maybe I'll meet THE person of my dreams tonight. And I get all excited and slowly as the night progressed, the excitement turned into dread as I realized once again that she was not here. I understand this creates an aura of desperation around me and I am okay with that.

In the National Post (I know), I read about how in Shanghai Ikea is banning elderly people because they are using the store as a real life dating app. But these brave widows and divorcees are not quitting:

The “matchmakers” are refusing to quit the Ikea restaurant, despite the new rules. Many bring their own water and steamed buns, but buy some inexpensive croissants. “I guess few people know just how lonely old people are,” said a retired woman named as Xu by a Shanghai news website. “Our kids are not around, and some visit only on weekends. I feel quite good when I come here. I talk with friends, but some elderly do meet people who become lovers.”

I'm not in the elderly category (although I feel like it sometimes) and I'm not divorced or a widow (although I feel like it sometimes), but I understand them. Plus I needed a new side table, so I decided on a trip to Ikea. Besides, I had meatballs the previous week, but not SWEDISH meatballs.

What I didn't do was get excited. On the drive there, I focused on the side table. I walked into that enormous blue and yellow building thinking about heights and widths and how I was going to fit the table in my car.

I needed a few extra little things, so at the entrance, I reached to get one of those big blue bags. When I went to pull out the bag, someone else had also grabbed it. When I looked up, it was HER. I knew it right away. The woman of my dreams. We stood there for a moment, both holding a corner of the bag. She smiled, she knew it too. I let go of the bag, reached in to get my own. We never took our eyes off each other and fell in step as we rode the escalator up to the presentation level.

At the top of the escalator, a friendly Ikea person handed us some flyers, smiled and asked, "What are you two looking for today?" We both blushed, started mumbling that we weren't together, looked at each other and stopped. In that moment, we decided to just go with it. I answered a side table (which I haven't thought one thought about since I entered) and she answered a bookshelf. The friendly Ikea person directed us the appropriate ways, but we did not part.

As we walked through the kitchen area, we joked about how people disrupt the flow and walk the wrong way through the presentation centre. I mean, I'm sure Ikea has done all kinds of studies regarding how they set the presentations up in order to have the best possible shopping experience. Why fuck with Ikea? This was our getting to know you stage where we blushed and joked and discovered new things about each other.

During the dining room area, we talked about movies and television shows and music. We found a lot in common. Sure, she liked the show Love, but I could look past that. She inspired me to try something new. You see, for a while now, when I've gone out on dates (if you could call them that), I've been focused on finding one irredeemable fault with the other person. This fault is never something big, just small things like they liked a movie that I found terrible or they failed to seem even remotely interested in me (okay, that last one isn't necessarily small). I tried to decipher if this was an actual fault or just me looking for one. Usually I decided it was an actual fault. I've been trying to let this go because everyone has faults, especially me.

We tried out the beds in the bedroom section. This pushed the intimacy of our relationship up a few notches. We lay facing each other, talking in whispers about our hopes and dreams and failures. It was a little awkward when another friendly Ikea person told us he got some complaints from other customers. I felt like an elderly divorcee in Shanghai.

The kid section was where things started to break down. No relationship is perfect, you want someone who will be there for you in the good times and the bad. The kid section took a toll on us. Everything was so expensive and we didn't like how all the boy stuff was trucks and blue and the girl stuff was all princess and pink. There were just so many decisions to make and we hardly agreed an anything. The other parents looked so tired as their kids ran around jumping on all the beds. It was pandemonium and we had to get out of there.

We made it through the kid section and decided to get some lunch in the cafeteria. I went for my Swedish meatballs and she told me how she was vegetarian. I've been thinking about making the switch off meat and she dismissed this, choosing to believe that I was just saying this to get in her good graces. We hardly spoke during lunch, it was a silence that created a deep chasm between us. Five of my eight meatballs went uneaten.

In the self serve basement level, all bets were off. We argued when we couldn't find the aisle that housed her bookshelf. When we found it, we fought about whether it would fit in her car. By the time we reached the checkout, we gave each other the silent treatment. When we exited, another friendly Ikea person smiled and wished us a good day, to which we both mumbled, "Oh, we're not together." I helped her put the bookshelf in her car, it did fit, but with various stages of yelling, followed by silence, followed by more yelling, which ended in her driving away without even saying thank you.

I stood there in that lonely Ikea parking lot and thought, Maybe Ikea was right in banning us widows and divorcees. To which I would add...and sad and desperate people. If we can't find love in Ikea, what are we to do?

And I didn’t even get my goddamn side table.

National Post Article: Ikea losing patience with elderly Chinese who assemble in store to find love.

Paul Dore