Valentine’s Day At IKEA

The Most Romantic Big Box Store On Earth

30 Rock has it right

Is there possibly a more romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day than setting out in a dinged-up Buick in nearly sub-zero weather for the Red Hook, Brooklyn, IKEA mega-plex with a husband, a toddler, a grandma/mother-in-law, and a roughly six pound, 36-week-old in utero infant, where all parties will all spar in increasingly dazed, exhausted fashion over what you need for said infant and his older sister? I felt pretty damn sexy, let me tell you, trying to big belly my way through the aisles, wearing fifteen layers of other people’s maternity clothes and a makeshift coat, while Babygirl bounced on the beds, dragged chairs around, and recounted the plot of the movie Frozen. (“So she goes away, and the other one has to go find her, so she can tell her, ‘It’s OK to be different!’”)

Frozen is the only movie she has ever seen, and that only once, but it made quite an impression on her. “I’ll be Elsa!” she told us, from up in the loft bed we were considering (~$350, minus the desk). “This is my castle!”

Did we want to buy said castle? It would just fit in her room — again, minus the desk — and the storage components would obviate the need for other furniture, like the armoire we were also considering ($175). IKEA makes clear, no doubt on advice of counsel, that loft beds are only good for children six and up, but public opinion on the matter seems to be mixed. My high-energy older brother slept in a top bunk from the time that he was a young toddler without managing to kill himself, and I know other families whose kids have also done fine.

The area underneath the loft bed makes for a nice play space, too, a kind of kid cave, which may well be important for Child #1 once Child #2 comes along to snatch possibly more than its fair share of attention and room.

The other option is to convert her crib to a toddler bed and squeeze in the armoire as well as the mini crib we just got secondhand ($40, bedding and accoutrements included!), hoping that that will serve for the 15 months until we move to a bigger place.

“It’s only money, after all,” counseled my mother when I began to hyperventilate about choices. That’s long been her take: if you can solve a problem with money, it’s not that big a problem. But I hate doing money wrong, even as I accept that, like most people, I probably do money wrong all the time by focusing on how much I can save, percentage-wise, rather than how much I can save, dollar-wise. The Times calls it “foolish frugality.”

We tend to focus on the percentage rather than the amount we save, and fall prey to a mental illusion. After all, when your shopping is done, it is dollars — not percentages — that will be in your bank account. … Another of Professor’s Azar’s papers summarizes the problem perfectly: “Do Consumers Make Too Much Effort to Save on Cheap Items and Too Little to Save on Expensive Items?” The answer is, resoundingly, “Yes.”

Consider that spending a day at IKEA may indeed be the definition of “too much effort to save on cheap items,” I am clearly implicated in this analysis.

We paused for lunch in the store cafe — salmon for the grown-ups, the famous Swedish meatballs for Babygirl, who ignored them in favor of lingonberry juice and cornbread — and were pleased to discover that though the store could jack up the prices on its captive audiences, it doesn’t. Its food remains affordable: the four of us ate for around $30.

Babygirl then remained with my mother in the cafeteria while Ben and I headed back into the fray to consider $15 rugs and other small-bore items and squabble over the dumb things you squabble about when you’re stressed out and tired of shopping and you feel very far from the people you were oh-so-recently when he surprised you with a heart-shaped donut from the fancy place on Flatbush.

We had the misfortune of running into another couple, too, one that was our (warped) mirror image: tall, thin, fresh-faced, pleasant, and well-groomed despite the toddler swinging around their knees and the 36-week-old in-utero infant bulging under the wife’s stylish yet warm maternity coat.

After bidding farewell to our radiant dopplegangers, we decided to go with the loft bed — damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! — only to discover, once we got downstairs, that it was sold out. By then we were too dispirited to go with the armoire, so we left. After a day of shopping, we emerged back into the arctic cold with a $15 rug, a pack of Triple A batteries, some small toy storage boxes, and what was left of our pride. At least there was a heart-shaped donut waiting for us at home.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.