I live by myself, and last week I realised I had to buy a new sofa. But I was not prepared for a complete existential crisis. Suddenly I was faced with a thousand different colours, styles, prices and fabrics, and after staying up late every night with 18 tabs on my laptop open, one evening I honestly burst into tears.
By the time you buy your first sofa, it seems you’re meant to know exactly what kind you want, whether you need to prioritise comfort or style, or the ease with which it can be cleaned. You’re meant to know what kind of lifestyle you have, and what kind you want!
I swear I’m not overthinking it. I am genuinely worried I’ve missed out on a crucial moment when I was meant to log all these decisions for when I finally needed to buy a sofa. Seriously, will I regret pink velvet?
You’re not overthinking this. You are thinking about this the exact correct amount. This is the appropriate level of thinking. Any less and you will slide right through to death on your ex-flatmate’s broken futon. Any more, then you risk losing yourself.
It happens all too often, a once bright, sound girl falters when invited to make a decision about the way her life should look, and having waded too far into Pinterest, disappears in a sea of dark florals, mid-century chairs, kooky slogans and clean lines. You see her sometimes, wandering at night, the hem of her dress catching on the zip of her boots, her face filtered oddly, a low song from her throat that sounds like “gallery wall”. All it takes is one wrong move, one confusing comment on your cardigan, one stumble as you try to spend a birthday voucher, one bad boyfriend or app too far – it could be any one of us, so I pray for us all.
Apart from you, L, because you are thinking about this the exact correct amount and you do not need my prayer. You have written this letter at the very moment when the act of choosing a sofa can dissolve messily into thoughts about the life you plan to lead upon it, and while I have plenty of time for that conversation – will this sofa be a velvet albatross you will heave with you from flat to flat, will you one day have a child that stains it, will this be where said child is drunkenly conceived, is it actually terribly arrogant to purchase a three-seater? – if you really need a place to sit, then the only way to commit is to focus, to streamline your anxieties (a skill that is useful for more than purchasing furniture).
Some people like to write things down. Not me, I find it slightly precious, but some people do. If you’re one of those people, please find your special pen. Sit quietly and think about what it is about this purchase that is pricking at you. Straightforward, simple things like cost, colour, and size. And then, from there, allow yourself to tiptoe into the dimly lit alleyways that lead from these seemingly casual concerns to the larger questions you might be avoiding. The future of your relationships, for example. The future of your job, the risks of investing in quite the wrong thing. Age, decay, taste, tomorrow. A sofa is a remarkable object, for not only does it have the power to cushion you through box sets and break-ups, to hide coins or become an impromptu office, bed or picnic table, it is a totem of adulthood. Of stability. Of commitment, not just to the furniture, but to the idea that, as a montage of your next decade plays out, this sofa will be the static point in its centre. It is a promise that a future exists.
Now fold this up carefully, put it somewhere safe until you’re ready to open it again, and choose the cheapest sofa you hate least. Pink’s fine.