I asked a woman out to dinner, to a place I'd been wanting to try. As is often the case with New York dates, we began talking logistics. The IKEA closest to me is a trek from my apartment. Hopping in a cab feels unadventurous when the Brooklyn behemoth painstakingly made sure it's accessible by ferry. Without knowing this woman long enough to tempt a Gilligan's Island-level fate, we chose the next best option: riding our bikes.
There are a surprising number of bike racks at this IKEA, an immediate intimacy test. As the automatic doors split, it's here that we embraced our vulnerability: roll over and expose your most private domestic fantasies in the showroom or immediately unveil the full character of one's cafeteria conduct.
Ask yourself if the fragile bonds of early courtship can withstand your weight in meatballs.
Ask yourself if your preferred duvet pattern can endure the scrutiny of a Rorschach test.
Ask yourself if the exit signs are only decorations.
We got frozen yogurts at the cafe and entered a model flat in the showroom. We test if we could fit in a HEMNES armoire. One at a time. Together. We looked for junk in a kitchen drawer. We sketched a morning: She poked her head out from behind the shower curtain while I sit, thinking man, on the toilet (sealed & labeled DISPLAY ONLY). "I thought you said you were making breakfast." There is a gentle thrill in role-playing an unraveling couple. I stormed out of a LEIRVIK bed and announced that, "perhaps it's better if I sleep on the KARLSTAD sofa, tonight."
There is a gentle thrill in role-playing an unraveling couple. I stormed out of a LEIRVIK bed and announced that, "perhaps it's better if I sleep on the KARLSTAD sofa, tonight."
We made it to the cafeteria and shared a tray. Between navigating the sprawling menu and jostling for a table, the delicate trust we had built in lighting and textiles could shatter faster than a KAFFEREP ginger cookie. She had already shot down a proposed appetizer of child's menu chicken fingers and my backup plan of asking a listless child if he planned to finish his plate of untouched tenders. She earnestly considered a turkey wrap. This moment was tense. But we let go and let the Swedes take the wheel.
We sat down to sweeping views of Manhattan's skyline at the cafeteria's edge. An adjacent party of five finished up slices of chocolate cake and departed. Aside from the three variety sampling platters of meatballs, we were alone. She wouldn't let me call it the Chef's Tasting Menu, but it was romantic. We discussed our favorite other-worldly lamp. We pondered whether Smaland is The Good Place or The Bad Place. We used the golf pencil to doodle on the order form. We got too full for dessert.
So this isn't 36 Questions That Lead to Love. But it's the best way to play house without having to clean your room. The value of an IKEA date is a low-stakes sneak peek of your potential relationship three years down the line. Swap pretense and facade for your finest cafeteria frock.
Plus, every IKEA shopper knows some of the best finds are in the As-Is section.