Couch Potato

Sentimentality to sit on


Short of maternal embrace, there is no comfort so great as a big, cozy couch. I know this to be true.

After all, it had been while sitting atop a plastic yellow couch that I first kissed some idiot named Adam in nursery school. Every year, my parents insisted my siblings and I assemble “on the green couch” in order to receive our annual bounty of Hanukkah gifts. And whenever I called in sick to school, my mother laid the same careworn sofa with pink cotton sheets, turned on The Price is Right, and brought me my lunch on a silver platter. Bob Barker at my fingertips and Nesquik sipped through a Krazy Straw? Show me more perfect happiness. I dare you.

Such early exposure to its charms explains why tufted furniture is the creature comfort that I have missed most since leaving New York over fourteen weeks ago. More even than I pine for my hair dryer or Poland Springs or Hulu, I yearn for that hideous old couch. It has seen me at my best and accepted me at my very worst. It has forgiven unspeakable crimes. A sibling who shall rename nameless peed on it once. (You know who you are.) But happy memories and barely endured hangovers do not alone account for the degree to which I long for it. Nostalgia is only partly to blame for the dull ache.

I’ve essentially been on the move for more than three months. I’ve traveled to England, Scotland, France, Ireland, and Israel. I’ve traipsed through world-famous museums, consumed my weight in mozzarella, and found that house wine makes everything taste better. I have been caught snapping selfies in public more often than I care to admit. I’ve seized the day and YOLO’d and carpe’d every diem. The life of a functional nomad is not too shabby. In fact, it puts even the winnings of Bob Barker’s Showcase Showdown to shame. But to revel in such an itinerant existence forces certain compromises.

It turns out you cannot pack a couch in your carry-on bag. I inaugurated the 30% Rule in January. Mine can still barely fit a pillow.

Couches are neither native nor necessary to travel. Hotels and dorm rooms and hostels provide beds for sleeping and chairs for sitting. Some even offer perfunctory love seats or brocade chaises or stiff divans. But do not mistake such imitators for true couches. A chaise will not hold you in its rapturous grip. A divan will not keep you warm at night. Thank goodness. If they did, I might never have roused myself from them to see the Eiffel Tower or the Duomo or Dover Street Market.

Sofas do not motivate or inspire or galvanize. They are not exclusive and they are very probably the enemies of great adventure. But they are also irresistible. One time, I sat down on one after lunch. The next thing I knew it was two in the morning. I don’t even regret it.

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  • So glad to hear that you are traveling! It is my favorite thing. The world would be a better place if more people knew what it was like to be the one who doesn’t belong,, and took the time to understand other cultures.

    I hope you all can take a moment to remember that today is the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. I have become much more aware of where clothing comes from, and I am trying to support brands who manufacture in the United States.

    Here is a great article from The Guardian:

  • I love that I just read an essay on sofas and relished every word. Well done.

  • Mattie, you’re a star. An absolute star. That whole essay was on couches, but it was also on so much more. How do you write like that?! Teach me your ways…..

  • Tracy

    Your way of writing is great! I love this long post about something as simple as sofas!

  • I spend at least 4 hours every single day in my couch. We are meant to be together. One time I had a week off from my work and I spent all my waking hours in my couch. It felt awesome. It made me feel like I wasn’t slouching since it’s not bed but not as profesh as my couch doesn’t have a desk in front of it (or any kind of table, I put my mug on the floor). Is my life becoming more compact now? Maybe I don’t need an apartment anymore. I just need a couch…

    • Mattie Kahn

      I endorse this message. (Also, minimalism is in, so this sounds reasonable to me.)