ikea man
Why Walking Around IKEA Is Basically Porn
04.01.19

In the heart of Red Hook stands a warehouse that houses more magic than Noah Centineo’s smile and all seven Harry Potter books combined — so powerful that, while inside, you believe sorcery is real.

The double doors automatically open, welcoming you into a warm embrace. After a short escalator ride you are greeted by the mecca of all meal options: Swedish meatballs. No ordinary meatballs, these have the ability to transform any regular IKEA dweller into a Scandinavian high priestess. You partake in the ritual, quickly forking five into your mouth, closing your eyes and preparing for the trip of a lifetime. You know that you will never be able to recreate this satisfaction from the comfort of your home.

Suddenly, you’re walking through the rooms of your childhood dollhouse. Each space serves as its own stage design and you get to play the protagonist in every scene. You can become whomever you want to be in this strange hall of mirrors. One minute, you’re a housewife in the heat of the Texan desert, preparing a pitcher of fresh lemonade on your marble kitchen counter. The next, you’re an art school student with an eyebrow piercing and a penchant for Morbid Angel, sitting cross-legged at your candle-lit desk, scribbling down your latest manifesto.

Perusing at IKEA is voyeurism in its purest sense — the ability to seamlessly transition in and out of lives that don’t belong to you, all the while scuffing the hardwood floors without a care. It allows you to develop your own taste, to sample your likes and dislikes, with little risk and, potentially, a whole lot of reward. The best part? None of it’s permanent. Your experience is transient, and thus, transcendental: You are playing the field, sampling a multitude of lifestyles without defining the commitment by making a purchase.

But you might — the aisles are an overwhelming influx of affordability. Everything you interact with is accessible, and therefore, conceivable. The possibilities feel endless, and imagination takes control: Empty picture frames insist that you must take that trip to Argentina that you always talked about. Woven baskets from the gutters of Bohemia beg you to store your miscellaneous doodads and thingymabobs. The real world has become a brothel of bounty. These items aren’t possessions — they’re ideas. You drop a pin in each prospect by taking photos, discoveries saved to your camera roll.

Alternate universes — Narnia, the Upside Down — are historically harder to exit than enter. IKEA is no different. You stand in the queue recounting your pilgrimage, one item on the conveyor belt at a time. The keeper of the gates tallies up your total. Your one-way ticket back to the world costs more than you bargained for. Those lives you embodied were, in fact, fallacies — manufactured memories; random electrons firing in your brain. You try to piece the past few hours together, but it’s no use. No portal is as powerful from a distance.

The mythical land of IKEA is, put plainly, a fantasy. Both a Swedish pleasure house and an analog Pinterest board, it allows you to stick a thumbtack into your desires and give into the absurd. It’s the manifestation of true capitalist pornography — surrealist foreplay with a price tag. But in today’s digital age, perhaps we keep returning to IKEA because it feels good to physically interact with the fantastic, to reach out and touch, to feel the polyester fabric graze our skin. It’s as close to reality as role play can get — without getting lost in the simulation.

Graphic by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

Get more Mixed Bag ?