When I met my husband almost 20 years ago, he had a couch. It was his “bachelor couch,” and even though it may have looked cool back in 1990 when he bought it to furnish his bachelor pad, the upholstery pattern on that piece of furniture can only be described as a cross between a Bill Cosby sweater and the wallpaper in a gynecologist’s office.
However, I came into the marriage without a couch, so on our limited budget, I was thankful to have one at all. For the first couple years of marriage, the couch was a useful piece of furniture, despite her crisscrossing shades of teal, gray and mauve, and the outdated honey oak embellishments on the armrests.
Moving with the military every few years, I thought my husband’s bachelor couch would eventually be jettisoned like other outdated items from our past – my black and white TV, his old girlfriend’s wine glasses, the kids’ worn out stuffed animals, my stirrup pants – somehow that old bachelor couch just never went away. Sure, we bought other furniture, but the old bachelor couch stuck around in a spare bedroom, or waited in a storage unit until we could find another use for her.
More than a decade into the marriage, I suggested that we donate my husband’s bachelor couch to charity. “But she is so well built and still has so much use – we can’t get rid of her!” he replied, incredulously. I never brought it up again, and as I sit here in my office writing this column at my desk, that 22-year-old bachelor couch sits just two feet away, made tolerable with a striped slipcover.
I could feel threatened by the fact that my husband has had a longer relationship with his bachelor couch than with his own wife; in fact, when I am alone in the room with his couch, I sometimes feel her mocking me. But I have learned that, as much as I dislike her distasteful appearance, my husband’s bachelor couch symbolizes something for him, something with which he is not yet willing to part.
Perhaps, the couch that my husband purchased in his mid-20s reminds him of his youth, his virility, his long-gone full head of hair and former waistline. Or perhaps, she reminds my husband of buddies from his squadron days, who sat upon its sturdy cushions to watch football in unspoken camaraderie.
And as much as I don’t like to think about it, perhaps she reminds my husband of old girlfriends, who were probably tacky, wore too much make up, drank wine coolers and did God-knows-what with him while lying on her garish upholstery.
I guess I can’t blame him for grasping onto bygone virtues. Heck, I have two file boxes out in the garage that contain a useless jumble of high school yearbooks, photos, diaries, artwork, playbills, swimming ribbons, and even the bronze Junior Firefighter Badge I sent away for from a Smokey the Bear advertisement in the back of Highlights magazine. If anyone tried to throw those file boxes away, I’d turn from middle-aged housewife into vicious cage fighter faster than you can say “aggravated assault.”
Why? Because those scraps of crumpled paper and corroding metal symbolize a simple, carefree time. A time when my greatest worry was curling my bangs right or whether my parents were going to let me have the car on Friday night. So, on days when the minutia of my middle-aged life as a housewife and mother of three bogs me down, it’s nice to know that I still have in my possession, in two moldy file boxes in the garage, the hope that life can be simple and carefree again.
So, I will not begrudge my husband his reminder of days gone by, even if his “little memento” has had a longer relationship with him than I have and takes up eight feet of wall space in my office. Besides, she has provided the rest of the family some consolation by facilitating many an afternoon nap.