Jessie Raymond: Comfort trumps style in recliner wars
Last November, Mark and I bought new living room furniture. The purchase reignited a longstanding marital dispute.
About his recliner.
Here’s the thing: Mark is a contractor. He works hard, sometimes six or seven days a week, frequently outside, and often in extreme weather. After a long day of physical labor, he likes to spend the evening relaxing in his recliner. (For “relaxing,” read “falling asleep within five minutes of putting his feet up.”)
But I — and I know this is a controversial issue — don’t like recliners.
I especially grew to hate his old one, a beast we bought over a decade ago, as it succumbed to time and grime and overuse. Eventually, it became too disgusting to even put out by the side of the road with a free sign on it.
Recliners can be great. They make sense in a man cave (or a “she shed,” which is now, apparently, a thing) or in the TV room. But we live in the kind of home where the formal living room and the TV room (and the craft room and the workout room) are all the same room.
To my eye, a recliner just doesn’t fit with the vaguely-farmhouse-casual living room style I’m going for. But Mark doesn’t care. He thinks, for some reason, that he deserves to be comfortable when he’s lounging.
I knew when we started shopping for furniture that he wouldn’t settle for just a tasteful, understated sofa and loveseat. No, he demanded that we get a new recliner, too — one that, unlike his old one, still had both arms securely attached to the frame.
I consented but asked that he choose something that looked more like a traditional armchair and less like a pillow fort. We settled on a model that was neither as attractive as I was hoping for nor as cozy as he would have liked (marriage experts call this “compromise”).
When the new furniture arrived, I had the delivery men take the old recliner away with them — with a tarp over it. I couldn’t let the neighbors know we had been harboring a chair that would have raised eyebrows even at the transfer station.
Only there was a problem. While the new recliner looked OK, it had a design flaw: It worked fine for me when I tried it, but when Mark leaned back fully, the chair popped him back to upright. The only way he could stay reclined was to hold his body in a rigid reverse plank until his abs or his grip on the armrests gave out.
To please me, he tried for several days to get used to the chair. He’d sit down, press himself back, then grit his teeth and tremble as he fought to maintain a reclined position. Eventually he’d grow drowsy, drift off to sleep and unclench. Suddenly — with a “boing!” — the back would snap up and launch him, now wide awake, several feet across the living room.
Failing to appreciate the sheer entertainment value it held for me, Mark insisted that we exchange the chair. To be fair, I couldn’t expect him to settle for a recliner that only worked when he held a 35-pound weight on his chest. So, against my better judgment, I let him choose the replacement.
Naturally, he went for the biggest, comfiest, most recliner-looking recliner in the showroom.
“Really?” I said. “Look in any decorating magazine. You will never, ever see a recliner like that in a magazine living room.”
“Maybe so,” he said. “But you will also never see the wife’s coffee mug on the end table, or her free weights stacked behind the couch, or her knitting permanently piled on the coffee table.”
“Shut up,” I explained.
Due to complications with the order, the new recliner arrived just last week. It looks like a pile of giant marshmallows (but is, as you might expect, dreamy to lie in). Mark is in heaven.
Every time I look over at the new monstrosity hogging up a significant chunk of the living room, I seethe, knowing that it’s just one more reason (among many, to be honest) that my living room will never look like the ones in the magazines.
Then I see Mark lying there among the overstuffed cushions.
Part of me resents him for choosing an ugly recliner against my wishes. But I can’t stay mad.
He looks so precious when he’s sleeping.
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