Happy New Year, feminists! I took a long break around Christmas and New Year’s and, since my wife, Jes, and I weren’t traveling, I spent a lot of time relaxing. I read 5 books (and highly, highly recommend all things by Leigh Bardugo), played some Zelda, played some Fit Ring, and ordered delivery several times. Near the end of our staycation, Jes saw this post on Instagram:
We did not resist recognizing our inner couch. Instead, we reveled in the idea. So we ordered a little more takeout, heated up a buckwheat pad in the microwave to cuddle, and curled up under our favorite homemade plaid fleece blanket—for what is the religion of the couch if not the blanket? Well...maybe the throw pillow.
Going back to work was HARD. It wasn’t because I don’t love my job. I do, truly. It was because transforming from a couch back to a human was not easy. Couches don’t have to be charming. They don’t have to write workout programs and then make sure the exercises are correctly performed. They don’t have to tell people where the water fountain is or change the channel when the news isn’t on or figure out why a treadmill isn’t working. Couches do not have to smile at strangers.
But humans do.
I started telling my clients about my transition into Couch. One of them asked me what kind of couch I was and I delightfully explained the first thing that came into my head: I was a lavender floral couch.
“With a plastic cover?” she asked.
"Of course with a plastic cover!” I agreed.
When I got home I told Jes about my inner couch and she shook her head. “No,” she countered, “you’re a comfy orange velvet couch!”
I couldn’t disagree. “That’s my outer couch,” I explained. “My inner couch is floral, lavender, and plastic-covered.”
I realized that the inner and outer couch is a good metaphor for identity. The orange couch is the mask I present to the world. My inner couch is dainty and vulnerable. So let’s take a second to unpack my outer and inner couches, starting, of course, with the couch you see.
The Velvet Orange Couch
Jes told me she has a very particular couch in mind. This couch can be found in the year 2000 in Charlotte, NC. Jes used to babysit for her teacher’s sister who had this couch in her living room. She describes the couch as cool and a little arty. Cool and a little arty? That is definitely the way I want people to see me, but I didn’t realize I was being successful. (I fooled my own wife! She thinks I’m cool when I’m really such a nerd!) This is the kind of couch you want to have a beer with at that new local brewery where they have vintage Nintendo games and Bring Your Own Beamer parties. (That’s so 2011…)
The Floral Lavender Couch
This is the kind of couch you’d find in your grandmother’s house in 1985. It’s not a couch you’d want to sit on, partly because plastic is sticky and partly because it’s daintiness makes it a little stiff, but your grandmother loves it. She protects it with plastic to protect its value and to keep the purple flowers pristine. Someone spilling juice on this couch won’t cause any damage. It just rolls right off. Still, if your grandma has space, she might keep the couch in a formal room where it doesn’t get a lot of use. And she might keep kids off it altogether because they create chaos that can’t be controlled.
Clearly, my insides don’t match my outsides and I’m okay with that. Inside, I’m delicate and fragile but I have a protective shield to keep out the dirt. I like control and quiet and avoid disruption. But others see me as a comfy couch where you can lie back and put up your feet. Maybe my inner couch isn’t covered by a plastic sheet at all. Maybe it’s covered by a big orange couch. Maybe my armor is my persona—appearing as one thing while really being something else. I’m super chill on the outside, but shy on the inside.
Jes sometimes describes me as a soft-shell crab masquerading as a hard-shell crab. And she’s right. I don’t like to be vulnerable. I get that vulnerability is courageous, but I don’t think I’m a coward. I just need people to earn my trust before I can be vulnerable with them. I need to know they’re not going to spill anything on me before I can retract my plastic cover and reveal myself for the glorious floral couch I am...before I can hand them a blanket and let them snuggle in.
Jes, by the way, is a soft brown leather couch masquerading as a shiny brown leather couch. Her insides and outsides are pretty close.
So what kind of couch are you? Don’t overthink it. Go with your gut. Then ask your partner or a close friend what kind of couch they think you are. See how close your insides and outsides match. Figure out what qualities each couch has and why they fit you. Get to know your inner couch a little better and you get to know yourself a little better. And, if you want to be a little vulnerable, tell us about your inner and outer couches in the comments.
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