Wembley IKEA was the least romantic place to take someone this Valentine’s
If you’re going to argue, do it quietly
The idea of a visit to IKEA being the ultimate test of your relationship is a cliche. There are probably no couples who visit the Swedish flat-pack nirvana without a dose of self-awareness, a knowing wink to each other that they’d better not start shouting at each other.
Of course, the reality is that IKEA’s reputation as a romance-killer is completely overblown: it’s just a shop. A massive, confusing, sometimes-stressful shop, but if you’re the type of couple to fall out over lampshades then you’d probably be at each other’s throats on Oxford Street too. Taking one look around the couples shopping at IKEA Wembley over Valentine’s doesn’t tell you anything about the state of modern romance: everyone’s too worried about making a scene.
Every couple in IKEA knows they’re in constant danger of becoming a cliche. Raise their voices even slightly and every passing shopper will think to themselves: “There we go, it’s happening” – and then, more smugly, “we’d never be like that“. The result though is a weirdly tense atmosphere: everyone looking out for that typical IKEA couple and simultaneously trying desperately not to be one. So, disagreements are whispered, arguments are nipped in the bud and even crying children are indulged to avoid the stares of strangers.
If this pressure-cooker environment is what every IKEA has become, it reaches a higher level of polite awkwardness on Valentine’s, a situation not helped by the fact this is probably the only chain store in the country that hasn’t bent over backwards to fill every space with Valentine’s-themed products. While Tesco are labelling cucumbers as “for Valentine’s”, IKEA have made so few concessions you’re left assuming anything coloured red is inherently romantic. Even a waste paper bin. To come to IKEA around February 14 is to enter a world where Saint Valentine’s legacy was never commercialised and the next major holiday is actually Easter. There were actually more easter eggs than red roses in IKEA.
After you’ve walked past the tenth mumbled debate about which bedroom wall to put a mirror on, you start to crave some tacky “I love you” teddy bears or boxes of chocolates just so everyone in there can walk past something for sale that won’t start a ten-minute discussion. Instead though you’re trapped, surrounded by couples pretending Lingonberry sauce makes meatballs more romantic, holding back the flat-pack arguments and waiting to assemble them at home.