Anyone with a local Ikea will tell you that visiting the big blue & yellow box on a weekend is thisclose to insanity and always an adventure. Such was the case today at my local Ikea. With old and young alike maneuvering unwieldy carts of build-it-yourself furniture through a maze of semi-catatonic shoppers, it’s all I could do to keep from being crushed as I crept from the Ektorps to the Expedits.

Despite the throngs of people, one woman managed to distinguish herself from the pack. This woman looked to me as if she had rolled out of bed in a foreign country where toplessness in stores is acceptable and somehow wandered into my local Ikea by mistake. With wildly disheveled hair and wearing nothing but a semi-demi-bra and a low-slung ethnic print sarong (which was so-wrong for her rather generous curves), I might’ve thought she was dressed for a beach day if she hadn’t looked so much like she needed to turn a few more tricks before she could afford bus fare back to her country of origin.

Her crazy countenance was accentuated by her cluelessness. Apparently no one cc:’d her on the memo explaining that Ikea is A) open to the general public (including small children who ask many questions about dangling body parts), B) a store, and as such C) sells “things” and provides free receptacles for patrons to carry around said “things” prior to purchase.

As she moved languidly through the store spontaneously stopping mid-walkway to shove items into the ever-growing pile in her arms, she impeded traffic flow as often for her ADD shopping as for her periodically exposed nipples. It seemed to me that she was a housewares scavenger, hording random home decor items like food provisions – three $1.50 place mats, two $5 halogen desk lamps, and four $3 plastic CD storage boxes – just enough to get her through until next week.

One thing was obvious from her choices: no longer would her abode lack those certain homey touches so often missing from caves.


While this bizarre woman made for great people-watching, being stuck behind her was painful. After seeing her drop merchandise and pop a nip for the third time in 5 minutes, I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Goodness. Go get a cart,” I found myself saying out loud.

She turned and faced me with wide eyes. “Wow. You mean they have carts? They’ve got everything here. They just need to make a map of this place or something. I can’t find anything in here.”

Ah-ha! I knew it! An Ikea Virgin. Possibly an idiot, too. But definitely the former.


Here’s the thing about Ikea that gets heterosexual men and other Ikea virgins all messed up: the perpetual mob scene, the weird maze-like shopping – this is all part of the unique Ikea experience. When $5 plates of meatballs and $50 complete bedroom sets come together under one gigantic roof, the space planners & the marketing guys have got to do something to make the shopping experience seem memorable, efficient AND cohesive. It all seems very complicated, but it’s actually quite easy with a bit of planning. Here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, or your virgin loved one, for an Ikea shopping trip:

  1. Set aside ample time for parking, shopping, waiting, loading & unloading. Much like life, Ikea is all about the journey.
  2. Dress appropriately – sensible walking shoes, breathable fabrics, etc. No nipples, please.
  3. Fuel up with some snacks at home, or downstairs in the Marketplace before you head upstairs to shop.
  4. Review the store map and do some basic route planning – know where you’re going in the store and how to get there; learn the shortcuts Ikea helpfully builds into their floor plans.
  5. Gather required (and I might add, FREE) materials such as catalog, paper measuring tape, shopping list, and of course a cart or a shopping bag. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, having these things with you will save you from having to work your way back to the entrance of the store against the flow of traffic.

Follow these few simple tips and you and your virgin will be fine. After all, it’s just shopping. It’s not raketen vetenskap, people.

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