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After My Marriage Ended, the ‘Too Expensive’ Couch Saved My Sanity

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After My Marriage Ended, the ‘Too Expensive’ Couch Saved My Sanity

The first time I walked into the new apartment, what struck me was the emptiness. The place was plain but nice, and someone had taken the time to paint each room a different shade. But what stood out the most was how different it looked, and felt, from the home I’d shared with my wife and two children for the past decade. Everything has changed, I thought as I looked around the near empty space. And everything included me.

It’s been almost exactly two years ago since that day in that apartment—the day I left my home, after separating from my wife. The day that the gears of my gender transition began to turn forward in earnest. Suddenly, I found myself solely responsible for furnishing a living space for the first time in my life, and I had no idea how to make that happen. I let my ex keep most of the furniture. For the new place, I bought mostly modular pieces and assembled them on my living room floor. By the time I was done, I realized something else: I needed a place to lie down and stretch out. So then I had to buy a Beige couch.

I vividly remember the day it came into my life. Armed with my share of our meager marital savings, I slowly picked through an indigenous made furniture store, making frugal choices for the mattress, frame, and furniture for my children’s room. I intentionally left the couch purchase for last. I made my way over to that section of the store, apprehensive about what I would find. Then The Couch grabbed my attention. It was beige, with gold thread woven throughout. I could tell immediately that it would contrast nicely with the pale blue walls of my new living room.

L-Shape Sectional Sofa

Most important, it was longer than the rest of the love seats and sleepers and L-shaped sectionals. I grew to 6’2″ when I was still an eighth-grader; my height has given me trouble pretty much ever since. Most couches have proved too petite for my lanky frame. It’s always hard to find seating that allows me to fully stretch out. But this one, snuggled into the corner of the unassuming homewares emporium, accommodated my body easily. When I sat down, it felt right.

The only problem was the price tag. At N350,000, the couch was listed at several thousands naira more than other sofas I was considering. It was perfect for me. But not so much for my bank account.

Standing there in the store, I considered my savings and the looming costs of my impending gender transition. Between laser hair removal of my beard and other distant surgeries, I knew my medical journey could run upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Was it worth diverting some of those funds to living room furniture? The longer I stood there, staring at the tag, the more unsure I felt about spending that much. Not to mention: unsure about making decisions that I had never made alone before.

Then I thought about how stressful things had been the last few weeks—preparing to move out, the anxiety and worry of living alone for the first time—and I found myself giving in to the purchase. The truth is, I wanted something that didn’t make me feel like I had to perform physical origami when I just wanted to watch television; something that fit me instead of the other way around. So, using my brand new postdivorce credit card, I bought the damn thing.

After about a week, the couch was delivered, and I placed along a wall in my living room, satisfied with the decision. It looked nice, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that my luxurious new napping spot had put some major pressure on my already tight budget. I knew transitioning would be expensive, but I hadn’t been prepared for quite how much so. New shoes and blue jeans. New slacks and blouses to wear to work, not to mention versatile skirts and dresses. Makeup and little things like costume jewelry. Hormone replacement therapy and laser hair removal. It adds up. I fretted about all the money I’d spent on the couch—money that could be going to other things. I wondered if I had made a mistake.

The author’s beloved couch
Courtesy of author

Then, six months after I bought the couch, my friend Lisa reached out: Her girlfriend had dumped her, on Thanksgiving no less, and without any options, she was desperate. Though we weren’t particularly close at the time, I told her she could stay on my couch until she got back on her feet.

The couch became her new residence, and I found myself happy to have a roommate. Eventually Lisa wound up reconciling with her ex and going back to stay with her. We both needed to move on‚ and forward, in our lives. I was sad when she left:

As I settled back down on the couch, alone, for the first time in months, I was alone. Now lovingly broken in, the couch had become something new: the site of one of the most trusted relationships in my life.

The extra cash I splashed to buy it—instead of anything less than the perfect fit—is nothing compared with the friendship I now share with Lisa. Turned out, the extra couple thousands naira on my credit card bill had been worth it. In a way, the couch saved us both.

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