I've long since turned 21 years old, had my first beer, grown a full beard, and discovered a few (lots of) gray hairs. Recently, however, I had an experience that truly made me feel like a man -- I went shopping for furniture.
Until now, I have spent my life living in other people's houses, pre-furnished dormitories, and set-up apartments for workers on temporary assignment. Within the last two weeks, I've had to stock a completely unfurnished apartment, something I'd never done.
Starting from scratch is a strange thing. Growing up, there were always things in my home, some more appreciated than others, which I always expected to be there. I took great interest in the penguin on the kitchen counter that dipped its head and, somehow, picked up toothpicks in its mouth, as well as the cookie jar that was next to it.
Looking back, what I should have appreciated more was the couch I sat on to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the table where my brothers and sister and I ate our meals, and the bed frame that held the bed where I laid my head to sleep at night. I appreciate them now because none of them are there in my new apartment.
For the last couple of weeks, when I've not been busy unpacking, I've been doing reconnaissance work, in search of these items.
While doing this, however, I realized that I've never seriously shopped for furniture in my life. In my lifetime, the closest I've come is buying a mattress from a dude, buying a bean-bag chair from a dude, and finding a table that was salvageable.
Going into a store and actually shopping for furniture, that's a grown-up activity. Until the past few weeks, Haverty's Furniture, American Signature Furniture, and Rooms To Go, were peculiar places parents went for several hours while I finished getting Super Mario where he needed to go.
I realize now that when parents talk about how much better your life is than theirs, and how hard it is to be an adult, they are really talking about having to buy furniture.
Having no idea how much a table and chairs, a bed, and a couch are supposed to cost, I've found myself traveling places I had never traveled before, seeing prices I've never seen posted on anything other than automobiles. It was insane to me that at some stores, a couch and a loveseat could set you back a full month's paycheck.
In search of deals, I found myself in unclaimed freight stores, random furniture warehouses, and even IKEA, a place I never thought I would have to visit.
Uninitiated to IKEA, I had only heard horror stories of it being a place where boyfriends go to die and where husbands are dragged through an endless labyrinth of trendy, post-modern furniture.
What I discovered, however, is that the store is a time accelerator. I felt older with every couch I sat in, every table I tested for sturdiness, and every bed I evaluated for quality. To make me feel even older, as I tried to find my way out of the maze that is IKEA, I kept running into draperies, trivets, and colanders that would look great in my new apartment.
Willing or unwilling, I have now become part of the mysterious Illuminati of adults that spends their weekends shopping for curtains, ottomans, and dinette sets. Life will never be the same again.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.