Listen to This Touching Modern Love Episode: “When a Couch is More Than a Couch”

“Were I healthy enough these days, I would be sipping a glass of free wine and running my hands over an exquisite accent pillow in an impossibly hip showroom called something like Space or Lust, while a sales assistant speaks to me of the virtues of aniline versus semi-aniline leather.” And so begins Nina Riggs’ Modern Love piece, When a Couch is More Than a Couch. An essay on love, family, loss, fear and furniture. The piece, which ran in The New York Times in 2016, was recently recorded for The Modern Love Podcast on NPR.

Kate Winslet reads the piece (in her impeccable American accent) giving breath and sly humor to an essay that already rippled with grace and emotion. And be warned, it’s not a light read (or listen). It highlights how the things in our home are an inextricable part of the biggest moments of our life, good or bad.

As Riggs is battling cancer she considers buying a couch. It’s not really about a couch of course, but the object provides her with something on which to place her fears and anxieties about illness and dying and leaving her family behind.

It’s a complicated calculus. On the one hand, a basic cost-benefit analysis: How much money do I want to spend on something I may not be around to really enjoy? On the other: Isn’t buying an expensive couch a kind of lovely expression of hopefulness? And after I’m gone, don’t I still want guests in my home to feel comfortable and stylish?

You can read the essay on The New York Times or listen to it (or both!) on NPR. Riggs wrote a memoir about living and dying with cancer, The Bright Hour, that is available now.

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