Featured in the Penn Gazette's "Notes From The Undergrad" - May/June 2007
"The Green Couch is perfect"
pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s theory on
transitional objects does not apply to me. After all, his analysis
discusses a young child’s transition between dependence on, and
independence from, the mother. Winnicott’s general idea, however, can
still apply to an 18-year-old transitioning from home to college. In
both cases the human must adjust to the reality that it is his or her
own actions that yield personal contentment. According to Winnicott, a
transitional object often aids this journey toward independence. It
becomes a source of comfort, symbolic of the person’s ability to
fulfill one’s own needs. Young children cling to items such as teddy
bears and blankets. I resort to a green couch.
parents provide their young child with the eventual transitional
object. I found the Green Couch all by myself. Easy to overlook, yet
not hard to find, it shimmers in the sunlight that bathes the
living-room alcove in Penn’s Kelly Writers House. In stark contrast to
the sleek, new brown leather couch across the room, the Green Couch
looks like it fell off a Salvation Army truck. Its worn, velvety cloth
is a deep olive hue; its shading alters with the slightest pressure.
Though speckled with ink and drink stains, the six cotton-filled
cushions conform to my body just right—not too forgiving, but not too
The Green Couch makes me wonder why I would ever need an entire house of rooms.
is an office many executives would envy. I have a beautiful view of the
living room and fireplace while I study, conduct interviews for
articles, and write (using my lap as a desk).
is a living room for personal and social purposes. While reading and
instant messaging, I listen to my iPod. I entertain friends and
converse with other writers; sometimes we gather to watch baseball on
is a dining room where I eat lunch—a buffalo-chicken sandwich and
raspberry smoothie from the Subway counter in Class of 1920 Commons,
just across Locust Walk from Writers House.
It is a bedroom where I can kick off my shoes, lie down, and take a catnap.
The only reason to get off this velvety heaven is to go to the bathroom.
Green Couch is perfect, its comfort only exceeded by its comforting.
Why be anywhere else? Surrounded by the Writers House family, I feel at
home. The bustling college campus just outside the windows simply
disappears, and a blissful serenity takes over.
wondered what was wrong with the plethora of couches in my dormitory’s
study lounges. They wondered why I insisted on journeying across campus
to Writers House every day. They argued that a nine-minute walk was
quite a trek simply to sit on a couch. I have never understood their
point of view.
catastrophe struck and all forms of communication became dysfunctional,
I can rest easy knowing the world would still know where to find me. On
a given day, I log more hours on the Green Couch than in my actual
room. In fact, several Writers House staff members believed I was on
the payroll; this rumor was not dispelled for months. Now, when
prospective students tour the Writers House, I am introduced as “the
permanent fixture on the Green Couch.” Some have proposed that I should
donate a new couch when I graduate and take the old one with me.
my first year at Penn drew to a close last May, the impending summer
hiatus posed a devastating problem: no Green Couch for four months. But
I was saved from what I anticipated being an eternal summer separation
when higher powers intervened and delivered another green couch to my
home just days before my return. Actually, the furniture store
delivered it. And the higher power—that was my family. While
redecorating the home library, they purchased a green couch to ease my
pain. Of course, my family’s green couch is not the Green
Couch. It is darker—more of a dusty army green than olive—with tougher
cushions, and microfiber upholstery. Napping on it would be an achy
experience, and my mother prefers I eat in the kitchen.
my family’s effort succeeded. They understood that the Green Couch
epitomized the home I had created to supplant the home of my childhood.
Yet, my family’s happiness in my finding the Couch superseded their
sadness over my departure for college. After all, a mother does not
become jealous of a child’s teddy bear. She experiences a sentiment of
satisfaction watching her child journey down the road toward
trying their best to replicate the very object that made my adjustment
to college seamless, my family reinforced a rare constant at this stage
in my life. Transience defines the college experience. Physically, it
means uprooting your material life every several months. Mentally, it
means being suspended between adolescence and adulthood. In the midst
of this inevitably fleeting lifestyle, a green couch transcends
furniture. It is my permanent home base, no matter where home is. I
will always feel a connection with any green couch—like they are all
mine. They will always conjure the Green Couch’s feeling of comfort and
satisfaction. No matter what, there will always be a green couch in my
home—in my life.