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January 31, 2013

STAWAR: Take a seat

The other day, my wife Diane said that her back was hurting, but she felt better when she sat in the car. That’s probably because the driver’s seat is the best, and most expensive chair we own. It certainly is the only chair we have that can be adjusted eight different ways. 

One of the few things I remember seeing in Washington, D.C., was the exhibit featuring Archie Bunker’s favorite chair from the 1970’s television series “All in the Family.” In 1978, Norman Lear, the show’s creator, donated Archie and Edith’s chairs to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, when he thought the series was being canceled. To his surprise, it was renewed for another season and he paid thousands of dollars to make exact replicas of the chairs that originally cost only about $8 each. The notion of a family member being territorial about a shabby, but treasured, chair, is something familiar that surfaced again on “Fraizer.”

I personally can understand Archie’s reverence for his favorite chair. When Diane and I started dating in the 1970s, we were both just out of school, poor, and worked for not-for-profits My apartment was sparsely furnished with second-hand furniture from my parent’s attic and Diane had also accumulated whatever furniture she could. I remember complaining to her that whenever I visited, she didn’t have a decent chair to sit in. It’s hard to look very cool sitting in a bean bag chair. I kept falling over.

Besides comfort, chairs are also symbolic of social status. Having a “chair at the table” has come to mean that you belong to a group and have co-equal status. A few years ago when we asked our daughter what birthday present our youngest granddaughter, Rosie, would like for her second birthday, our daughter said that Rosie really wanted her own chair. Rosie couldn’t wait to escape from her accursed “high chair,” a symbol of babyhood, and take her rightful place at the table with her siblings, as a peer, rather than a second-class citizen. 

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