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Have a seat. Not there.

August 8, 2011

I like my chair. It is a Planter’s Chair. A planter’s chair (or plantation chair) is a kind of 18th C La-Z-Boy. It was designed for plantation owners to relax in after long days of telling people what to do in some very hot and humid place. (The people actually doing the work just lay on the ground and considered the positive aspects of early death—either their own or the planter’s).

I think the design originated in the West Indies, although variations are found in India, Southeast Asia, East Indies and everywhere Europeans introduced the blessings of forced labor. It is made of tropical hardwood (Mahogany in the west, Teak in the east) and has a caned or rattan seat and tilted back for cooling ventilation against one’s sweaty back and bum. The key feature is swing-out arm extensions for putting your feet up on while a servant pulls off your boots.

This is my chair because:

  1. I had wanted one for a long time
  2. It’s the perfect size for me
  3. No one else sits in it.

A personal chair is like a throne; its meant for one person exclusively and usually has some power attached to it—even if the power is only denying other people its plump comforts. Traditionally, a throne is the only chair in a throne room and the monarch was the only person who sat.

The king gets comfortable. The court gets cramps. That's what having a throne means.

My guess is that most people who have a throne have some kind of esteem or security issue. That is, in a world beyond their control they have one place to call their own. Archie Bunker had his own chair. Sheldon on Big Bang Theory has his exclusive sofa seat. My grandfather had his spot, a square club chair, which he habitually occupied to read the newspaper and fall asleep. My mother has her own too, it’s a stress free chair and hers for therapeutic rather than egotistical reasons.

”]A throne isn’t always a chair. The dogs have their crates. My father has his study. Desks are about power, not workspace. A car can be a throne—hence road rage.

My chair has nothing to do with power or anxiety. I like to sit in it to read, do the Ken-Ken and Sudoku. The first planters chairs i saw were in Charleston. They were real antiques, from the Caribbean. Regency style, made of gorgeous deep rubbed mahogany. I coveted a long time before getting one of my own. Not the vintage or style of what I had first seen, but affordable and a planters chair none the less. The dealer said it came from Vietnam and it’s made of teak. The back reclines in the manner of a Morris chair, so it’s only about 100 years old.

The advantage to long, swinging arms is you can rest your feet.

The biggest reason why this chair is mine is because I’m the only person who is comfortable in it. Anyone tall, or fat or old has trouble getting into it. If you haven’t got a low center of gravity, good luck getting out of it. It fits me just right. With a glass of something stationed on one arm and my legs propped on another I enjoy my chair–even though no one ever comes to pull my boots off.

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