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Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Unexpected Romance of Lego Sets

During the Valentine's Day–themed episode of ABC's Abbott Elementary, Gregory gifts his girlfriend, Amber, a Lego flower bouquet because she’s allergic to real flowers. A romantic gesture gone wrong, Amber unenthusiastically asks whether the gift is for her or her kids. Simultaneously, Gregory's coworker, Janine, receives a Telfar handbag from her boyfriend, Maurice. When Janine mistakes it for a shopping bag, Maurice explains that the handbag is the gift—a designer one. On the way out of school, Amber jealously eyes the Telfar bag, and Janine the Lego set.

Prior to meeting my boyfriend, I would've sided with Amber in this scenario. I'd written Lego blocks off a long time ago. As a kid, I preferred Barbie dolls and Play-Doh. As a babysitting teenager, I saw the blocks as a hazard. When I wasn't dodging them in a playroom like a real-life version of Floor Is Lava, I was gently extracting them from a toddler's little hands before a bite-size piece made its way into their throat. I would've never considered it a fun hobby, let alone a romantic gift idea.

But as an adult, I stand corrected. What started as a random trip to the Lego store with my partner a couple of years ago ended with a newfound love and appreciation for these tiny colorful blocks. More importantly, it's become a fun and unique way for us to bond. Suddenly, I too was enviously eyeing the Lego flower bouquet on my TV and dropping subtle hints to my boyfriend.

Organized Chaos

Lego New York City Architecture Set$60 at Amazon$60 at Lego

When my boyfriend first suggested we check out the Lego Store on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I figured it'd be a nice break from being holed up in my apartment all weekend. We walked into the store, browsed the walls lined with Lego sets, and walked out with the New York City Architecture Set. Once we got back to my apartment, I was eager to start building, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly nervous.

As someone with both ADHD and a terrible case of perfectionism, I struggle to enjoy and commit to creative hobbies. Over the years, I've collected coloring books, boxes of crayons, knitting needles, and paintbrushes, all of which remain untouched. Whenever I attempt to ease my brain with some arts and crafts, I'm so overwhelmed by the pressure to make sure it comes out well that I end up abandoning the project altogether.

But since building Lego sets was an activity my boyfriend had wanted to try together for a while, I wanted to give it a shot. We unboxed the set, organized each pack of bricks chronologically, opened the instruction manual, and got started—matching each piece to the diagram on the page and following the steps. A few hours later, we clicked the last brick into place and stared proudly at our new creation.

As we began to throw out different ideas on where we might place it, I felt like I’d snapped out of a trance state. For the first time in a while, I managed to calm the anxious thoughts in my brain and focus on what was in front of me without taking multiple breaks or saving it for later (knowing I'd never actually get back to it). “This is how people must feel after they meditate,” I said to him. “I told you so,” he quipped. I wanted to march right back into the Lego Store and buy another set.

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We were excited to add a new activity to our date night rotation. Clear instructions and visuals, coupled with prepackaged pieces, soothe my anxiety and quell my fear that I'll mess it up somehow and my boyfriend will have to piece a majority of it together on his own (I've done this with puzzles and ceramics in the past).

Lego sets are easy to work together on. Everyone's process will vary, but we quickly settled into a routine that we now apply every time we open a new box. If the set is on the smaller side, one of us reads the instruction manual while the other listens along and builds. When we're done with a section, we switch. If it's a larger set, we usually divide and conquer. That way, regardless of how many pieces there are, the process always feels like a team effort.

For Rare Occasions Only

At this point, my boyfriend and I have completed a handful of Lego sets together, including The Mandalorian & the Child from the Star Wars collection, Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe Collectible Canvas, and James Bond's Aston Martin. These sets not only range in difficulty, but also price—as low as $20 all the way up to $260. Some Lego sets can set you back $1,000. It can be a cheap hobby, or not.

Lego Flower Bouquet$60 at Amazon$60 at Lego

We reserve Lego builds for date nights when we've both had stressful work weeks and don't have the energy to leave the apartment—the most recent being this past Valentine's Day. We ordered some food, cracked open a bottle of wine, turned on our favorite comfort show (this time it was Schitt's Creek), and started building a new set. And yes, it was the same Lego Flower Bouquet we saw on Abbott Elementary. Gregory had the right idea.

Just like puzzles or paint-by-number kits, or even coloring books, Lego sets provide you with the opportunity to catch up on things and work on something together without staring at each other from across a table or bar. If you do want to try your hand, I suggest starting out small. You can find a lot of sets with 100 to 500 pieces for under $50, which can easily last for a few hours. And while it's a fun hobby my boyfriend and I have made our own, it's also a great activity to try with a friend, family member, or even by yourself.

For us, Lego builds are a refreshing alternative to the traditional dinner outing or movie night. Opening a new box is an opportunity to press pause on our busy lifestyles and work together to build new decorative pieces with sentimental value—all in the comfort of our living rooms. 

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