Blenda Sofia Staaf works as a project manager for a big magazine company in Stockholm. I work there, too, as the design director in the same department.
Every day for the past two years or so, I have seen Sofia at work. She is one of the people I look forward to seeing each day. She makes the fun times at work even more fun and the ordinary times a little less ordinary.
Sofia is as equally eager to laugh at my jokes as she is to insult me. Her quick wit is matched with a good balance of confidence and modesty, and topped with an award-winning laugh that sometimes consumes her entire body.
When she makes fun of me in front of our co-workers, her jabs and burns are actually really funny. Being the butt of her abuse doesn’t bother me at all.
What does bother me about Sofia is that she simply does not tolerate dishwater spots or any residue whatsoever on her tableware or drinking glasses. That sometimes makes eating lunch with her into a huge production of getting new utensils or glasses or bowls. But her awareness of the absurdity of her obsession makes it laughable as well.
We sat down after work one day and she allowed me to grill her about her dirty-utensils-phobia and her life in general.
PHOTOS BY JESSICA SILVERSAGA
Tell me about your last name.
Mmm hmm. There seems to be an extra letter in it.
I thought it was because my dad’s dad is German – was German. He’s not alive anymore.
I thought, until the age of 12, that my name was German, until I asked my dad and I got the information that this name was actually my step-grandpa’s name. He had married into the family.
So if I would have gotten my real grandpa’s name that would be Ruprecht.
[laughter] Where was this “Mr. Staaf” from?
I think it is actually a taken Swedish name.
They just made it up?
I went to a party at your apartment once, and at one point when everyone was listening to music, talking, and drinking, all your friends started standing on the back of the sofa and leaning against the wall. What’s that all about?
On top of the sofa!
Yeah. Why do all your friends stand on the sofa?
It started in Niklas’ – my boyfriend’s – old apartment. He had a red sofa and… This was many years ago when he first moved in there. This was when he and I were friends and hanging out.
Before you two were lovers?
Yes. [laughter] Everybody standing on the sofa started in that apartment, because he had a red sofa, which was really… It had a really nice…
Top of the back?
…top of the back! Yeah. It started when somebody just jumped up there and started dancing. That apartment had a really low ceiling, so you could touch the ceiling and hold on to it to balance yourself. So he always had a lot of fingerprints on the ceiling when we had parties there. [laughter]
Then when we moved to our new apartment, the same people did the same thing again. But now we have such a tall ceiling now, they can’t reach the ceiling.
Right. So there are marks all over the walls?
Right and we really don’t have the same kind of sofa either.
No. It seemed pretty nice.
That old sofa that Niklas had was in really bad shape. Though we actually sold it for 1,500 kronor (about $230).
I have to say the sofa you have now is the nicest one I have ever stood on.
It is really quite comfortable to stand on.
It is. Yeah.
What do you want to know that you don’t know?
In life. In the world. Is there anything you are really curious about?
Yeah, I really like traveling and… Well, see, this might not be the answer to the question, but I really like traveling and experiencing how other people live and seeing other cultures.
That’s something I am really curious about. That’s why I try to travel as much as I can, because I really to see how other people are experiencing their lives.
So you were a teen model?
[hesitating…] About that… [laughter]
That’s not even a question. I have just written down, “You were a teen model. Period.”
[laughter] What was the question again?
Go ahead and just tell me about that. [laughter]
No, I did some modeling when I was younger. For a short period of time.
What kind of stuff were you working on?
Like clothing catalogs and fashion shows and stuff.
Yeah any brand names we would recognize?
Well, I worked with Fornarina – the jeans – and Miss Sixty. What else? [thinking] Some Italian brands…
You traveled to Italy?
Yeah. I also did some work here for some magazines and stuff like that. I didn’t do it for a really long time. I did it while I was studying and doing other things, between I was about 18 until I was 27.
But it wasn’t full time during most of that period. I did it almost full time for maybe two years.
Is it hard to stand there and look really pretty?
[laughter] Here in Sweden everyone is so nice. You always work together with people and it’s very fun. But when I was in Italy, the people working there aren’t as nice. They more see you as a product, and then it’s very hard to just stand there and try to… I didn’t ever feel like that was my thing.
So I mainly did it here in Sweden. And I did it because it was fun to do something when I was studying. But when lived in Italy, it felt like, “Yeah, this isn’t really my thing.”
I was also a little bit too short for the modeling business. [laughs] So that’s something I heard a lot. [laughter]
Yeah. When people are fixing your hair and doing your makeup and you are just sitting there, do you feel like a princess?
[laughs] It is very comfortable! [laughs] But no, I don’t feel like a princess.
Okay, good, because you’re not a princess. Just so you know.
Yeah, I am not a princess.
Your boyfriend Niklas told you that you can’t be around people. [laughter] What does he mean by that? “You can’t be around people”?
Well, he means that… [laughter] Sometimes I might talk too loudly, or I say things that are a little bit inappropriate. [laughter] Also sometimes I am pretty clumsy. [laughter] So that’s probably what he means.
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out that Chewbacca died?
[laughter] I don’t remember what I was doing and I don’t remember where I was, but I remember that it was a very sad moment. [much laughter]
Right, right. Yeah, I think it was for everybody. It was so unexpected.
[faking compassion…] Yeah, very unexpected.
How did he die again?
Wooo… Heart attack? [laughter] No, I am just kidding. I don’t remember but I remember it was very sad.
What’s your deal with dirty tableware and glasses? For example, you freak out if they have a spot on them. What’s the deal with that?
I’m very picky and I’m – how do you say it in English? – I don’t know. Well, let’s just say that I am better now. I was worse when I was younger.
I cannot imagine that!
[laughter] But every time when I am eating something, it needs to be very clean around me. If there are dirty glasses and stuff – I mean, no one wants a dirty glass – but even if it is just a little spot somewhere on the glass, then I don’t like that. And I am not very fond of sharing, especially if it’s sharing a bottle of something with fluid.
You know the plants you eat grow in the dirt.
I know that. And I try to not think about it! [laughs]
…and meat is made out of dead animals that are cut open, and their blood and all the shit that’s inside them spills out all over the meat.
Look there is… Right. I know it’s a bit like…
But if your fork is clean then that’s cool?
…well I know it’s a bit contradictory, you know what I mean? But I try. It’s something I am aware of and I am trying to be better.
So I shouldn’t tease you about it? [laughter]
If it is a fork at home, for example, then it’s not as important that its spotless. But if it’s a fork in a restaurant or somewhere else, then that’s not gonna work for me. If it’s a glass it’s even worse.
Did you grow up in Stockholm?
Yes, I grew up at Kungsholmstorg in Stockholm.
When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a singer and an actress, of course, as most girls probably do. Then I decided to be a veterinarian. Then I wanted to be a lawyer.
Oh, you’d be a good lawyer!
Yeah, I think so.
After that, I grew up. [laughs] And I decided to work in media. [much laughter]
Yeah, I think most adults grow up and work in media instead of being a lawyer.
[laughter] That came out wrong.
Did you ever have roller skates or rollerblades or a skateboard?
All of them?
I had my brother had a skateboard. I tried it once and I almost broke my back, so I didn’t do that anymore. But then I had rollerblades – or in-lines, as we called them – and then I also had roller skates.
They were very retro and they were purple and green.
How old were you at this time?
I don’t know, maybe 10 or something like that.
Then my mother bought me some new in-lines when I was a little bit older, like 12 or something.
When I went out to go skating on those for the first time, I was so used to roller skates where you lean forward to stop. But on these ones I needed to lean back to stop. [laughs]
I got to this really steep hill, and I just… It all went so fast and I just landed on my back. It hurt so bad after that and I haven’t touched those things since! [laughs]
Did you cry?
I cried. There were four people coming towards me laughing and I thought I had broken my back.
When you were a kid did you secretly stay up later than your parents wanted you to?
I never wanted to go to bed! When I was really young, my parents really had a hard time trying to get me to bed.
When I was older but still kind of young, I lived with mom and we didn’t really have a curfew because she trusted me and my brother when we were out and stuff.
But we always did this one thing. My mom had this brush that she put outside her bedroom door, and when we came home we needed to put it inside her bedroom, so when she woke up in the middle of the night she could see that the brush was there. Then she would know we were home.
You used to be a rocker. Tell me about that.
[laughs] What do you mean, “Used to be?” [laughter]. You mean I listened to rock music?
Yeah, you used to rock. Like rock out to rock music.
Yeah, I used to listen to rock music. But I am not ”a rocker.”
Oh. Maybe I received some bad information.
[laughter] Where did you get that information?
From your mouth. [laughter]
Okay, let’s talk about Michigan.
It was a student exchange program?
And what city did you live in?
It was a city called Otsego. (population 3,900)
It’s near Kalamazoo?
Kalamazoo is the closest town, in as much as you can say “town.” That’s about 30 minutes away and it’s like 2 hours from Chicago. Yeah, in the middle of Michigan and in the middle of nowhere!
No, don’t print that! I am going to push this interview on Facebook, so don’t say that.
Oh yes, of course. A lot of people would be very offended if you spread the truth about where they lived.
Yeah, they probably would. [laughs] Yeah, so I was there as an exchange student from 1999 to 2000.
I stayed with this family – Lesley, Bruce and their daughter Jamie. [laughter] And what was the question?
When you signed up for the program did you know that you would be living in Otsego?
No. I wrote – because you had to write a letter to the organization – so I wrote in this letter that I would really like to go to either the east coast or the west coast.
And I would love to live in a big city and in a big family. Since my family is really small here, I wanted a really big family there.
And I ended up in the middle of Michigan with Lesley, Jamie and Bruce. [laughter] But it actually turned out to be awesome and I had a really good time.
When you first arrived did you ever cry yourself to sleep?
[laughs] No. I don’t think I ever did. I think it worked out well in the beginning. I don’t really remember. But yeah, I had a good time there.
There were some differences from I was used to back home, of course, but I don’t remember crying myself to sleep.
When was the last time you relaxed?
[much laughter] Well, that’s a good question!
If you can remember that far back.
Yeah, that is a good question. I… [eight seconds] …yeah, I remember. Actually, it was this summer. For two weeks! Which is pretty new to me. [laughs]
Niklas and I went to Greece and we were just laying in sun chairs and reading. Doing nothing. We were swimming in the pool and, yeah, just relaxing for two weeks, which was really amazing.
You didn’t think about search engine optimization [laughter] or anything like that while you were there?
Well… A few times! [laughter] But the Internet connection was really bad so I couldn’t really do anything.
That’s the greatest, when you’re on vacation and the Internet sucks! [laughter]
Yeah, you can’t really do anything.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to chill out.” [laughter] Speaking of laying in a sun chair, why do you want your skin to be dark?
I remember one time you said, “I need to get some color in my skin.”
Oh, sometimes when it is winter in Sweden and your skin is almost transparent… [laughter] It’s bluish transparent. You can see the blood moving through you. [laughter] I feel sometimes that I’d like just a little bit of sun to just make me look a little bit healthier than pure white.
What do you fear?
I am really afraid of heights. Yeah, heights are probably my biggest fear.
Is flying in airplane okay?
That’s fine. But doing something like riding a really tall amusement park ride, that would be the worst thing ever – I see that you are taking my cookie right now [laughter] nice try – that I would not enjoy.
But even though I am afraid of heights, I actually went skydiving once.
I really have wanted to do that for so many years. Did you love it?
I thought I was going to die the whole time. There’s 45 seconds of free fall. This was from 12,000 feet, I think. After 45 seconds you pull out the parachute.
After I calmed down the instructor said, “Oh, can you see all those spots down there on the ground?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.” Then he says, “That’s all the dead people from skydiving.” [laughter]
A real comedian! [laughs] “Yeah, why don’t you just shut up and pull that string?” [laughter] I really have to do that sometime.
Yeah, it’s very fun. Niklas is an instructor – a skydiving instructor.
Or, he is almost an instructor. I don’t think he finished it the whole thing.
Okay, well I won’t jump out of a plane with him just yet. [laughter]