[Originally posted on Mar 11, 2012]
There is something we all must learn as we gingerly step into adulthood, and that is how to sleep with someone. I’m not talking about anything sexual, I am simply talking about learning how to share a bed with another human being. It’s a tricky thing, this sleeping together, because it begins when you are feeling happy and cuddly and the world is your snuggly little oyster. Over time, your Snugglebunny morphs into a snoring, cover-hogging, throat-clicking, night-terrorized, farting in the spoon position, squirmy, sweaty beast who robs you of your precious minutes of sleep every night. For the record? You are that beast, too.
Let’s take this back to the beginning:
The College Dorm Room Snugglebunny
College is that cool time where you experiment with grown up things, and one of those things is sleeping with someone. It’s really exciting when you have your first partner-sleepover; spooning in that little twin bed is cozy, and just knowing you can do whatever you want without your parents finding out makes it even better.
My husband first told me he loved me in one of those snugglebunny moments. We were cuddled up on my dorm room bed watching television, and I was mostly asleep. He told me, “I think I’m falling in love with you.” I responded, “snurgggltoo” and drooled on his wrist. Our romance was a page out of The Notebook. He later revealed he wanted to tell me at that moment because if I freaked out, he’d just say I dreamt it.
The “Our First Apartment” Crackhouse Mattress
When I was 21, Chris and I made the decision to move in together. I called my mom to tell her, thinking this would be old hat since one of my sisters lived with a boyfriend when she was around my age. I don’t remember my sales pitch to her on the idea, but I remember the response:
Awkward, scary pause. “Use a condom.”
Once the family awkwardness passed, Chris and I commenced Living in Sin stage. Oh, we had grand plans for our apartment – our vision: We could have dinner parties with little hors-d’oeuvres trays! We could cook! Like, rice and chicken, not ramen and Maria’s burritos! We’d have art on the walls!
Our Reality: We were slobs and our apartment looked like a tweaked-out meth lab.
Like many young couples, we relied on the kindness of family members to furnish our home. Your “First Apartment” mattress is usually a mattress your family wants to unload, and is often a lumpy, stained heirloom. “Oh that? Your Uncle Rob was quite the nose-bleeder as a teen…” “That? Remember that mean cat Gramma Edith had? That cat would pee on everything.” It’s the kind of mattress CSI people define as “contaminated” when they try to lift DNA off it. At this point in your adulthood, none of that matters – you get to share a full-sized bed with your snugglebunny. You both can lie on your backs at the same time now – yeah!
We were somewhat lucky – we were offered Chris’ full-sized waterbed from high school. Waterbeds are the type of bed you always wanted as a kid before you realize how horrible they are for two people. Prelude to sexytime in a waterbed essentially goes like this:
SWOOSHSWOOSHSWOOSH “Let me just try and…”
“Ow! My hair!” SWOOSHSWOOSH
“Sorry… I just… let me…” SWOOSHSWOOSHSWOOSHSWOOSH
“My foot keeps slipping…” SWOOSHSWOOSHSWOOSH
“Damn it! The sides are caving, I…” SWOOOOSH
“If I try to…” SWOOSHSWOOSH
“My back! Oh, that’s not good…” SWOOSHSWOOSH
“Hold on I think…” SWOOSHSWOOSHSWOOSH
“ARRAGHHHHH!!!! GET OFF ME!!!!”
Then he angrily rolls over to his side of the bed, and you are catapulted across the room.
The Young Urban Professionals’ Queen-Sized Mattress
When we got to a point where we could do better than a waterbed in a meth lab, we purchased a Queen-sized mattress. We couldn’t agree on a headboard for years, so the bed and box mattress lay in a simple frame – after lying on the floor for two years.
By this point in time, our sleeping relationship deteriorated greatly. I for one, snore so loud I wake myself up. My loving little Stranglebunny would asphyxiate me on a nightly basis in the hopes of shutting me up. I would wake abruptly, wonder what caused me to jerk awake, yet see nothing but a sleeping hump next to me.
I’d lie awake listening to him. Chris does not snore. He makes weird noises, the most common of which can only be described as “SSNNNARRRGLE…poooh.” After studying this sound closely many times in the darkest part of the night, I believe it is achieved by Chris inhaling his own nose then gently spitting it out. I allow a few SNNARRGLEpoohs before I nudge him. It doesn’t work.
Grab his torso, shake violently.
Put hands on his side, shove as hard as possible.
Quickly flip over and pretend I’m sleeping.
I get a groggy “huhhh?” but say nothing in return.
I fall asleep.
Chris falls back asleep.
Five minutes later…
“AAAHHHH!!! AHHHH!!!! GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF ME!”
…I get night terrors. I rarely have them at this point, but years ago, they were a weekly if not nightly occurrence. I’d wake up screaming and flailing because I was convinced there was something evil at the foot of the bed or on my pillow. After scaring the shit out of Chris the first ten or so times, he became accustomed to them. He’d hold me down to keep me from flailing. “What did you see this time?”
This is a smart question, because making me talk forces me to think, which causes me to wake up and calm down. Sometimes I’d answer, “a bunch of spiders,” “a creepy man,” or “a lobster.” One time I answered, “a kitten.”
“A kitten.” The disbelief in his voice was palpable. “Not a lion or a panther, but…a kitten.”
“Why were you screaming in terror over…a kitten?”
I sighed. “…it was menacing.”
I flipped over and fell back asleep.
After my night terrorizing, I’d wake up a few hours later, shivering. I’d look over to find Chris as a human flauta, blankets and comforter completely rolled around his body several times. I’d try and pull the blankets from him, but had little success. Ultimately, I’d manage to tug a tiny little corner out from under him, and curl up in a little ball to get as much of myself under the corner as I could.
Our cuddly little spoon days on the twin bed were long gone. In fact, any time we had to share a full-sized bed, it was torture. “Bahh! Your feet are freezing!”
“Your arm is digging into my back!”
If this marriage were to last in one bed, changes needed to be made.
The “Save the Marriage” King Size Tempurpedic
As the rest of our house looked like a dwelling for responsible adults, our bedroom upgraded from meth lab to halfway house. We had a nice headboard and our bedroom furniture was a lovely old art deco set that didn’t match the bed at all. We decided to have two separate blankets. My night terrors receded.
Despite these improvements, our bedroom was missing something. It wasn’t romantic or luxurious. This was the room where we shared our most intimate space – it needed to be beautiful and reflect our love and respect for one another!
We upgraded our furniture to a Japanese-inspired bed set, and determined we deserved a good mattress. Realizing how much we annoy each other with our constant tossing and turning, we settled on a king-sized Tempurpedic mattress. This glorious invention allowed us to move around without the other one feeling it. The pillows we bought at the same time reduced some of our snoring (he bought a Tempurpedic, I bought one made of latex – no lie, it kicks ass).
Each night we’d lie on our respective sides of the bed, with our own blankets, calling out good night to the other, who seemed so very far away.
At last, we had our perfect bed.
Our perfect, squirm-resistant bed.
Our lonely mile-wide bed.
The snoring, squirming and snargling wasn’t so bad, really. It was even kind of endearing. We’ve got two blankets, so we can both be warm…and who would talk me out of my torture by menacing kittens?
Learning how to share a bed is an analogy for learning how to be married – it is not perfect all the time, sometimes your loved one can be frustrating, stubborn and do gross things, but your palette would be filled with nothing but grays without them in your life.
I rolled over to his side of the bed and nestled under his arm. It felt comforting and reassuring. I smiled. “I love you.”