(Originally published on GQ.com)
In the long list of stupid things I have said, done, and thought, perhaps none have been so fundamentally misguided as trying to maintain a romantic relationship with someone I have had to share covers with. While sharing a bed with someone you love/enjoy splitting bills with is an act that represents a willingness to expose yourself at your most vulnerable (naked and sleep-talking about the logical flaws in Gattaca, for example) sharing blankets means spending night after night in an unconscious fight for dominance and survival. A Freddy Krueger dream from which you may never wake up.
The notion of people who are not blood relatives sleeping under two separate blankets when sharing a bed is taboo, I know. When I’ve brought it up in polite company, even the most genteel dinner guests have smashed their wine glasses on the table and threatened to cut me with the broken stems. “WHAT ABOUT LOVE?” they scream. However, despite the rage, the disgust, the rescinded invitations to the White House Christmas party, I know in my heart that sleeping under separate blankets is the key to a healthy and happy relationship in which sex is still on the table. But having two separate blankets on my bed doesn’t make me a monster; it’s an act of love.
Throughout human history, we have been cursed with a simple truth: we want to be warm in cold weather and cool when it’s hot. Perhaps it was the blindness of my love or simply the deep desire to have someone sleeping closer to the door than me in case of night murderers, but I failed to realized that I had romantically attached myself, for better or for worse, to what would either be classified as a man or portable woodstove, depending on which store you were trying to return him to. If you’ve ever been with someone whose average body temperature would make the sun’s surface feel like coastal Maine on a breezy fall day, keeping yourself shielded from him is your body’s survival instinct at work. If that shield happens to be a lightweight comforter designed by an old guy you just know is into boats, all the better!
Likewise, it was unlikely to have occurred to my love-person on the evening he gazed upon my nearly perfect 20-year-old ass for the first time that I would, in my old age, become a woman with self-diagnosed restless leg syndrome that causes me to steal blankets, mash them about with my feet, and discard them on the floor, where no one will enjoy their warmth. One evening, after crawling into bed with my feverish gentleman following a shower, my wet hair grazed his hotter-than-usual back, prompting him to attempt to fend off the invasion of what he later told me he believed to be a “water monster.” He tugged the blanket toward him, thus spinning me off the bed and onto the floor.
While the thought of adding a fourth party to our bed situation continued to haunt my thoughts, it wasn’t until our honeymoon in Iceland that the possibility of a two-blanket system became a reality. Our honeymoon suite, decked out with roses, wine, and a basket of apples (they’re wacky over there), also provided us two blankets, a common sleeping arrangement in many Scandinavian countries. “A bit of space and a lot of sleep are the best gifts you can give each other,” the note from the concierge read. “Please don’t ask us questions about Bjork.”
Scandinavians, on average, report higher rates of happiness than Americans. They tend to live longer. The number of deaths caused by being flung unceremoniously out of a bed is so low it’s practically not worth mentioning. Coincidence? Maybe. The night we brought the second blanket home, I cradled it in my hands, like a newborn, pressing my face to its soft and ample body. I wept. I slept.
Aside from being able to pay for coffee without forcing mean-spirited stage actors to feign interest in my day, perhaps the neatest thing about being a gainfully employed woman in modern times is never having to share a bed with someone so that I don’t freeze to death. I am the master of my own destiny, from flossing time to around noon the next day, or whenever it is that adults are supposed to wake up. If you need to feel the warmth of the person you love so that you can drift off, or even stranger, prefer to be cradled to their bosom as you do it, I have two suggestions for you: buy yourself a separate blanket before this gets any weirder, and call your mother. You guys have some things to work out.
I’ll go you one further: separate bedrooms. It’s coming back and I love it. You can snuggle when you feel like it and starfish the bed when you don’t. No one needs scientific studies to convince them they’ll get better sleep if there’s no one snoring, rolling over, or getting up to pee all night long. And if the dog has to sleep in someone’s bed, he can do it in the OTHER one.
PS: “Semi-professional napper” is hysterical and I’m plagiarizing immediately.