The Prince(ss) and the Pea: A Bedtime Story

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July 30, 2018
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The Prince(ss) and the Pea: A Bedtime Story

Last Wednesday was the first time I had someone sleep over at my new* apartment in Upper East Side. “How did you sleep last night?” I asked him. After a month of fixing up the place, I was really excited to have someone over.

“Oh terribly bad!” he said. “I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is terrible!”

Ok, so that’s actually what the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale The Princess and the Pea replied when asked the same question, but his response was along the same lines. Over avocado toast at my new favorite neighborhood find, Hutch and Waldo, he launched into a diatribe of what made my bed so uncomfortable. While my sheets were definitely not high enough of a thread count, the mattress was the real problem: not only was it too small (it’s a full-size bedroom, what can ya do?!), but it was way too soft and lacked any and all support. I was hurt and felt he should’ve shown more support for my home decor decisions. It didn’t help that he had a problem with the side of the bed he was sleeping on and asked if we could switch. I know it was just a bed, but I felt sadness and guilt sweep over me as I felt like it was entirely my fault he slept so miserably at my place. When I mentioned it to a friend, she suggested I have questionable taste in men — not mattresses. But… I wasn’t so sure. As I’ve gotten older, I wondered: is it just me, or do more and more of us prefer to sleep in our own beds every night?

Looking back, I’ve dated guys that would bring over their own neck, body and/or knee pillows if they planned to stay the night. Once, I was dating someone who would bring over a winter cap he had to wear every night because he couldn’t sleep if his head got cold… even in the summer… in Georgia. (Even more baffling was he didn’t possess one of my usual weaknesses — shaved heads — but rather had a full head of curly black hair.) One night, he forgot the beanie, so he said he
couldn’t sleep over. I offered him one of mine that was practically identical, but it wouldn’t suffice. Are neck pillows and beanies the adult security blanket or stuffed animal we had as kids?!

Hey, we all have our things, #amirite? I’m hardly one to talk. Considering I have been struggling with a herniated disc for over a month now, perhaps I should’ve joined the B.Y.O.P. (bring-your-own-pillow club), too.

Unlike the unsuspecting young princess in Hans’s tale, though, as we get older and wiser, we learn and work to avoid any “peas” that can interrupt our sleep. We want to be as comfortable as we possibly can, and not just when we’re sleeping.

Of course, I never minded the B.Y.O.P. peeps. But, more recently, I’ve both experienced and commiserated with quite a few friends over dating someone who refused to have a sleepover unless it was in their bed. When I first moved to NYC, I dated someone who loved Netflix n’ chillin’ together on the couch, but he could only fall asleep if we were in separate rooms. It made me remember something: When I was a kid, I used to watch I Love Lucy and wonder how Lucy and Desi could cuddle if they were on two separate beds. Now, I couldn’t help but think that at least they were in the same room!

Flashback to the days of young love… when my giant, Italian stallion college boyfriend and I somehow contorted our bodies to fit on the cheap twin mattress in my dorm room every night, without a worry in the world. Ok, ok… so maybe my 21-year-old body didn’t have any pinched nerves or piriformis pain, or maybe we all didn’t need a great night’s sleep back then as we do now!

So, what do we do when our desire for comfort affects our relationships? Do we get increasingly set in our ways as we age, not just with our sleeping preferences, but also with our schedules, diets, and so many other things?

Ok, so what do we do?

Well, there’s always the sleep number beds, right? The beds that allow both you and your partner to individually “adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support”? Um, simultaneously commiting to both a $4,000 mattress AND a man is just too much for me right now.

So, like so many things in the dating department, the answer lies with communication and compromise — which is easier said than done when you’re cranky from a sleepless night. My man and I ended up compromising when he “gifted” me this past weekend with a new, firmer mattress under the agreement we would continue to use my beloved TempurPedic topper. I am fine with his current bed, and I definitely don’t want him to suffer some sciatica flare-up with a side of resentment, so… we’re making it work:) I still prefer my own bed, and he still prefers his, and we’ll split our nights together pretty evenly. I always savor solo nights sprawled out with my dog, cat, and an NYPL book, too.

Preferring to sleep in our own bed makes perfect sense, and we should enjoy sleeping on our favorite side on our own mattress. However, it’s always a good idea to do a little check-in and see if our preferences for everything we do may be imposing too much on our friendships and relationships. You don’t like to venture out of Manhattan, so you won’t date anyone in Brooklyn? You don’t like to eat after 8pm, so you’re skipping out on your BFF’s bday dinner? Of course, there are so many times when we should pass on a plan due to our own personal preferences (or just the fact that we’re exhausted!), but there’s a line that can be crossed, and when that happens, the person that really gets hurt is you. And, trust me — that hurt will be much deeper than being “black-and-blue” after a night of sleeping on a pea…or a mattress that’s too soft.

Sweet dreams, everyone!



*Pre-war, but “new” to me!

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