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  • How to Get Ready for Bed
  • Brenda Miller (bio)

Lately your back hurts when you wake, a grabbing pain that locks up your hips and lower back. Your doctor tests your reflexes (it still gives you a little thrill, the way your leg kicks out so spritely on its own), and he says it’s probably your bed. Your mattress is only ten years old; you thought a bed was supposed to last longer, this bed you bought when you first moved into that tiny house by the bay: a double not a queen, a bed big enough really only for one. It still looks new enough—no stains, no sags, no tears—but your doc tells you it’s the inside that matters: things wear out in ways we can’t really see.

So you go to the sleep shop in the groovy part of town—locally owned, expensive brands—just to check it out, just to see what the difference could possibly be between a $600 mattress and a $3,000 mattress. You lie down on Tempurpedic, Englander, Beauty Rest. You try pillowtops and Eurotops, and super plush tops. On some of these beds they’ve placed a clear plastic cube to reveal a cross-section of the mattress’s interior, to show you what remains hidden: the coils and springs, or the layers of various types of foam. You don’t really understand what you’re looking at, but you nod anyway, test the bed’s firmness with the palm of your hand.

You know you’re supposed to lie on a prospective bed in your preferred sleep position for at least a half an hour, a feat that can be difficult in the showroom, with its fluorescent lights, the plate glass window, and the salesman who keeps hovering. But you try it. You slip off your snow boots and your jacket, realize you forgot to get dressed this morning: you’re still wearing the [End Page 65] sweatpants you slept in, and the long-sleeved tee shirt without a bra. All the better, you think, to test out this bed.

You crawl onto the Eurotop and turn onto your belly, bring one knee up in your typical half-fetal position, and close your eyes. But the salesman is there; he even kneels on the bed and jumps a little to show you how steady the mattress will remain even with someone else tossing and turning. He keeps saying that most beds wear out because of the combined weight of sleepers compressing the coils and foam, but that won’t be a problem for you, he says, eyeing your slim hips, missing the Buddha belly hidden by your fleece.

Don’t respond. Try to pretend you’re just sleeping, your breath growing deeper, drifting off to sleep the way you normally do. If you were simulating this accurately, you would prop yourself up with three pillows and read until the book drops to your chest and your snore startles you awake enough to turn on your side, arrange the full body pillow under your knees.

You imagine a whole store full of bed shoppers arriving in their robes and slippers, husbands and wives side by side with their itty-bitty reading lights, single men in their boxer shorts, children with their stuffed animals, the single women with their night masks, mouth-guards, moisturizing gloves. You imagine the couples reaching a hand to a thigh, a mouth to an ear. Because wouldn’t this be the ultimate test of a bed and what it can withstand, something you’d want to know before plunking down a couple of thousand bucks? How this bed would feel under the weight of two bodies, not in the prim awkward contortions of sleep, but pressed together, in rhythm—how much resistance would you need, how much support? Do you want memory foam that absorbs everything? A bed that remembers you, a curvature that aligns with every knob and bone? Perhaps not. Perhaps memory is exactly the opposite of what you need when making love.

Remember the bed you had years ago, in Montana, in a tiny studio apartment that cost $298 a...


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pp. 65-70
Launched on MUSE
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