First off, do check out the new Carnival of the Feminists at Lingual Tremors. Let me also recommend Jeff Pack's fine summary of the Althouse-Valenti-Breasts-Bill blow-up about which I blogged on Monday. And Lauren has a superb post on feminism and attractiveness, well worth a read.
There's an interesting article in the New York Times about sleeping in the same bed with another person. The piece notes:
There are thousands of studies on sleep and even more on marriage and relationships, but only a handful on couples sleeping together.
The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington that supports education and research on sleep and sleep disorders, estimates that 61 percent of Americans share their bed with a significant other. And while the very presence of another person in bed increases the chance of sleep disruption, 62 percent of those polled in the foundation’s annual sleep study said they preferred to bed down with their partner.
I remember as a child being very confused by the euphemism "sleeping together" to refer to sexual intercourse. Though I had my own room as a kid, there had been a few rare occasions where my brother and I had had to share a bed on family trips. The idea that sleeping in the same bed could lead to babies -- a concept I grasped before I knew much else about human reproduction -- was a bit unnerving! Despite the confusion it generated in my childhood, when talking about two people having sex, I still tend to use the phrase "sleep together" quite often.
Like many of my peers, I became sexually active when I was in high school. My girlfriend and I were able to find times to be sexual after school or while out on dates, but we both had strict curfews. We were "sleeping together" in the euphemistic sense without ever having the chance to actually fall asleep side by side in the same bed. I can remember how excited we both were when she was finally able to come to my family's ranch in Northern California for a weekend. Though according to family protocol, the "luggage stays in separate rooms", I was able to sneak into her room and we could fall asleep together. We'd been a sexually active couple for months before we got to have that experience; frankly, we anticipated sleeping the whole night through in the same bed almost as much as we anticipated having sex! I've heard this from other folks who were sexually active long before they were allowed to spend the night with a partner -- the literal "sleeping together" becomes almost as big a deal as the figurative "sleeping together"!
In an odd way, reading this article this morning made me envious of some of my Christian conservative friends who lost their virginity on their wedding nights. After making love for the first time ("making love" is another questionable euphemism), they didn't have to tear themselves apart and go home. They "got to sleep with the person they first slept with", and given how rare that experience was in my social circle, it's one perhaps to be envied!
Having been married four times and having lived with several other partners whom I didn't marry, I certainly have my opinions on sleeping with someone else in the same bed. In college, away from parents and their curfews, I spent a lot of time sleeping with others in tiny, narrow, twin beds. I can remember waking up in someone else's dorm room on many an occasion, cramped and uncomfortable, usually with one arm and one leg dangling over the side of my temporary partner's little bed. We called it the "one night stand dangle", and my friends of both sexes and I often swapped funny horror stories about the contorted positions we had had to get into in order to sleep the night through with another person in a bed designed for one.
In my first two marriages, I had a full-size bed, which seemed terribly luxurious after my spartan college experiences. In my third marriage, I upgraded to a queen size. Sleeping with one's lovers in progressively larger beds is part of the narrative of ageing, as far as I can tell! Besides, at thirty-nine, I recover more slowly today from a "bed cramp" than I did when I was nineteen.
My wife and I today have a lovely big sleigh bed. And I am very used to having her next to me. When we spend a night apart, particularly when she is traveling and I am staying home, I miss her presence next to me. Our bed is large enough so that we don't have to lie draped around each other like drunken college frosh, but it's not so big that we can't instantly sense the other's presence. During the week, I tend to be "early to bed, early to rise", which doesn't fit my wife's schedule. She often comes to bed a couple of hours after I've turned in. I'll admit that I sleep more soundly once she's beside me. Even though I can be out cold without her, it's as if a small part of my unconscious mind is waiting for her; when she (finally!) comes in well after midnight, my body moves to a deeper state of relaxation. All is right in the world.
My sweet father, who died not quite three months ago, died at home. He was under hospice care the last few weeks of his life, but he was able to sleep in the same bed as my stepmother all the way to the end. The last night of his life on earth, he was able to be in the same bed as the woman he loved most. For his sake and hers, I am so damned grateful that they were able to share that together. May it be so for all of us.