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In mattress size, as in religion and politics, young people often follow the example of their parents until they know enough to think for themselves.
When my husband and I got married 22 years ago, we started off the conversation about bed size with a fundamental difference. When the eager salesman approached us in the mattress store and asked, "What size were you looking for?" we answered at the same time: "Queen." "Double."
My parents had a queen-size bed when I was growing up, so it had never occurred to me that there was something smaller out there.
I scrunched up my face at my soon-to-be-husband and said, "Really? That's so small."
He answered with words that any young bride wants to hear: "But we'll be closer together. Better for cuddling."
And just like that I was sold. We had our first double bed for 18 years.
Pregnancy provided the first major challenge. As I grew larger and each turn required the extra power of leg propulsion to get me all the way over, the entire bed would shift and shake. After the kids were born, we somehow managed to fit them into the small space between us if they happened to wake up in the night. I think our record is one toddler, one infant and one 50-pound black dog in bed at the same time.
When that old blue mattress became so worn it had two permanent dips on either side, and both of us kept waking up with sore backs, we realized it might be time to retire it. Once again I was thinking of queen-size beds. Wasn't this part of midlife? Moving up to the next best thing, giving ourselves a bit more room to spread out our sagging bodies and tired dreams?
But it turned out that a queen would cost several hundred dollars more, and we would also have to buy new bedding. We decided to get another double, even though we had to buy sheets anyway because the mattress's pillow top meant we would need some with the erotic designation "extra deep."
I headed to the bed-and-bath store and was met by a young girl who asked if she could help me find anything.
"I'm looking for extra-deep sheets for a double bed."
"Double?" The salesgirl stared at me with something like disgust, then immediately went back to shoving square bricks of sheets into a display. "Nobody buys double beds any more. We don't carry full-size sheets."
"I just bought one," I said, challenging her. Silence.
"So what I am I supposed to do?" She shrugged. Not her problem.
It turned out that a discount chain still had double (or full-size) sheets, so I snapped up a few sets just in case I could never find them again. It felt like hoarding cassettes when everyone else had moved on to CDs.
When we made room for the new bed, there was a brief moment when the mattresses were side by side. The new one was easily twice as thick as the old one. I felt sorry for old blue, and projected all my fears about breaking down and being used up onto that hunk of fabric and metal. This was the bed in which we had made love and babies – how could we just put it by the curb?
We moved the mattress into the basement, where it still leans tiredly against the wall, waiting to be pressed into service when guests come. But every time it starts to fall on me while I'm digging out the patio cushions, I wonder if we made the right choice by holding on. Isn't it healthy to let things go?
I've started mentally calculating how many beds we will go through in our whole marriage: one every 20 years or so? Maybe by the time we go to the retirement home, our children will be cleaning out our house and wondering why on earth there are three ratty-looking double mattress sets stacked in a giant pile in the basement.
I'm ready for that moment. All I'll have to do is say "We had a lot of sex in those beds," and the conversation will end.
Now that we've had two double beds, I think the pattern is set. As we age, we are less and less likely to make a big change, to buy a new bed frame and throw out all the linens. Besides, we've gotten used to the dimensions of a double bed, and I'm afraid that if we switched to a king size we wouldn't be able to find each other across all that space.
So we suffer through the
annoyances of small-bed life, because whatever happens to one of you in a double bed – insomnia or snoring or fitful dreams – happens to both of you. And we accommodate each other by getting up so that the other can rest.
Yesterday I couldn't fall asleep, so I went to the living room to read. When I came back, my side of the bed was already warm. As I pulled up the blanket, my husband shifted his leg just slightly so his foot was touching mine. We are never far from each other in this bed, no matter what happens or how many years pass.
Kings and queens, you have nothing on me. Even if I end up having to sew my own sheets some day, I will always make mine a double.
Rebecca Warren lives in Edmonton.