Take heed, young men, of California queens and layered shams
I used to think life was pretty simple. Learn to ride a bike without killing yourself; dodge the bullies in school; find something you don’t mind doing every day for 40 years that keeps peanut butter in the pantry; buy a car that runs; get a home without raccoons.
A simple plan for a simple man—and except for one adolescent NDSE (Near Death Schwinn Experience) and the raccoons, I’ve been quite successful at following my life’s blueprint.
There has been one hitch, however, that has drastically altered my worldview along the way. I got married. (Get it? hitch, married…) Don’t get me wrong. As far as female types go, she’s a good one; this I’ve learned in our two decades together. This I’ve also learned: Life is complicated. Women know this, and it is their life’s mission to teach this to men. Men who have been married as long as I have know this, too.
Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example. The bed. Yes, the humble domestic bed. Now, you (you being uneducated men) wouldn’t think there would be any measurable amount of pontification or undue stress involved in the purchase and upkeep of one’s sleeping spot, would you? Find comfy bed, buy comfy bed, change sheets once a season or so. Ha ha, I say.
Ah, innocent ones, I was once under this misapprehension. When I was a young man, unfettered by responsibilities such as family, home maintenance, regular hygiene, and any income to speak of, my bed was a mattress. I moved often then, and after several third-floor apartment experiences, I viewed such items as box springs, frame and headboard as unnecessary accoutrements. Extremely heavy, unnecessary accoutrements.
I mean, who needs box springs when you have a floor? And except for easy access for nightcrawlers, I found my simple mattress bed to be quite comfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was also tres fashionable. I discovered years after my bachelorhood that I had been sleeping on a futon. Futons became all the rage about the time that hippies grew old, got jobs and realized they had disposable income. The futon wasn’t any different from the $5 mattress hippies were sleeping on in college, but by calling it a futon, retailers could jack up the price to, oh, $1,200. That’s called capitalism. The word “futon,” by the way, comes from the Japanese. Roughly translated, “futon” means “slob too lazy for real bed.”
Anyhow, my inauspicious, perhaps austere sleeping arrangements came to a screeching halt about three minutes after cohabitation (or marriage if this is a family publication). And this was when the bell rang for one of my first lessons in the complexities of life. Shopping for just the right bed, as problematic as that was, was only the beginning. Here are some words actually spoken in our myriad bed-hunting outings (many of these words I had never heard before, seriously): Is that headboard real teak? That’s not brown ochre, that’s raw umber. (And I thought it was brown, silly me.) Do you prefer negative edge or iron scrolling? I think we have to go with a California Queen.
Although I got an immediate mental image of RuPaul, I was informed that California Queen had something to do with mattress size.
Once we finally found the perfect California teak-ochre-negative-edge bed, I naively presumed that our quest was over. Ha ha, she said. Take out pencil and paper, ye men who are about to marry: There are approximately 3,102 accessories for a bed. I am not joking! Are you ready? There’s the duvet, there’s a duvet donut, a duvet cover, the coverlet, the dust ruffle, the mattress topper, mattress pad, mattress pad cover, bed skirt (you want scalloped, pintucked, tailored, or hemstitched?), heated throws, Sherpa throws, pleated shams, layered shams, bed blouse, fitted flats, flatted fits, the matelasse bedspread, the bamper skiffle, the skuffler layover, the Berkshire topper, the tiered voile eyelet perimeter skirting, box spring overlay, the husband backrest, toss pillows, slouchback, sheet smoothers, and, of course, the oyster-brushed upholstered headboard façade.
I didn’t even know oysters could brush. And don’t get me started about thread count, sister.
Then there’s upkeep. Still have your pencils, men? Note: You’ll have to change the sheets at least once a week, whether they’re dirty or not. This includes pillowcases and the odd sock hiding in the covers. Also, the mattress will be flipped and turned every month; I think this is a feng shui thing.
I know it sounds grueling, guys, but you’ll get the hang of it. Heck, I think I even know the difference between umber and ochre now. One’s browner than the other. Now, if we can just do something about the raccoons.
Roger White, who graduated from Burleson High School about the time box springs were invented, is a freelance writer living with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a pleasantly obese daschund, and a cat in rehab for Epstein Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.