This weekend, Frank and I went to stay with a friend at her family’s summer house in Vermont. There were eight of us—three couples and two single ladies—sharing a giant, beautiful estate on the top of a wooded hill. Idyllic doesn’t even begin to describe it. I guess her grandfather bought the place in the thirties, and their family had been going to visit it every summer since.
So yeah, the house is old and filled with family relics and lawn games and liquor cabinets and all sorts of fun stuff. But the weird thing about it was that every single room, including the one her grandparents had stayed in before her grandfather passed away, was furnished with two twin beds.
At first we all thought it was some kind of Puritan thing, not wanting hanky panky going on at the shared house, but our hostess, Caroline, explained that that was just how her grandparents slept. Even in their apartment, they had separate beds. Like on the TV. That was just how they lived. I’d always assumed that the separate beds on TV was a censors thing, like the whole Lucy enceinte deal. It never occurred to me that that was how people (married people!) lived.
“How’d they do it?” a friend asked.
“I guess they just pushed the beds together,” Caroline said. “The funny thing is that lots of couples over the years who’d had trouble conceiving have gotten pregnant up here.”
So Frank and I and everyone else slept apart. We thought about pushing the beds together, but there were two little nightstands with two alarm clocks in the way. Then we tried piling in to one of the beds, but they were pretty small beds and it felt kind of stupid. It wasn’t that big of a deal, or it shouldn’t have been. I mean, what are two nights sleeping across the room from one another? It was off-putting, though.
It’s one thing to be in two different locations, and sleep alone. Sometimes that’s kind of nice, a night of taking up the whole bed and not worrying about snoring or getting up or anything. But it wasn’t like that at all. There was still the element of knowing exactly when the other person woke up or went to the bathroom, and Frank, not a habitual snorer, was having allergy problems out in the country that resulted in megasnores. That was particularly annoying because to wake him up and make him turn over, I had to walk across the room and shove him.
It was surprisingly lonely. We’re not really sleep snugglers, generally. I stay on my side and he stays on his. But something about having another warm body next to you (three actually, with the two cats) is comforting. It was sort of like a phantom limb thing, having someone there but not there. Honestly, I was really amazed by how much not sharing a bed bothered me. Is that dumb?
Maybe it was particularly weird because the house wasn’t set up that way to keep couples an appropriate distance apart, so it was confusing. We tried to figure out why it was like that. I mean, it made having lots of guests easier, for sharing rooms between strangers. And probably it saved a lot of people from awkward conversations. But we kept coming back to the fact that that was how her grandparents preferred to sleep.
Perhaps, I thought, that preserved some kind of mystery in the sex life? Or possibly one of them had restless foot syndrome or something? I wanted to ask my grandparents what they thought about it, but I couldn’t because most of them are dead. It’s strange, the living conventions that are assumed between two people. Maybe in fifty years it’ll be weird to have a door on the bathroom or something. That is not a future I look forward to. For now, though, I am excited about getting back to our now-luxurious-seeming queen. Not so much to the world away from croquet and gin and tonics, but I guess you can’t have everything. At least not without moving a significant amount of furniture.