Do you like waking in the night to find a snoring walrus sprawled diagonally across the bed, leaving you curled up in a ball on the edge?
Surely everyone likes being woken by a swift kick in the shin?
In that case, you probably want to make a mental note never to share a bed with me.
When I was younger, I was a ridiculously deep sleeper, to the point that I would often seriously worry my mum and my sister, who could shout in my face and forcefully shake me and I wouldn’t wake. When you become a mother though, deep sleep goes out the window and you’re resigned instead to nights spent with one ear open, just in case.
I know I fidget in bed, but knowing it only makes it worse. So conscious am I of not wanting to disturb the other person, that I try to be as still as possible, but this only serves to make me increasingly desperate to move my legs. Just once, just twice maybe. And perhaps just once more.
I’ve always been intrigued then by couples who maintain separate beds, separate rooms even, and who claim it has no negative impact on their relationship. Is it really possible to keep the passion and intimacy alive without sharing a bed?
Yesterday in the Guardian, Jenni Murray put forward the case in favour of separate bedrooms. It’s a compelling argument. Although hurt at first that her husband would want to sleep apart from her, Murray soon began to question why exactly there is such a taboo around the notion of separate beds, and why we feel a pressure to share. “Why do we enter a lifetime’s commitment to another person,” she asks, “and willingly surrender one of the most precious things we’ve enjoyed – a room of one’s own, decorated in one’s own taste, tidy or untidy as suits you. When did it become a romantic imperative to sacrifice the right to private, exclusive space for the notion of togetherness?”
When indeed. I began planning my dream bedroom…
And then I read Lionel Shriver’s defence of bed sharing.
Lionel Shriver is a brilliantly evocative writer, and within minutes Murray’s quite reasonable argument was pushed roughly to the edge of the bed by Shriver’s portrayal of the marital bed as a haven of contentment and safety – “you pressed against his back. It is glorious, and you hate the waking world. You never want to do anything again. This is the point of existence. Everything else is extra and stupid.”
Her descriptions are beautiful and so true. I wondered how I could ever consider sleeping apart, missing those precious moments before sleep, when “the wrapping begins. One knee nestles behind yours. One fine, high arch rests on the round of your calf. He clasps your hand. His cheek lies on your shoulder. The fit is exact…You are each other’s geometric destiny. You feel at once protected and protecting. It is like holding yourself.”
Of course it’s easy for me, I’m not the one getting kicked in the shins every night…