27 April 2006 - 1:15 PM
Making your bed
So, I get a break from interminable stupid 'training' on a new computer system that is, in fact, barely ready for beta-testing, do 30 minutes of actual, valuable work, snag some lunch, and pop up The New York Times website to browse the headlines and see if there's anything amusing to read in the features.
Thursday is the day of the Home and Garden section. The NYT's entire Thursday Style section has taken some bashing recently for focussing on products rather than people, but for me, it's mostly all in good fun. The sort of individuals who would be interested in the products featured might as well exist in another universe from my own, not just another city. Reading the Thursday Style section is somewhat like watching a nature documentary on TV; it's satisfyingly exotic with none of the discomforts of going to, say, the Serengeti to observe the lions.
Then I read the article on the current fashions in bedscapes and felt mildly unwell.
To be fair, the tone of the article itself expresses a certain amount of dyspepsia as well. And to be fair to the other side, ridiculous fashions have been the plague of bed linens as they have curtains, kitchens, and prom dresses for quite a long time, so some of what is discussed is not new.
Still, describing your bedding as 'the ultimate expression of yourself,' as one designer quoted in the story does, seems hyperbolic.
More disturbing, to me, though, was the reporting on products which are designed to 'furnish' the bed with pockets for your TV remote and iPod, or pillow covers designed to provide nonslip surfaces for laptops.
Again, to an extent none of this is really new. Mark Twain did most of his writing in bed. European monarchs held court in their bedrooms. 'Chamber music' didn't get to be called that because it was performed in great halls.
It does seem to me that the current faddishness takes us another step further from the bedroom as sanctuary. I quote from the article:
"The bed is no longer a private space," said Karen John, director of product development at Design Within Reach, which sells a bedding "system" based on the idea that the whole family and the dog are hanging out on one bed: yours. "Whether it's your kids or your pets that are on it, whether you're reading or working, the bed is a much more public place."
First off, I'm not sure I'd consider my pets as 'public' users of my bedroom, anyway. Much as I love them, and much as I am convinced that humans underestimate the intelligence of other creatures, having the cat on the bed is entirely different from having another person in the room. My dog sleeps in my room, but not on my bed (the Viking would allow him to, but I put my foot down. 'The dog gets on the bed, I sleep in another bedroom,' I said. The Viking blenched). The cats may sleep on the bed, but more often they prefer to sleep on top of my bureau or on a shelf in the closet. I don't know about anyone else, but while I was allowed on my parents' bed when I was a child, it was by invitation only and I certainly wasn't encouraged to 'hang out.'
I do read and knit in bed (usually for the 15-20 minutes it takes to settle my brain and fall asleep). I occasionally pull out my elderly laptop (still running Windows 3.1 and working well, thanks) to scribble down some fiction if it occurs to me. But I do not work in bed. I do not entertain in my bedroom. My bedroom is not my office, nor is it my living room. It is not public. It is my space.
Well, I allow the Viking in too.
But still. Am I the last person on the planet not to have a TV in the bedroom? I don't even have a phone in the bedroom. (I don't own an iPod, either).
Am I hopelessly reactionary for thinking a bedroom is best reserved as a refuge, a place for rest and sex? That people need private spaces, to be quiet, to be unplugged from their eBooks and DVDs? Is there something wrong with being alone?
Is that it? Is it that 'people' (Americans, or is it wider spread?) are afraid of being alone? Are we so afraid of being alone that we have to bring the whole world into our beds, via satellite and internet, with our children and household pets huddled around us?
I hope not. Because while I'm all in favour of the 'global community' as a concept, I'm not sure I need to have it in bed with me.