Take Heed, Young Men, of California Queens & Layered Shams

20 Jan

by Roger White

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, $600. 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 tanned 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, 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 is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

7 Responses to “Take Heed, Young Men, of California Queens & Layered Shams”

  1. Banjo January 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Very funny, yet true! I think the reason you rotate and/or flip the mattress every 30 days is to make sure the bed “wears” evenly. Less likely to create dips where each person sleeps………

    • sandy January 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

      And that’s just the bedroom! Onward to the bathroom where we have shower curtains, shower curtain liners, shower curtain valences…

      All this to say, it really is harder being a woman. Isn’t that the point of your post?

      • oldspouse January 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm #


  2. KAT January 22, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Really look forward to your articles; (maybe because we are of the age to relate); get ‘um coming!

    • oldspouse January 22, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      meaning, we’re old, right? cough

  3. Rona Ebert January 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi Skeezer! Well I am a woman and really needed this help in the bed department, because i currently only have a bottom sheet, 2 pillowcases, a coverlet and 2 pillow shams because my little dog whiskey chewed holes in my top sheet. And because i am too lazy to shove the pillows into the shams, they just get laid on top of pillows as a disguise so no one will know they are pillows. So i appreciated the list of all the stuff i still have yet to get to make my bed worthy. Including a husband. Can you get a stuffed husband? Hmmm…maybe that’s how i could use that old sock you found in the covers? Your old pal Rona.

    • oldspouse January 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      Hey hey Rona! There will be wine. Come visit us.

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