One of my greatest pleasures is turning down the corner of my white duvet and sliding into bed. I love settling back against my pillows with my MacBook Pro cradled in my lap, reading and tappity-tap-typing away until drowsiness overtakes me. I push the computer to the empty spot where a lover would be, arrange my pillows, and turn off the light -- a delicate, peacock-blue vintage lamp perched on my deco nightstand.
I rest my head on two pillows and press a third against my stomach, spooning-style. I am generally asleep within minutes, but in that interim between consciousness and slumber, I bask in the velvety cocoon of my mattress and sheets and the darkness that envelops me.
By the end of my marriage, I dreaded getting into bed with my husband and our twin companions: Despair and Revulsion. I didn't realize just how oppressive bedtime had become until my first night settling into my sheets alone in my new apartment. I suddenly felt decades younger, ecstatically light and free. I no longer had to endure snoring, cover-stealing, or 2 a.m. lead-footed forays into the kitchen. Something as simple as going to sleep had been transformed into a priceless luxury.
Until I got divorced, I had never not slept with a man after sex. But when I started to date again, I had to learn to navigate an unfamiliar romantic terrain. When I felt the walls closing in on me during a brief relationship, I realized I was primarily interested in sex and fun. Sometimes it felt natural to spend the night with a lover. And sometimes it felt like a relief, frankly, to bid him a fond adieu.
The times I've spent the night with lovers have generally not been restful. Part of that has been due to the hotness of being with a new person, when the slightest touch sparks a sexual encounter. But part of it has been that I wasn't ready to subject myself to restless limbs and weird sputters of breath. I had fought too hard for the privilege of sleeping alone to forego even one night of tranquility for someone with whom I wasn't totally besotted.
But after two years of sleeping (mostly) contentedly alone, I wonder how easy it will be to return to co-sleeping if I find myself in a committed relationship. And where did this notion that couples should slumber together come from? What if you just happen to be someone who sleeps better by yourself?
When I posted a Facebook status asking friends if they preferred to sleep alone or with a partner, the replies were varied. Some said they slept better with a partner, some said it depended on the partner, and some said they simply preferred their own bed.
I remember reading an article about an older couple who were well-off enough to own two adjacent houses. After they'd had their way with each other, they'd retire to their bedrooms in their own homes. They appeared perfectly happy with the arrangement and enjoyed each other's company -- just not during sleep.
I don't know if I'll ever be in the position to own two homes, but I can certainly imagine one big enough for separate adult bedrooms. I think there's something erotic about looking at your partner's bed and knowing it's designated for sex, when you associate it with the gasps of ecstasy, not sleep apnea.
I suppose I could find a man who would change my mind about the merits of co-sleeping. Or if a kind of alchemy emerged between us that invited rest instead of prevented it. But in the meantime, I'm happy to climb into my womb of a bed and sleep blissfully alone.
Photography by Nick Holmes