Living alone for so long, I'd gotten a little fanatical about getting enough sleep. I demanded eight hours of seamless, safe oblivion from the world. I'd stake out the hours and curate the bedding, throwing toxic pillows and duvets into the dryer on high heat weekly to kill any dust mites and suck out their corpses. I'd measure how many ounces of water I could drink for how many hours of rest: 4 ounces, I'd wake up at 2 a.m.; 2 ounces, I could maybe make it till 5 in the morning. Sippy cups, Tempur-Pedic pillows, mattress protectors, lavender eye masks, full body pillows—there were worlds of merchandise removing from me the money I hid under my hypoallergenic, latex mattress and the intimacy I wanted so badly. I slept alone for many years.
Then a dating website brought me the love call of handsome Stan: a funny and philosophical father of two; a nice, not-too-Jewish psychotherapist. Our first phone conversation was promising, so we met for a four-hour supper, and began holding hands on long walks and talks. We had so much in common, it was uncanny. We were so excited about each other, which inevitably led to having "the talk" about sleeping together. Not to have sex—we weren't at all ready for that—just about overnight compatibility.
"I sleep in baggy cotton stuff," I warned.
"So do I," he said.
"I'm a pillow-holic," I confessed.
"Me, too," he cried. "I have six."
"I like 'em soft."
"I like 'em hard."
"I'm a morning person."
"I'm … a night guy."
"I'm a light sleeper."
"I have earplugs."
"I have a sleep apnea machine."
No, no! Could our great daytime companionship balance what seemed to be our nighttime differences? We had so much going for us that we agreed we had to at least try. Spending the night together would be our Everest.
We embarked on the journey equipped with the coziest of T-shirts and shorts, plus 2000-thread-count pillow covers and sheets, and crept onto his wall-to-wall, extra firm, California king. Too thrilled to sleep at first, we had a lot of adjusting to do just in the cuddling phase. Living alone for so long, I hadn't realized how bony I'd become. My ribs couldn't tolerate his arm, my neck couldn't tolerate his shoulder. My arm on his chest disturbed his rest, my leg over his made him claustrophobic. But, we put pillows in the problem spots, and patience in the learning curves, because we always woke up smiling and so happy we had found each other. Soon, love replaced our need for rest, and sex was a revitalizing compensation. In a year, he gave up his king for the little old queen in my little old house.
At first, it became harder as he got more comfortable in my home. The dearest man when awake, Stan was a sociopath when he slept. Sometimes he'd pull my pillow out from under my head, leaving it to thud onto my extra firm mattress. He'd roll away from me with the covers, exposing me to frostbite, or onto me, pinning me into a forced coziness. It was a rodeo some nights, as I'd roll him bucking onto his side and pin down his restless legs, pull his feet in a pillowcase and tie them off with a couple of sleep masks. I got up early so he got hours to abuse the pillows on his own, most of which ended up yards from the bed. We deployed herbs, medications, meditations, and—when all else failed—the guest room.
Since I started making him meals, slipping him grains in lieu of glutens, goat dairy in place of cow, his labored breathing has eased. And the Hannibal Lecter machine was history. I now regard his remaining night noises as a rare talent. His animal impersonations—trumpeting elephants, growling tigers, hidden kittens—are adorable. He can also whistle for a New York cab with one nostril stuffed, and his coughs could open in "La Boheme" at the Met.
I love to touch his sleeping hand and have it clamp onto mine like a Venus flytrap; the way he reaches for me each morning, making out with a pillow until he finally locates me among the covers. Four years married, I wake amazed at the creature comfort we now share. There's nothing that can warm my feet like his, my hands like his, my heart like his. Ours is a love for which it's well worth losing sleep.