A bed. Everybody has one, from those who own a solid-gold four-poster with a canopy, carved ebony backboard, and a built-in fridge, to those who own either a comfy cement sidewalk near the steam grate or the south end of a cardboard box.
Beds have been around since the first lifeform laid back, put its feet (or flippers, or pseudopodia) up, and relaxed into something similar to sleep. What was directly under them when this happened automatically became a bed. Soil, leaves, or sand mostly. These first beds were hard, because they were laid on the ground or were the ground. Insects, mice, and snakes would wait patiently as you moved the twigs and leaves around, andthen share the bed
with the sleeper. So many things were crawling over everyone that somewhere along the line this situation became intolerable, and someone finally thought up the idea of sleeping just slightly above the ground on a piece of furniture. Thus came about. . .
The first "real" bed
You saw it on Antiques Roadshow, and you loved it in Archeology Magazine. The first real bed was made from wooden logs with some folded Mastodon skin laid on top. It even had a pillow, although some people called its pillow a badger. Pretty fancy for its day, and the envy of the whole neighborhood. This started the trend.
Imitators and investors quickly began making beds from the skins of large pandas, giant ground sloths, and even weight-challeneged squids. Anything oversized would do. People soon ran out of wooly mammoths and giant sloths and such, and started making beds out of bear and deerskins, which were a dime a dozen. Then, to add further insult to Mother Nature's injury, they began stuffing the beds with duck feathers and goose down, thus causing a run on ducks and geese which has continued to this day.
Well, this went on for hundreds of thousands of years, and so many beds were made for people who were relatvely short-lived that eventually billons of beds sat four-legged on floors all around the planet. Beds in which everyone who's ever lived spent at least seven or eight hours a day in. And the biggest surprise of all is that out of all these billions of beds only, what, like three? maybe four? are remembered for their good deeds. These are your typical. . .
The most famous bed
The first bed that caused some commotion is also the most famous bed in some parts of the world. Jesus' manger. When baby Jesus, cute as a button with ten toes and fingers and everything else all there, laid down his sweet head, he gave a random pile of straw the thing all beds secretly want: Publicity. Scholars wrote about it, magicians and astrologers bearing gifts of incense and camels came to visit it, and to this very day millions of replicas of that bed are placed in churchyards, public squares, and private homes every Solstice. You couldn't buy the air time this bed has gotten in movies and on TV, and don't even get me started about the Christmas cards! Talk about a bed with a big headrest. But did you ever wonder whatever happened to the straw in the real manger?
The sheep and cows that came to honor baby Jesus ate it.
The other famous beds
There are only two other famous beds.
The first and foremost is Hugh Hefner's bed. It's round and large and can hold up to ten bunnies without crowding. Hef (he lets his friends call him Hef) works on it all day long in one form or another. All work and no play makes Hef a dull boy, is what he tells the gang over at the mansion (did I forget my lucky socks last time?).
Hef gives his bed lots of promotion too. That seems to be the key to a comfortable bed, good publicity. The legend is that Hefner seldom leaves it (hence the muscle tone problem), stays in his robe all day (like all-grown-up Jesus, only old manier), and has all his meals served by tall girls who don't like clothes. His next scheduled bed is a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe's, where he will go beddy-bye.
The other famous bed is the one that aging American presidentAbraham Lincoln
died on after seeing a movie and running into some guy angry about a war. At 5'9" Lincoln towered over the other men of his day, and was far too tall for the bed. So the doctors and other do-gooders had to lay him on it on a diagonal, which looked really funny and made them all laugh. Secretary of State William Seward, unable to control his guffaws and wanting to preserve the joke for posterity, sent out for a camera anda sketch artist
. After Honest Abe finally died, and Seward, still laughing and barely understandable, told everyone in the room that Lincoln now belonged to the Azores, the attending physician and Lincoln's Johnny-on-the-spot bodyguard dragged thestill aging ex-President
kicking and screaming off the death bed. Soon taking on a life of its own, and becoming like a creepy sideshow attraction, the bed got all spruced up, traveled the country as if a potentate, and finally ended up moving into the Chicago Historical Society for everyone to see. And practice laying on diagonally.
As you can plainly tell from these examples, beds are associated with both life and death, as well as with some other things people tend to like and participate in, such as. . .
Bed and breakfast
Like two heads of the same coin, bed and breakfast go together. Lots of specialized hotels, usually just a private home made up to feel real cozy and run by people who look a little like your grandparents, cater to the bed and breakfast crowd. These are travelers who like to sleep on a bed and like someone to make breakfast for them. Not much more to it than that. But really, everyone has to sleep somewhere, and everyone has to break their fast eventually, so why not sell them as a two-fer? They're already melded together like Siamese Twins on a first date ("What are you two doing down there? Show me. Oh!").
Other Creatures of the Night
A bed is seldom alone anymore. No, they can't make it that easy on us, like in the old days. Then a bed was a bed, a slab of wood with a wooly mammoth stapled to it and a pair of whores for warmth. Now (take a breath) there's blankets and bedsheets and bedskirts and comforters, memory foam, mattresses, and electric heated coils (and don't forget the boxspring and cushion-sheets and mattress pad with flowers). And nowadays you have to wade through five or six pillows just to get to the whores.
What's the world come to? In a mad search for comfort, the human race let itself sink into a 900-thread count pit of fabric-based quicksand that comes with a TV remote so we can watch other people do things without having to get out of bed ourselves. And the only way to really force us out of there is to train us as children to make-believe you can't pee into a bucket.
And what else do they train us to do to get us out of bed? They convince us that for five or six days a week we have to climb out of our nest, put on still more pieces of cloth, travel for an hour on some habitual route, and then join forces with some other people who've also gotten out of bed. Then everyone there agrees to do the same things they did yesterday over and over and over again until we reach a predetermined time, travel all the way home again, and climb back into bed to get some rest.
Really, it's a given in society that much of our non-bed time is designed to be exhausting, especially the job part. At least the honest whores go to work in bed and get to lay around all day with their clothes off.
At some point people started making up stories which included beds. They just made them up! There was this one story about a girl named Goldilocks, who slept in a bed owned by a baby bear. Then there was a fairy tale about some princess who could feel a pea through a couple of dozen mattresses. Not to mention the tale of Snow White, or was it Sleeping Beauty, asleep for years on a slab under glass until this royal guy drives up and kisses her.
So here we've got all these fairy tales going on and on about beds and young women and what all, never telling the children the real story. It's like you were either "in the know" or clueless, and this went on for centuries. Today's children play the internet like Buddy Rich played the drums, so they know stuff now. And because of that, Snow and Goldy and that pea girl have all had their day and have left the stage. Nowadays, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a bed is just a bed. Unless it's from Nordstrom's. Then it's half your yearly income.
A Haunted Bed
What's a good bed-time story without ghosts? Not worth spit without a ghost or two. So wouldn't you know it, ghosts haunt beds. They either sit on the bed ("I felt someone sit on the bed, and there wasn't anyone there!") or they hide under the bed, usually inhabiting a smiling clown doll.
But the only authentic bed ghost, according to famed Oxford parapsychologist and tabloid ghost expert Prof. Will Chomberberry, is Mrs. Verna Smith-Wendell of Sussex-on-the-Thames, Point Surrey Place, City of London. Mrs. Smith-Wendell, the widow of a prominent City banker, awoke one day to find herself dead of the consumption, and just refused to leave the bed. Her body was taken away by cart, the mattress hauled by manservants to the dump and burned, and the room painstakenly cleaned, defumed, and painted. But still she stubbonly stayed. Entire teams of mediums and exorcists were sent in to introduce her to "the light" and cordially invite her to take leave. She refused all comers, demanded tea, and generally made such a fuss and bother that finally tickets were sold and reporters invited. Aside from a weekly visit to"the little girl's room"
, she still sits or lays upon her bed, prim and proper and fashionably transparent, and doesn't give a fig or a hound's tooth who stops by for a spell just to "see for themselves", as the locals put it.
Time for a good nights sleep
Even with all of this history and fuss, the bottom line is that what people think of when the word "bed" is thrown at them is a soft place to lay around while they watch TV. Or for the fancy-dan smarty pants intellectuals, a large horizontal cushion next to a lamp, so they can read a book or a quarterly report without their blueblood having to work too hard. But most importantly, when the clock strikes the bewitching hour and a cool air blows through an open window, everyone just wants a nice comfy place to go to sleep. Sleep. That sounds really good about now. Excuse me for a few hourswhile I take advantage of
As your sleeping narrator catches 40 winks, time keeps on. . .
slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future.
Seven hours later, I awaken. . .
Ummmmmmmmmm. Stretchhhhh. Yeah, keep the drapes closed. Just five more minutes.
More time slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future.
An hour later I wake up again refreshed, stretch a little bit more, and get up. . .
ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED!!!!
Oh jeez. Oh fuck. Now I did it. My whole damn life I've avoided getting up on the wrong side of the bed so I'd never ever have a bad day. And now. . .What the???. . .ohhhhh fuck!. . .
- An IKEA box!
- See the 2003 Oxford University publication The Manger: Fact, Fiction, or Fairy Dust?
- Which Jesus' mother returned to her local "Incense, Camels, and Beyond" outlet, trading them in for diapers for Christ's sake.
- Honest Abe wore that stove-top hat to add even more height to his stature. Asshole.
- Took him all night. I hope someone sent out for coffee too.
- "Died peacefully in their sleep-brand" furniture.
- First we had to be trained to agree to believe in segmenting the earth's spin into groups of seven, and then buy into a name someone gave this foolishness.
- Obviously a metaphor for puberty, all furry and just right and stuff.
- Feud would have had a field day with her on his couch. Wilhelm Reich would have put a pea under the couch and laughed his ass off.
- Ever notice it's the same damn story, except for the dwarfs, and they're just thrown in to sell us on going to work? A two-fer for Disney's coffers, well played Brothers Grimm.
- Yeah. He kisses her. Right. Give me a break, Rosebud.
- Smokin'! Literally! He could play so fast he used to make the drumhead smoke!
- Freud again? That guy stuck his nose into a lot of other people's business, we'll give him that.