Should Couples Sleep in Separate Rooms?

usCoverIf you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably read the shocking news about Donald and Melania sleeping in separate rooms.

It’s everywhere right now: NO PILLOW TALK FOR PRESIDENT! His marriage must be hanging by a thread!

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.

But I wouldn’t pin it on whether or not they keep separate bedrooms, because my marriage is doing just fine and my husband and I…

… have our own bedrooms too.

shocked.pngI’ve hidden this fact for a long time, for reasons the current media explosion is making obvious: I didn’t want people whispering about how my husband and I were probably having marital problems and were maybe even headed for divorce.

Because sleeping in separate bedrooms is strangely taboo. It makes people think your marriage lacks intimacy.

So I kept it quiet until the day I moved next door to the kind of neighbor who would march through your house, taking inventory, until she couldn’t help noticing two master rooms with giant beds in them.

She’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’ve desperately needed. The kind who knows everyone in the neighborhood: where they live, what they do, how they’re currently fixing up their house and what kinds of BS problems they’ve been having with the school district. The kind whose confident, direct approach could be the perfect Yang to my Yin-like ballet of barely grasping what color car anyone drives and fretting about how anything I might say could possibly offend someone. (Did I say ‘hi’ wrong? Did they just give me a weird look?)

Well, I respect that kind of of forthright honesty and couldn’t bring myself to counter it with a bunch of lies. We were going to be living next door to each other for a long time and I could tell we were going to be friends, so why start out with some Three’s Company-style charade?

That’s John’s room, and mine is upstairs…

She looked at me sideways until I told her, “He snores, and I’m an insomniac.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened, how I came out about our separate bedrooms deal.

How it all began

My husband and I never intended to sleep in separate rooms. We slowly evolved this peaceful arrangement after our bedroom had turned into a nightly battlefield.

You see, I’m a hardcore night owl, chronic insomniac and very light sleeper.  He, on the other hand, is a champion snorer who can wake you up through three closed doors, from a different story of the house.

He also considers his sleep utterly sacred. “Like a religion,” to quote him exactly, which makes him prone to extreme grumpiness whenever woken up in the middle of the night by my tossing and turning or because, say, I needed him to roll on his side because my ears wouldn’t quit bleeding.

I used to stare at him at 4:30 in the morning, irrationally resenting how easily he could just drift off like that and reminding myself how wrong it would be to shove a pillow over his face right now.

I felt horrible about being mad at him for something he couldn’t help, but I was just…

so    t i r e d.

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(My sleep-avenging insomniac superhero fantasy self)
We tried everything. Earplugs, nose-strips, even sinus surgery. None of it worked. Turns out, they’d have to reset his entire jaw to fix the problem and it wasn’t worth the risks.

It finally all came crashing down one night when I was pregnant, in that brutal late period of pregnancy where nothing is ever comfortable and you find yourself overheated, aching and flipping into broken starfish positions across your bed, trying against hope for a few sweet hours of oblivion as your baby keeps digging her foot into the underside of your ribs…

It was during these painful hours of sweaty exhaustion, when his spoon-in-the-garbage-disposal snore was pushing and pulling two inches away from my ringing ears like Satan’s own accordion, that I finally snapped:

“I’m sorry, but you have GOT to GO.” (Before I kill you, darling.)

Either pitying me or fearing for his life, the poor guy relocated to the couch.

Well, the couch kept happening until it turned into a futon that turned into the office converted into another bedroom. Then we ended up buying a house with a serendipitous second master bedroom and could finally stop pretending that this sleeping apart thing was a temporary deal.

Some unforeseen perks

Although my husband and I started sleeping in separate rooms for purely practical reasons, we’ve discovered the arrangement offers real  perks beyond being able to get a decent night’s sleep.

You see, one of the coolest parts of being single is having complete dominion over your own territory. Being married means companionship, but you can sometimes lose all of your personal space, which is probably why couples tend to carve out man caves and femme dens.

On the other hand, having your own room means:

 

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(My room)
You can express your decorating style without having to compromise with anyone. My bedroom involves a bathtub with peach curtains and chandeliers. I keep fresh flowers on my coffee table, next to a tea set and whatever fluffy indulgences make me happy.

My two daughters call my room the “girl clubhouse” and like to hang out on my flowery bedspread with all of our cats, purring in harmony around the throbbing pinkness of my rose-strewn monument to glittery estrogen. The whole place reeks of vintage movie stars and unicorn magic.

Meanwhile, my husband can put up that monkey-drinking-booze poster that that he finds hilarious without me giving him crap about it. His place is one big Testoster-oni treat of electronic wires, open closets, spread-out zombie comics and tiny hair shavings.

He can leave his underwear on the floor or refuse to change his sheets until they don’t bend anymore if he wants to and I don’t have to care, just as he doesn’t have to deat with having a thousand throw pillows in his way.

 

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“Hold on… I need a sec before we get started”
We don’t have to watch each other clip our toenails or nose hairs, because we have separate, private places in which to do these things. Kind of like when we were dating and didn’t have to watch every nasty step of each other’s transformation. We can still pretend to just wake up like that.

Having separate bedrooms doesn’t mean we can’t still visit. Or even stay a while.

But it’s not a given. You’re on boy or girl territory with a temporary visa.

Maybe that sounds cold, but it’s actually fun. It keeps you courting… you can’t juse scratch your butt before Dutch-ovening your partner while knowing they’ll have to put up with it. Unless neither of you minds, I guess.

Keeping a little mystery can bring dating excitement back to the marriage. You still have private territory. Your own identity. Your own refuge to think or read or do whatever without having to entertain anyone else. 

Maybe we should rethink the separate bedrooms taboo. It may not be right for everyone, but it doesn’t obviously mean a marriage is falling apart.

So stop being so judgey, people. You just made me defend Donald and Melania Trump.

 

 

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5 Ways I Like To Pretend I’m Filthy Rich

“Gratitude is riches” -Doris Day

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re browsing your Facebook feed when you come across a bunch of photos of your friend Alex deep-sea diving in New Zealand. Why look, the whole family is there… all bronzed and smiling.

vacationYou’re happy for Alex. Really. Because Alex is your buddy and you think it’s awesome to go to New Zealand, just like it was awesome when he went to Copenhagen a few months back.

Not that you’d know, having never been to either place yourself. (You start counting the years since you’ve been on vacation…)

And then, before checking your bank account to make sure the Netflix charges cleared, you read about how Gwyneth Paltrow believes in steaming her hoo-ha before  advertising $900 casual slip-dresses made for 5’9” models with 32” chests on her website Goop, like these would be reasonable options for any normal person to consider.

Does it bug you? Does it bug you that it bugs you?

Well, don’t worry, because it’s completely normal. You see, researchers have found that money doesn’t buy happiness after all… unless we have more of it than our friends and colleagues do. We care most about how we’re doing compared to everyone else around us.

Which makes sense. I mean, if everyone in the village has two goats and your family has FOUR, then you’re probably feeling pretty successful and respect-worthy until someone in the village builds a skyscraper.

But that skyscraper family needs love too. Look,  I’m not trying to be intimidating, but I’ve  got some pretty impressive resources myself. I have assets that have only been available to an elite percentage of lucky people…

That is, as long as you’re counting all the people who have ever lived since the beginning of time. Which I am.

Laugh at my adorably child-like imagination if you must, but comparing myself to people who lived hundreds of years ago makes me feel a whole lot better than reading about the Kardashian sisters’ weekly armpit-bleaching (I may have made that last part up, but you get my drift).

Plus, it means feeling filthy rich every time that I:

1. Eat Oranges

My darling mother-in-law from North Carolina recently visited, seeing our new house for the very first time.

She was most gracious about it, but what seemed to truly impress her most was the orange tree we have in our backyard. Imagine seeing an orange tree through your bathroom window, she sighed wistfully.

Now, growing up near towns with names like “Citrus Heights” has left me somewhat oblivious to my backyard citrus privileges, but seeing her perspective helped me realize how unusual it actually is… Oh yeah, people used to receive oranges in Christmas stockings, back when they were an enormous deal because non-local goods were really expensive. 

In fact, Marie Antoinette, who’s the very symbol of whimsical decadence if anyone is, had orange trees from Spain and Portugal wheeled into the gardens of Versailles in planter boxes every morning from their warming rooms, as a statement of her fabulous access to luxury goods.

And here I am, staring at oranges from my bathroom window. Like a BOSS.

2.  Drink Hot Chocolate

History-of-chocolate-franceThe-Family-of-the-Duke-of-Penthièvre-tasse-du-chocolat-jean-paul-charpentierI like to start my day with a nice cup of hot chocolate, like it’s no big deal at all.

But this habit would’ve once pegged me as a pampered aristocrat.

 

Because chocolate used to be unbelievably expensive. The Aztecs believed it was a divine gift and used it for currency.

It first appeared at the French court of Versailles in 1666, during the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. Versailles, of course, was world-renowned for ridiculous self-indulgences and nearly pornographic levels of luxury at the time.

And even THEY were impressed by chocolate. After Louis XIV’s married Marie Thérèse of Spain, who loved the stuff, the king granted the first chocolate manufacturer in France, David Chaillou, a monopoly, which kept chocolate unbelievably expensive for a very long time.

Yet here I am, starting each day with a heaping cup of chocolate, the 17th century equivalent of breakfasting on Beluga caviar sprinkled in gold dust while setting hundred dollar bills on fire.

3.  Pepper My Food

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the dried spice everyone keeps in half of their salt and pepper shakers. Nowadays, it’s the bare minimum of any spice collection, something found on every table at any truck stop in any random backwater town.

But it used to be something only insanely wealthy people could afford to use.

In fact, the Dutch still use the expression “peperduur,” which means “pepper expensive,” to refer to outrageously costly things. It’s a holdover from earlier times, when pepper was literally more valuable than gold. It’s rumored that Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, and Attila, who ruled the Huns, both demanded ransoms of black pepper in exchange for stopping their attacks on Rome during the 5th century.

4.  Salt My Food

What-Salt-Bae-MemeThe word “salary” is actually derived from the word salt, coming from the Latin “salarium,” or “money to buy salt with.” Apparently, people used to picture incomes in terms of how much salt they could buy.

Salt is vital. It preserves food and makes it taste good. People care about it so much that salt taxes lead to revolutions… like how the French Gabelle led to the French Revolution, or how Gandhi’s defiance of the salt tax led to Indian independence from Britain.

Salt is sacred. Greek, Jewish, Catholics, Buddhists, Tibetans,followers of Shinto, Southwest Native Americans, and other religious groups historically involved salt in holy rituals.

And yet, I can boast an embarrassing wealth of saltiness. I have table salt, Kosher salt, and two kinds of sea salt at my disposal… I can throw salt into my baths, as well as on my food. I can buy a HUGE amount of salt, more salt than I could use in years, and I don’t even run around bragging about it.

5.  Flip On the Air-Conditioning

For most of human history, we’ve had to live in the elements the best that we could.

If it was snowing, we could build shelters, sew thick clothing, wrap ourselves in furs, or build a fire.

But if it was blisteringly hot, there wasn’t much we could do, except not wear a bunch of clothes (I’m talking to you, Victorian England).

Or we could buy ice.

Thing is, ice harvesting used to be extremely dangerous–huge blocks of ice could accidentally slide onto the workers and crush them–yet incredibly profitable. Ice merchants got rich during the 19th century, reaching peak competition in the 1860’s when the industry pulled in $28 million ($660 million in today’s terms).

Before that, there wasn’t much people could do to deal with the heat, apart from jumping in the lake or making someone wave a fan at you.

So whenever I flip on the air-conditioning, it’s basically the new world equivalent of filling the room with expensive ice cubes or having a team of servants waving a bunch of ostrich feathers in my face.

I should probably be reclining on a couch and eating grapes whenever I do it.

Don’t Hate

These are just a few of the ways I like to pretend I’m a powerful empress in the ancient world. Just think about how impressed medieval people would be if they travelled forward in time to behold the splendor of my lifestyle.

But don’t be jealous. You’re probably an aristocrat too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Call A Truce For International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s Day, but you’d hardly know it from the way endless arguments about women’s choices keep exploding the internet.

In fact, many women are on strike today, which will undoubtedly receive ample criticism in the days to come.

Why? Because we keep shaming each other like it’s an Olympic event. Both the left and right accuse recent women’s marchers of showing their privilege, Adele fans are fighting with Beyonce fans, and Emma Watson made everyone clutch their pearls at her topless Vanity Fair cover, many demanding that she hand in her feminist card.

And the mommy wars haven’t stopped either….

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Hey, we all have to make tough choices in our lives, each involving unique hardships and challenges. So instead of fighting, I’d like to take a moment today to appreciate all the other women out there. Especially the ones who are typically at war:

Child-free Women

You guys are bucking the trend, facing criticism from everyone who believes any “normal” woman’s primary focus should be on having children. You’re changing ancient stereotypes about women being walking uteri while creating more independence and career opportunities for future women everywhere.

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If only you had the right lipstick…

We don’t ALL need to have kids, and I thank you for bearing with those of us who are trying desperately to calm ours down at the restaurant or grocery store. Your taxes help pay for the next generation’s education too, so I thank you for being team players who are contributing to the group at large.

 

Plus, there didn’t used to be many options for women who didn’t want to focus on being moms, and that’s unfair. Our wages were pitiful, we were locked out of many career tracks, and were eventually viewed as old maids trying our best to scrape together something resembling a life after clearly being unable to land a man.

Thank you so much for helping to change this.

Single Moms

You guys have it ROUGH. You’ve got the pro-life crowd demanding you see every pregnancy through, regardless of circumstance, while experts demand you leave dysfunctional relationships or marriages, and then your morality is considered questionable after following everyone’s advice.

I have a hard enough time raising kids with a supportive partner, so I can’t imagine dealing with a screaming kid for hours, day after day, all by yourself… no one to shoulder the burden for a bit, while you regain your sanity. I honesty don’t know how you do it, but I’m impressed as hell that you keep it together the way you do.

Stay-At-Home Moms

Kids are a nearly-endless pool of energy and irrational desires. It’s DRAINING to take care of kids all day, Sisyphean at times… you slave over meals they refuse to eat or even throw on the floor. You clean out bodies and butts that get dirty five minutes later. You spend hours trying to either figure out why they won’t stop yelling, dumping out every jar in the house, or trying to stick silverware in the light sockets, only to relive the cycle again and again.

Trying to keep a house with little kids in it clean is like trying to file a huge stack of papers in front of high-powered fans. You can spend the entire day on your feet: chasing kids, putting out high-priority fires, and never getting a break, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.

And meanwhile, everyone’s rolling their eyes about how you’ve probably been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day, while assuming you’d undoubtedly be doing something more important (i.e. better paid) if you had the skills for it. It’s tough to be a SAHM in a society that equates work with identity, but you’re still doing important work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to pay other people to it.

Working Moms

You guys are troopers, taking on a full work week during the day, then spending your evenings raising your kids. While SAHM’s don’t always get to take breaks, they do get some control over their own schedules, whereas you’re locked into a sunrise-to-sunset grind from the moment your alarm first starts screaming.

The American workplace doesn’t accommodate parenthood nearly as well as the rest of the developed world. You weren’t necessarily given much maternity leave, if any at all, and may have a brutal time reconciling your work schedule with the needs of your family without either shortchanging your kids or damaging your upward mobility. It’s a constant tightrope walk.

Meanwhile, you’re being shamed about letting strangers raise your kids, as if it were always a choice. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table is probably a higher priority, right?

And even if it is a choice, what’s wrong with being invested in your career? Maybe you’ve worked long and hard to get where you are and didn’t stop caring about it the moment you had a baby. Why doesn’t anyone question working fathers like this?

Breastfeeding Moms

bf.jpgEven though it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging. The technique is tricky to master, it HURTS for the first few weeks, and it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up.

It also takes an enormous amount of time. You have to breastfeed babies every couple of hours, which makes it tough to do much else. Doing so in public makes many people uncomfortable, which means you’re either living under house arrest for the better part of a year, or suffering lots of uncomfortable stares from people who find it disgusting.

But experts now recommend it as the healthiest way to feed your infant, so you’re working hard to do right by your kid. Good luck, and keep your chin up.

Formula-feeding Moms

food-drink-world_of_cow-cowtoons-forumla_milks-baby_formula-cow-01238016_low.jpgSince experts now strongly encourage breastfeeding, moms who use formula also face loads of social disapproval, even the unspoken suggestion that they’re lazy or don’t care about their baby’s health.

And that’s an incredibly painful judgment, especially if you really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t build up enough milk or had a baby with latching issues. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you had to go straight back to work, which makes it exponentially harder.

Pumping enough milk takes more time than I can imagine being available to you at a full-time job, even with breaks, and women who try are looked down upon by their coworkers. It’s also much tougher to produce milk for a machine than a baby. Many moms smell their baby’s clothing or look at baby pictures when they try because the right mindset helps. I have the deepest respect for any working moms who manage it at all.

It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feed your baby formula, but don’t. Many, many generations of healthy babies were raised on formula and your kids will be absolutely  fine.

Liberal Moms

It’s a bad time right now for liberals in America. Our side lost, and the entire government is packed with members of the other team.

And now we’re fighting amongst ourselves as we scramble to understand how it all happened. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, many calling another subgroup the weak link in the chain as we splinter into warring factions. Was it racism? Was it elitism? Was it the failure to focus on the economy or the failure to do what we were doing even harder?

I don’t know, but I hope we don’t cannibalize ourselves in the process. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game, guys. That win margin was awfully narrow.

Conservative Moms

I may not be on your team, but I’m friends with many of your teammates.

In other words, we may not back the same horse, but we often have similar values. I think most of us want to live in a world where people don’t fear for their safety, where they can be productive and take care of their families, and where our kids can grow up with a good education and ample opportunity.

We both want less crime, fewer unwanted pregnancies, healthy people, and a healthy economy where we can live comfortably after putting in a hard day’s work.

We both want these things, even if we have different ideas about how we can get there. Maybe it’s naive, but I’m really hoping we can both learn to start talking to each other instead of demonizing the other side. I think we’ve probably got more in common than we realize, because it’s usually the extremists taking up all the air in the room.

Besides, we’ve kind of been forced to pick teams in the grand Super Bowl that is American politics. I’ll bet most Americans aren’t 100 % strict adherents to EVERY last position and theory spouted off by their political camp.  Most are probably more moderate than that, which means we have some common ground to logically hash out some of these issues.

In short, I think we’d all do well to recognize that while we face some hardships, everyone else has hardships of their own. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so maybe we could put down our arms and try to understand someone else’s perspective, while giving ourselves a break at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbles and Beebots In the News!

Yesterday was Bridget’s 3rd birthday. She spent the daylight hours indulging in cookies, cat-stalking and sunshine in the kind of present-moment-savoring paradise that most adults wish they still had the freedom to enjoy.

She was playing on the porch swing when her big sister Brontë put one of Douglas’s dog toys in her mouth, barking and crawling around on the ground.

Oh gross, I chuckled. Brontë, put the dog toy down!

She did. We later went inside to start the birthday celebrations, the girls forgetting all about the dog toy incident… until a startling discovery the very next morning:

 

That’s right.

A photo of Brontë with a dog toy in her mouth splashed across the front page of the The Sacramento Bee today, visible from every newspaper stand in town.

I’ll admit to being a little bit mortified.

And it’s not that I don’t believe most little kids have had far worse in their mouths at some point (kids chew on everything); it’s that random snapshots of our lives can create unbalanced impressions. I didn’t want people thinking I routinely let my kids chew on dog toys that have been sitting outside in the dirt because that’s not usually how we spend our time.

This idea didn’t bother Brontë at all, however. She was too busy being thrilled by her joke making the local news. She grabbed a paper and spent the next couple of hours running up to strangers to point out her featured photo. “It’s SO FUNNY,” she kept telling them. “They put it IN THE PAPER!”

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My girls become local celebrities.

Now, you may be wondering how this all came about…

Months ago, I wrote a blog post called Americans Are Too Damn Clean, inspired by parents who get rid of pets during pregnancies or use hand sanitizer before handling infants from what I consider to be good intentions gone awry, encouraged by our national tendency toward germ paranoia.

In it, I bring up scientific studies showing how kids who grow up around pets actually have fewer allergies, lower rates of asthma and eczema, and better gut ecosystems. No need to get rid of your pets.

Apparently, the Health Reporter for The Sacramento Bee came across my article and was intrigued. She called me for an interview and to set up an appointment to take photos of my girls being natural kids in a laid-back environment around a mom who would let them get dirty.

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Wondering how this will all be spun.

And Brontë, being the natural performer that she is, supplied the piece de resistance by chewing on a dog toy for the cameras, which ended up being a teaser on the front page. Oh, and she also grabbed the camera from the cameraman when he wasn’t looking and snapped some photos of me. Luckily, he was a really nice guy who has twin 8-year-old girls of his own, so he completely understood.

Fortunately, the article didn’t portray me as a filthy lunatic, just a mom who wasn’t convinced that disinfecting everything was the best idea. It was on the first page of the section section and the online version is here: Are Your Kids Too Clean? Microbiome Research Reveals Dangers of Killing Germs.

The only real bummer is how the reporter promised to mention Bubbles and Beebots in the article, which would’ve been great press in a nationally-known newspaper… especially since I live just outside of Sacramento, talk about the area from time to time, and since some of the studies mentioned in the article came straight out of my blog post. There’s a link included on the online version, yet the actual newspaper only referred to me as a parenting blogger.

Dang. Well, maybe the editor cut it. You never know.

At any rate, I think it’s pretty cool that Bridget’s birthday will be forever remembered as the day before she appeared in the local paper. She seems to think it’s pretty cool too.

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