Lez Miserable: "Bed is the one place where shame wields no influence whatsoever"

Musing on the concept of Bedfulness, Eleanor Margolis finds her self questioning her own unhealthy relationship with her Ikea Malm.

Some mornings I have to roll out of bed. Literally. Sometimes hitting the floor is the only way of divorcing my torpid, jellified self from its pillowy joy nest. If I were less considerate of those who live with and near me, I’d probably spend most mornings screaming, “WHY?” repeatedly. I’m sure Freud would’ve had a lot to say about this daily re-birthing routine, complete with (albeit internal) primal scream. But he’s dead and thought that women are sad because their vaginas are excessively un-cock-like, so whatever.

An article last week about the Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori – young people who confine themselves to their bedrooms for months or even years at a time – left me questioning my own unhealthy relationship with my bedroom. More specifically; my bed. Even more specifically; the concept of Bed. Bedfulness, if you like. So, what does Bed mean to me? I was born in a bed, I lost my virginity in a bed and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to die in a bed as opposed to, I don’t know, being mauled by a school of disgruntled tuna. What’s more, whenever I can, I work from bed. I’m typing these words direct from my Ikea Malm. Proust famously worked from bed. I like to think this makes us kindred spirits, when in fact it probably makes me the kind of oversized infant who should don an animal onesie and give up on life.

Bed is the most private place in the world. It’s that anarchic realm where you can watch weird porn while devouring an entire birthday cake with your bare hands. It’s where you fart freely, cry over YouTube clips of cartoons from your childhood and get creative with masturbation techniques. In fact, Bed is the birthplace of the “crank” (a cry and a wank). What happens in Bed stays in Bed; it’s the one place where shame wields no influence whatsoever. But only when you’re alone. Introduce a second body to Bed and suddenly there are rules. If the second body belongs to someone you don’t know very well, for example, things can get very tentative.

For anyone with an elevated sense of bedfulness, one-night stands can be surreal. Almost dauntingly so. Not necessarily because you’re getting into another person’s bed, but because you’re getting into Bed with them. Bed is where they’ve spooned partners, where they’ve had their filthiest thoughts and where they’ve cried off broken hearts. It’s hard to get into someone’s bed without at least dipping into their emotional sphere. When this someone is a stranger you drunkenly got off with, it’s all the more bizarre. I once went home with a girl who turned out to be a hardcore sleep talker. I decided not to tell her that she’d woken me up at 5am with a dramatic monologue about Fearne Cotton stealing her pizza. Getting into a discussion about that night’s Bed experience with someone I barely knew seemed like it would overstep a serious boundary.

From Manet’s “Olympia”, to John and Yoko’s Bed-Ins, to those nauseating Dreams Bed Sale adverts where tall, athletic, Scandinavian-looking couples have euphoric pillow fights; Bed is an emotionally convoluted, addictive hub of sex and death. When a psychiatrist once suggested that I wake myself up by getting out of bed early every morning and going for a run, I practically laughed in his face. Let’s be realistic – why would I opt for a Spartan exercise regime over being extremely comfortable? It felt a bit like telling a heroin addict to try nibbling on a carrot every time he’s about to shoot up. I think that getting out of bed will always be terrifyingly birth-like for me.

Now read Nicky Woolf on why, despite it being awful, he can't imagine life without insomnia.


A woman lying on a bed, circa 1956. Photograph: Jacobsen /Three Lions/Getty Images

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.