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
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Theresa May's magic money tree is growing in Northern Ireland

Her £1bn deal with the DUP could make it even harder to push through cuts in the rest of the UK.

Going, going, gone...sold to the dark-haired woman from Enniskillen! Theresa May has signed a two-year deal with Arlene Foster, the DUP's leader, to keep her in office. The price? A cool £1bn and the extension of the military covenant to Northern Ireland.

The deal will have reverberations both across the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland specifically. To take the latter first – the amount spent in Northern Ireland in 2016/17 was just under £10bn. A five point increase in spending on health, education and roads is a fairly large feather in anyone's cap.

It transforms the picture as far as the fraught negotiations over restoring power-sharing goes. It increases the pressure on Sinn Féin to restore power-sharing so they can help decide exactly where the money goes. And if there's another election, it means that Arlene Foster goes into it not as the woman who oversaw the wasteful RHI scheme (a renewable energy programme that because of its poor drafting saw farmers paid to heat empty rooms) but as the negotiator who bagged an extra £1bn for Northern Ireland. 

Across the United Kingdom, the optics are less good for the (nominal) senior partner to the deal.

"May buys DUP support with £1 billion 'bung" is the Times"£1bn for DUP is 'just the start" is the Telegraph's splash, and their Scottish edition is worse: "Fury at 'grubby' deal with DUP". With friends like this, who needs the Guardian? (They've gone for "May hands £1bn bonanza to DUP to cling on at No 10" as their splash, FYI.) 

Not to be outdone, the Mirror opts for "May's £1bn bribe to crackpots" while the Scotsman goes for "£100 million per vote: The price of power".  Rounding off the set, the Evening Standard has mocked Foster up as Dr Evil and Theresa May as Mini-Me on its front page. The headline? "I demand the sum of....one billion pounds!"   

Of course, in terms of what the government spends, £1bn is much ado about nothing. (To put it in perspective, the total budget across the UK is £770bn or thereabouts, debt interest around £40bn, the deficit close to £76bn).

But only a few weeks ago Theresa May was telling a nurse that the reason she couldn't get a pay rise is that there is "no magic money tree". Now that magic money tree is growing freely in Northern Ireland. The Conservatives have been struggling to get further cuts through as it is – just look at the row over tax credits, or the anger at school cuts in the election – but now any further cuts in England, Scotland and Wales will rub up against the inevitable comeback not only from the opposition parties but the voters: "But you've got money to spend in Northern Ireland!"

(That £1bn is relatively small probably makes matters worse – an outlay per DUP MP that you might expect a world-class football club to spend on a quality player. It's tangible, rather like that £350m for the NHS. £30bn? That's just money.)

For Labour, who have spent the last seven years arguing, with varying degrees of effectiveness that austerity is a choice, it's as close to an open goal as you can imagine. Theresa May's new government is now stable – but it's an open question as to how long it will take her party to feel strong again.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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