Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Five Year Mattress

On Friday, I took the day off work to visit with one of my girlfriends who just had a baby. From my perspective, six weeks away from work sounds like a pretty good deal. Especially with a sweet baby girl like hers who actually sleeps for most of the day. But my girlfriend was displaying all of the classic symptoms of the new mom living in isolation and desperate for adult conversation.

Of course she wanted to hear the latest updates on the Boy so she could live vicariously through me. When she asked if I was going to meet up with the Boy later that evening, I explained to her that I was planning to see him for a concert on Saturday night and that I have a rule about not seeing him two nights in a row. That way gives him a chance to miss me.

"I am so jealous," she said. "I remember when it used to be like that, before I got married. Now we see each other all the time. There is no time for me to miss him. And after having this baby, he has literally seen me in sweat pants every day for six weeks. The mystery is pretty much gone at this point."

It is always hard to hear comments like that from my married friends, especially the ones that are younger than me. It's like they have grown up and moved into this new phase and I am still living the carefree single life. Which is completely by my own design. Yet somehow I always walk away feeling a little bit guilty.

It's not that I am under any illusions that my relationship with the Boy is better than anyone else's. Our happiness is mostly a matter of circumstance. If the Boy and I ever got married I am sure we would eventually drive each other crazy.

The way things are now I can minimize the impact of his negative qualities, which leaves me to bask in all of the wonderful things about him. Why would I want to put all of that added pressure on our relationship by forcing us into a situation where familiarity breeds contempt? Which is why I always stick to my rules.

I know that the Boy appreciates my independent streak. Even though he probably plays along with my rules more for my benefit than his own. But lately the Boy has adopted a new strategy. I think he realized that jumping right into conversations about making babies was freaking me out. So instead he has started gently dropping hints about a more nebulous concept: the future.

After a late night at the concert on Saturday, we woke up on Sunday morning in a hole. Literally. The Boy's mattress is so old that it has developed a dip in the center. Whenever we sleep together, we both start off on our own sides but inevitably end up sinking into middle of the bed. So I suggested that it might be time for the Boy to start shopping for a new mattress.

Our first stop was a place called the Mattress King. We were the only customers in the store so we had the undivided attention of the 25 year old Sales Rep. Every time we laid down on a mattress, the Sales Rep was there to tell us the whole story about what it was made of and how long it would last.

I immediately found a fluffy pillow top mattress and declared it to be my first choice. Meanwhile the Boy was contemplating something with a little more firmness to it. I have a feeling that we were not the first couple to ever have a debate about mattress density in the middle of that store. But unlike the married couples, the Boy was under no obligation to pick the one that would make me happy.

The Sales Rep nodded his head in the direction of my mattress and said to the Boy "That mattress will last you for at least 10 years."

"Wow, that's quite a commitment," I joked as I rolled off of my mattress. "I guess it depends how serious you are about this relationship." The Boy laughed and smiled back at me. We spent about an hour learning more than I ever wanted to know about mattresses. In the end, we picked our top three choices and the Sales Rep wrote the prices on the back of a business card and sent us on our way.

When we got back into the car, the Boy looked down at the card. "The prices are not as bad as I thought," he began. "Plus this is only going to be a five-year mattress so I don't feel like I have to make a huge commitment to it."

I was intrigued by the concept of a five-year mattress so I asked the Boy what he meant by that statement. "You know, in five years my life will be different. I could be co-habitating with someone or whatever," he explained with a sheepish grin. "And we will probably have a bigger house so this mattress could just go in the guest room or something."

I decided to let the five-year mattress plan settle in for awhile. It was a beautiful day, so we gave up on mattress shopping and headed out to the Cider Mill. On the way up there, we almost got side swiped by a mini van that suddenly pulled out into oncoming traffic. As we caught up to them I could see that the driver was an older woman, clutching onto the steering wheel as she leaned forward in her seat.

"I swear, I don't want to ever be old like that," I said. "Seriously, I would rather just end it than let myself get that way."

"Give it a chance. You might surprise yourself," the Boy said as he held my hand in encouragement. It was as if he had a personal stake in my hypothetical decision.

"Maybe you are right," I continued to contemplate my options. "My parents are in their late 60's and they are still doing ok. I figure I have until my 70's or maybe even 80 before things really start to go downhill."

"By the time I'm 80 years old I plan to have a driver," the Boy explained. I looked over and saw him smiling as he stared out onto the road.

"Who is going to be driving you around?" I asked him, somewhat amused by this new revelation. "Is it going to be like Driving Miss Daisy?"

"Well, you will just have to stick around and find out," he replied.

I have never been able to picture myself as an old person. It's not that I have a particular wish to die at a young age. I have always just assumed that something will happen to me between now and then. And I won't be around anymore.

When I was in college I came up with this crazy idea that I would die of a brain tumor at age 32. I probably chose a brain tumor because I always got really bad head aches when I was younger. I am still not sure why I picked age 32. I guess it just seemed far away at the time. It was an age that I could not imagine being.

By the time I surpassed the milestone of turning 32, I was happily dating my Mr. Big. But I was still cautious about planning a future with him. For five years I insisted that I never wanted to marry him. I think that he went back and forth on the idea, but he always let me have my way. In the months before his stroke, he started talking more seriously about whether I was really sure about not getting married. If things had gone differently, who knows if he would have been able to change my mind.

While I try to avoid making plans for my future, the Boy is just the opposite. It seems like he is always thinking about the future. He may lack the concrete plan to get there, but that is part of his charm. He is a dreamer and an eternal optimist regardless of any evidence to the contrary. It must be disheartening to have the woman you love stop and remind you of the limits every time you try to plan too far ahead into the future. Sometimes I feel like the relationship police holding him at bay and making sure he doesn't cross that invisible line.

This weekend as the Boy talked about his five year mattress plan or his goal of being wealthy enough to have a personal chauffeur, I didn't want to stop him. It's not that I am ready to sign up for his vision of the future, but I also don't want to take it away from him just yet.

For once, I would like to play along for awhile and see how it feels to live without all of my rules. I can always say no later. Right now, despite all of his flaws, the Boy keeps giving me a reason to say yes.


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