Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bed me, please...

No, I am not asking to be "literally" bed, you naughty, naughty souls! I simply needed a good title, so there you have it. A title. Ah, yes. The philosophy behind THE bed. What brilliant soul elevated us from our sleeping arrangement on a bunch of leaves and twigs on the ground to such divine and luxurious relaxation? It must have certainly changed the way we copulate. It became more of a pleasure to copulate on something soft, as opposed to something hard (although there are those that prefer it rough). As much as we know about history, the origins of the first bed are somewhat muddled. There is not one particular person, tribe or country that can raise their hand and say, "I invented this splendid piece of furniture and my name happens to be BED!" I am certain that just as the birds were able to figure out that they required a nest to rest in, we were eventually smart enough to connect the two, as well. And it is a philosophy and a way of life that has been passed on throughout the centuries. 

Though ever evolving. The Persians, for instance, took their beds quite seriously. More seriously than I do, anyway. They inlaid ivory, stones, and pearls, all of which I would sooner garnish around my neck rather than my bed. And how the Persians loved cushions! They were so utterly obsessed with cushions, that they insisted that piling pillows upon the bed was simply not enough. No. The bed itself needed to be placed upon a cushion. Indeed! Of course the Persians must have also figured out that more cushion allows for better pushing... Now the Greeks and Romans, on the other hand were obsessed with bed coverings and height. Some beds were so insanely elevated that steps were needed to climb to the very top. Think of a bunk bed. On steroids. Of course, I am certain that after several disgruntled lovers fell out of bed, and lovers of wives and husbands found they couldn't merely "slip" out of bed to avoid complications...well, they quickly lowered the height of the bed back down to the floor where it belonged. And wisely so. How is anyone to be amorous when it requires all of one's energy merely to lay down? To my utter disappointment when researching all of this some time back, I found that when it comes to the history of the bed, the British were utter prudes. For they believed in having a bed for "functionality" and did not deem it proper to even associate it with the scandalous adventures associated with a bed. You are born on it and you die on it. Nothing more. 

While the French and Italians, especially during the Renaissance decorated the bloody hell out of their beds, making it quite impossible for anyone to think the bed was used for anything BUT improper dalliances. So yes, sadly, while the Brits had one solid bed that they passed on from generation to generation, Henry Harvard's Dictionary of French beds (1887-1890) describes 69 different types of French beds. Like the one with no posters, which I'm assuming wasn't very practical, for what on earth was one to hold onto during the act? Then there was the one with two posters, which was far more practical, for now one could actually hold onto something during an earth pounding dalliance. And it is my guess that four posters were simply introduced when men and women began entertaining more than one person in bed. Of course, I'm only funning about the purpose behind all the posters, but I find it rather fascinating that the French introduced all these variations of the bed. Though perhaps not too surprising when the rulers of France themselves took their beds quite seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they garnered quite the collection. Louis XIV, for example, had a total of 413 between all his palaces. And I'm certain he used every single one of them. Wink, wink. With a mistress in each, to boot. While the Brits, well, the poor sots maintained a simple. boring, canopied four poster bed almost always made out of oak and/or mahogany all the way up until the mid 1800's. And though they used fabrics and so on to decorate the bed (the picture enclosed above from the Victoria and Albert Museum is a good example of that, pardon my horrid photography), in the end, it was just that, a bed. And what is even more fascinating is that British beds were typically pretty small. Oh, they had plenty of height. But I'm talking about the actual size of the tick. 

As boring as I've made them to be, the Brits did have some fascinating "bed" customs. Like "bundling." Bundling is when two people who are serious about courtship, though not yet married, were "bundled" into bed by the parents, (fully clothed, of course, so as not to create scandal) and tied each of their hands and feet to prevent any fluttering of the hands or heaven knows what. Then the parents would leave the two for the whole night to spend with one another. Can you imagine the awkward silence of not being able to do anything more than turn your head and ask how the person is doing? Any attempts at anything indecent no doubt bordered on circus theatrics that no doubt resulted in death. And come morning, if the two survived their long, boring night, and they still liked one another, banns were printed and they lived happily ever after (or so I'd like to think). Without a doubt, I could go on and on and on about the bed (and plan to touch on this subject sometime again), but the point of this post is that THE BED has been and will always be the most important aspect of our lives. We are born in it, play in it, sleep in it, and if you're lucky, die in it (as opposed to getting hit by an oncoming carriage). And as Guy de Maupassant so eloquently said, "The bed is the symbol of life! The bed, indeed, is man!" (To this, of course, I'll add 'woman' in, for he seems to have blatantly forgotten that men cannot possibly procreate on their own...)