Walk in to most furniture or home goods stores and you would believe that the modern bed is a multi-layered work of art. Start with the organic million thread count sheets, swaddling you in comfort (and, most likely, heat). From there, the refined, accomplished bed sports the silk quilted blanket, the space-age technology comforter, the stylish duvet, and the casually but carefully tossed cashmere throw. The artistry involved in crafting the spectacle sends the clear message that sleep is just a dream — no one would actually recline on this creative explosion.
On top of this layered leviathan, an army of throw pillows stands guard. Not just one or two, we’re approaching double digit squares, rectangles, cylinders, circles, and diamonds of crafted cotton blends, each painstakingly selected for their patterns, their colors, their textures, and, in the most bohemian examples, their whimsy. The numerous stuffed objets d’art testify with incorruptible will that this bed means business.
The power of the throw pillow to impress (and to intimidate) should not be underestimated, for we have recently fallen under its evil spell. As purchasers of a new king bed and all its wonderful square footage, we eagerly purchased sheets, a comforter, and a duvet to outfit the space where we planned on spending one-third of our lives for the next decade or so, but we held off on throw pillows, shams, and other bedding accoutrement. This was, most certainly, a result of sheer utility, but perhaps also the stylistic requirements for such purchases rested out of our collective grasp. Upon receiving a gift card, however, our reticence flew out the window, and we embarked on a mission to upgrade our bed from mere sleep mat to a slumber throne befitting a couple of our panache, sophistication, and, as it turns out, gullibility.
I will not name the store we rolled in to, holding our hot gift card, but it rhymes with Pottery Barn. We knew we wanted two pillow shams that matched our duvet, and, after a few minutes, hubby located them buried underneath a pile of pillowcases and bedskirts. Only then were we faced with the eternal pillow sham question we had no idea existed: standard, king, or euro? That’s right, how international is your bed baby, because, beyond king, beyond that station of royalty, exists the euro pillow. While our bed did not have its passport yet, we were relieved to learn that the euro sham is, for lack of a better way to describe it, a square pillow. That’s right, it’s a square. You can’t call it a square though, as that would seriously impede the ability to charge more for it. It’s not a square pillow, it’s a euro pillow. Get it?
Euro pillows and shams in hand, we next needed to select just the right accent throw pillows. The sizes, shapes, and textures were limited only by the store’s warehouse size, and, if the United Nations of pillow sizes had thrown us for a loop, we were largely unprepared for the myriad choices we needed to make. Sure, we have four degrees between us, but we were woefully inadequate for the task. Ultimately, we selected a solid orange and solid green — as they say, keep it simple stupid.
After all the fuss and muss and international flair to our bedding purchases, we rushed home to dazzle our new bed to new heights. I made the bed, shammed (is that even a word?) the euro pillows, organized the “regular” pillows just so, and tossed the throw pillows with the light spirit of one who knows his bed would now appear as if it had just stepped out of the latest style magazine. I stepped back into the doorframe, realizing that, once I looked upon this magical creation, I may need to brace myself. And, then, I looked, and what did I see?
With a few more pillows on it.
There were no camera flashes, no oohs and aahs. Pottery Barn would not be featuring me and hubby, in matching chinos and white shirts for sure, standing behind our stylish bed. Rather, I saw our small, cramped bedroom, the blinds drawn as to not look over the back alley, dwarfed by a large (yet comfortable) bed. There was no artistry, no real style. Just our bed. And our nightstands full of books and charger cords and pictures. It was real life. Real life with throw pillows.
Whether it’s throw pillows, a new coat, a new car, or a new house, no matter how mature, how smart, or how insightful we become, maybe there’s always a part of us that’s just so sure that the next new thing will be the thing that really takes us to a whole new level. But it never really does. We’re like Tantalus reaching for fruit and stooping for water but never quite reaching it. It’s always out of reach. We’ll never get there.
And, maybe, that’s okay. Maybe the key is being able, at least some of the time, to step back and recognize the silliness of it all. Whether your pillow is European, African, or Pan-Asian, it’s still a pillow. As I snooze away on our wonderful new bed, I’m sure I won’t care.