I finally punched through my favorite bed sheet the other day. I’ve been sleeping on it for twenty years, and it was getting so thin I could read the Do Not Remove tag on the mattress through it. It was the softest, smoothest sheet ever, the kind of sheet that makes you wiggle like you’re treading water in the morning instead of getting up, just so you can feel it some more. It was soft as a baby’s bottom without any of the effluent, mostly. I was so crushed to see the hole that I briefly considered keeping the sheet but avoiding the thin spot. Then I realized that whatever portion of me had thinned out the sheet was not likely to voluntarily relocate in my sleep.

I have another set of sheets, and they’re pretty good, but not as good. The good ones didn’t quite fit the mattress, and kept poinking off at the corners. The not-as-good ones fit just fine. The trouble is you can’t tell if you have the really good sheets until you’ve bought them and opened them up. They can say stuff on the packaging but it doesn’t mean anything. Egyptian cotton? Good for side-sleepers, I assume. Thread count? Please. There’s no guarantee your 500 threads per square inch aren’t all sticking straight up. Or that your sheet isn’t as dense as a pair of Carhartts. And they won’t let you feel the sheets in the store. The best you can hope for is if your sheets are all made up on an abbreviated display bed, and you can strip down and crawl in for a few seconds, but usually, in your better department stores, they send over some lady from Fragrances to spray you down. I’ve heard.

The set I just brought home is typical. It’s a cube. It’s not remotely squishy. It’s encased in a transparent plastic suitcase all its own, with a zipper and everything. When you open it up it slides out all square. And then it folds out like one of those old Christmas Life-Savers books, and if you dig at it long enough, you’ll discover it has been folded around heavy-duty cardboard to maintain squaritude. They pay some tiny person in Indonesia fifteen cents a day to cardboardize your sheets and then the store puts a lock on the little zipper so you can’t open it up and feel them. Oh, it’s packaged all to hell. You can tell the company sincerely wanted to add polystyrene foam and microbeads to the packaging and edge the plastic suitcase in baby seal fur, but Marketing intervened and insisted everything be transparent. At any rate, you have to throw the little suitcase away, preferably directly in the ocean where it can eventually choke an albatross. Because you’re never, ever going to wad your sheets back into the sucker.

At least I was able to purchase a sheet set that didn’t include four pillowcases and a pair of shams. We only use the two pillows, and they’re not even king-size, though our bed is. Dave wanted something he could locate both ends of, so he got a queen, and mine is even smaller. When I make up the bed, it looks like I’m hiding a Tic-Tac in there. All I use in a pillow is the corner. I’m a stomach sleeper, and I fold the point under and wad up a fist-sized portion to mold to my eye socket and temple–just enough to keep my nostrils off the mattress. I don’t even use the center portion of the pillow. That’s just there to give me four corners to choose from.

Since my entire pillow inventory could be the size of a stuffed sock, I have always wondered why beds come with so many pillows now. I thought it was just for show. You have your regular pillows, you have your extra set of regular pillows, you have your throws, your tubulars, and your shams, all in attractive coordinating fabrics that aren’t too matchy-matchy. What are they for? Are they bolsters to keep you from sailing off the bed? Are they cat deflectors? First thing I do when I encounter a bed with this many pillows is find the skinniest squishiest one and throw the rest on the floor. But at some point it occurred to me that my guests might actually enjoy pillows.  So I got a few extra for the guest room. OMG.

They use them. They orchestrate them. They want them. They, like me, have body parts all over them that need to be molded or contained, and they will draft every available pillow to give them an edge on insomnia. I may hate fat pillows because they force me to crank my head back like Jake the Alligator Man, but other people need as many different pillows as they can get. I won’t argue: you have to go with what works. I need to keep my nostrils from being mashed into the mattress, and if my guests have something personal on them that needs propping up, it’s no business of mine.