Something about Bedsharing

Over the years, the post on this blog which has gotten the most views by far is “Can we reserve ‘sleep with’ for when we literally mean ‘sleep with’?” (the blog post which is in second place has not had even half as many views, according to WordPress). It’s a blog post which fits the theme of this month’s Carnival of Aces: “Kissing, Hand Holding, Bed Sharing, etc!”, so is there anything else I have to say about bedsharing?

When I was a young child, and my nuclear family only had two bedrooms, and each of those bedrooms had only one bed, obviously at least one bed was going to be shared, so sometimes I slept in the same bed as my mother, and sometimes I slept in the same bed as my father.

This is where most people I talk about this with will go “WTF why didn’t your parents share a bed?” The answer is that my mom strongly dislikes sleeping in the same bed as my father and will only do so if it’s the only way to get any kind of decent sleep (note that when I say ‘sleeping’ I mean it in the strictly literal sense). Since I grew up with this state of affairs, it seems so obvious to me that it does not feel like it needs mentioning, but strangers understandably do not know about my mother’s sleeping preferences.

Nowadays, if the three of us had to split two beds, we would not need to discuss it – my mom and I would share a bed, and my dad would get a bed to himself. Even though we have never said it explicitly, because I am now an adult, it no longer feels alright among the three of us for me to share a bad with my father, even in the very practical situation of there being fewer beds than people. Fortunately, my mother feels that I am less disruptive to her sleep than my father is.

However, when I was a very young girl, my family felt that there was no problem with me sleeping in the same bed as my father. It meant a lot to me, because in those days, my father got up early to go to work, and he only got back home at 7pm or 8pm, and he would be tired, so sleep was the only time I really got to be with him during weekdays.

I also have fond memories of sharing a bed with my mother. I do not remember why sometimes my bedroom arrangements were changed.

This was all before I even knew what sex was, so it never occurred to me that there could be anything wrong with me sharing a bed with my father.

Eventually, we got a third bedroom, so that was the end of bedsharing at home.

I do not think I will ever be innocent that way again. Even though I am asexual, I have to be aware of the perceptions of anyone who would share a bed with me, and to some extent, I have to be aware of the perceptions of third parties.

Ever since I became an adult, I have only shared beds / sleeping spaces for practical reasons.

A photo taken in Julian, San Diego County, California, USA

Usually, I do get at least something of my own sleeping space – for example, even though I slept on the same floor as a dozen other people during my night in Julian during my most recent hike, with a couple of strangers just inches away from me, I was still on my own sleeping pad and in my own sleeping bag. And the one occasion I can recall as an adult when I really did share a bed with someone, I was wishing I could have had a better defined personal space. So I think that my preference is to have always at least a minimal physical boundary marking my space when I sleep.

This is inside Seseok Shelter in Jirisan National Park, South Korea. The white marks on the floor mark where guests may lay down their sleeping bags/pads, and they are numbered. The night I stayed there, it was not full, but it was plenty crowded, and there were dozens of people sharing a (large) room with me.

During my many stays at various hostels, I have been in mixed dorms so many times I don’t think twice about, say, sleeping in the same bunk as a man I’ve never met before. Heck, I don’t mind sharing a mountain shelter with men I don’t know. I do sometimes opt for ‘female dorm’ because a) sometimes mixed dorms are not available and b) sometimes the female dorm is a better deal for some reason (I realize I have cis-privilege, and that this is more complicated for many genderqueer people).

This is Walami Cabin in Yushan National Park, Taiwan. This is the first place I ever truly slept alone, miles from any other human being. The fact that it was a building rather than a tent helped, but it was still quite an experience.

However, I do not like the opposite, which is sleeping alone. I do not mean sleeping alone in a bedroom within a unit occupied by other people – I do that all the time. I do not even mean sleeping alone in my own housing unit, since I lived like that for years – but I had to get used to it, and it was not an easy emotional adjustment at first. What I mean is sleeping when you are the only human within a mile, or within five miles. I’ve done it, and I can even sleep, but I always prefer having some people near me when I sleep. When I do a multiday hike solo, I am always relieved to find another person at my sleeping spot. And when I realize that nobody else is going to come, that I have to get through the night alone, I have to brace myself. Some of my best memories hiking the Pacific Crest trail have been getting to know the ONE person who just happens to sleeping in the same place as me, the person who spared me a night alone on the trail.

The main building of the Mount Laguna Lodge (which is also a grocery story and a post office) in Mount Laguna, San Diego County, California, USA.

When I stayed at Mount Laguna during my most recent hike, I stayed at the lodge for two nights, in a room which can occupy up to two people (they do not have any truly one-person rooms). I was hoping to get a roommate, not just to save money (though splitting the bill was certainly a major incentive to share), but so I could have a little companionship at night. That is why I chose a room with two small beds rather than a room with one big bed (the room rate was the same). The first night, I had the room to myself – which was not so bad, since it meant I had privacy – but I was happy when I got a roommate for the second night. We talked for hours.

So, I suppose I like sharing my shelter, but I am not so fond of sharing the bed itself.

What does any of this have to do with being asexual? My personal inclination is to say it does not have anything to do with asexuality. I do not have any sexual interest in bedsharing, but other people might, so I have to take that into account when I share a shelter. And I think the psychological benefits/costs which apply to me also apply to many people who are not ace. However, some potential considerations, positive (ZOMGOSH I want to be next to that hot person!!!!) or negative (I do not want to be tempted to have risky sex) may not apply to me because I am ace.

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8 thoughts on “Something about Bedsharing

  1. When you wrote “not that when I say ‘sleeping’ I mean it in the strictly literal sense” I wonder if you actually meant “note”, rather than “not”?

    This is a really insightful and detailed post. I imagine being so alone, separated from any other human beings would make it harder for me to sleep as well, but I’ve never experienced that.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s really interesting to me. Even though since my last blog posts I’ve broken up with my qpp, I still think that if I ever end up with a new partner, I’ll want personally, long term, an arrangement without bed sharing because I think studies have shown in general people sleep better, and I don’t crave sharing a bed with anyone.

    I also haven’t slept in the same bed as my father or my 2-years-younger brother since I was pre-pubescent I’m pretty sure, and I hate the really uncomfortably incestuous and yet heteronormative idea that once I’m more “adult” it’s inappropriate for me to share a bed with a guy, but as a cis girl it’s still totally fine to share a bed with my (paternal) grandmother. When my family including my dad, brother, and Grandma are all staying in a place with not enough beds, I have to sleep with (in the literal sense!!) my grandma, while my dad and brother “get to” sleep in the same bed – I imagine the first time this happened I objected, because I have a much more emotionally (not sexually!!) intimate relationship with my dad and brother and would be so much more comfortable slurring with either of them. The stress of messing up their sleep is so much less than the stress of messing up my grandmother’s sleep (and I know my grandma is a light sleeper who goes to bed much earlier than the three of us in my immediate family so even getting into bed might do it). I know I toss and turn rather violently if left to sleep alone in a bed too lol, and from the days when I was still young enough to sleep in a bed with my dad, I remember him complaining about me “kicking” him (or bumping into his body) during the night, so I hate the prospect of doing that with someone who might actually get upset instead of just “lovingly frustrated”.

    I’ve also cuddled a small bit – my legs on their lap, leaning my head on their shoulder, sitting extra close watching TV – with my dad and with my brother, but never with someone like my grandmother. So I think that’s part of why it’s always so (psychologically) uncomfortable for me to be relegated to sleeping with my grandmother, and why I’m jealous that just because they’re (straight, cis) men, my dad and brother are “allowed” to sleep in the same bed without people worrying about anything, but I don’t get that luxury as a “presumably straight” cis woman. (Honestly, not sure if this situation has actually come up again in the 3.5 years I’ve identified as asexual… well I do know about 1 month after that identity of mine became known to at least my dad and brother, my uncle died. He was an uncle via marriage to my father’s sister. Instead of my aunt and their son still spending nights at a hotel as they’d planned to with my uncle, we decided on the circumstances it was much better to squeeze them into our house with my grandmother – 6 people, 4 beds (2 of which were only twin sized). (When it was 7 of us it would’ve been too many people for those beds.) It became my dad and brother sharing a bed -because they were fairly used to doing that on family vacations and my dad’s bed was one of the ones big enough to be shared… and my grandmother and my aunt ended up sharing the pull out couch bed in the basement. I imagine my aunt might’ve preferred that shared bed with her mom in her immediate grief over sleeping alone, but I’m not at all sure. I imagine people wanted to let me just sleep in my own twin bed still, but my brother didn’t get to do that; his was offered to my cousin. I’m not complaining at all, I’m just not 100% sure what the thought process was with who was sleeping where and why I wasn’t… considered to share a bed with either woman. I however, do still feel confident that unless circumstances were drastic and we had no other options, that my family would go out of their way to keep both the genders segregated when it came to any bed sharing. Which i find unfair and confusing at times. I mean. Defaulting to turning non abusive family dynamics “potentially sexual” in this way is pretty unsettling.

    I’ve often really enjoyed sharing a bedroom but having a separate bed which is a completely different experience, and I’m glad for those things I’ve more rarely experienced deliberate gender segregation. I tend to still find it quite possible to disturb each other’s sleep (though not as bad as sharing the same mattress lol) so long term it still doesn’t feel ideal to me, but it’s a “fun” type of intimacy enough of the time, for me!!

    • Thanks for catching the typo! That was a particularly embarrassing one.

      One of the most common problems with hostel dorms is that, if it’s bunk beds, and the bed frames are a little loose, than someone tossing and turning in one bed can shake the person in the other bed (it can also be squeaky, but I don’t consider that to be such a big deal since I always have earplugs when I travel). This is why, when a dorm room is only half full, guests try to claim an entire bunk (top and bottom) to themselves.

      • I really enjoyed sleeping in bunk beds with those same family members (six of us total) when we traveled to the Florida Keys this past Christmas, for whatever that’s worth. They were not rickety/shaky/squeaky at all, as far as I could tell.

  2. This isn’t a topic I’ve thought about before. Thanks for sharing! Your trips always sound amazing. It makes me want to save up and travel more. After thinking about it I realize I’ve shared beds with my family and classmates on trips before, but I’m more comfortable having a bed to myself. Having a room to myself is a different story. I drew up sharing a room and I was super lucky with my roommates when I lived in a dorm so I like sharing a room then as well. I don’t sleep well *at all* if I’m all by myself without someone in the room or at the very least the next room over. My parents solved their sleeping arrangement problems by pushing two extra-long twin beds together. They each get their own bed without having to worry about squashing or kicking the other in their sleep, but still maintain a sense of closeness. This is the solution I would probably adopt is the situation needed it.

    • It’s very possible to have amazing travel trips on a shoestring budget (or even no budget, if one knows how to do it and is willing to make some compromises). For example, New Orleans is a good city for the low-budget traveller since there are some cheap hostels there (cheap by USA standards I mean) and one could spend days just walking around the city (and there is good and cheap public transit if one doesn’t want to/cannot walk all the time). Generally, it seems to me the more challenging obstacle to travel is not lack of money, but being able to get time off work (and, if the time off is unpaid, not earning money during while travelling) or making arrangements for personal responsibilities (such as caregiving).

      I have never slept in a dorm while I was in college. My only experience of living in a dorm (as opposed to staying in a dorm during travel) was the month I spent in a boarding school when I was fifteen years old. I got along with my roommates, but I felt that was enough school dorm life for me and never missed it during my college years (I have stronger privacy preferences when I’m in my own home than when I am a guest somewhere else).

  3. I’ve shared beds with people, but never for so long that I get used to it. Like animals have slept on my bed since childhood, so I feel like something is amiss without them. Being alone with no one else for miles sounds wonderful to me 😀 Also, I would really like to hike the PCT sometime, do you have any recommendations for books/websites/resources that are good basic introductions?

    • It’s hard to give recommendations since I do not know how exactly you intend to hike the PCT (dayhikes? sections? thru-hike?) and I don’t know what background knowledge you have. However, here are some general suggestions:

      – The Trail Life by Julie Urbanski. I’ve read about ten different PCT memoirs, and I think that this is the best. I think it’s both useful for preparing for the PCT and as an armchair PCT hike.
      – Pacific Crest Trials by Zach Davis and Carly Moree. I do not agree with all of the advice, but it is only book which focuses on psychological preparation, which is the most important preparation (that said, The Trail Life also has quite a few things to say about psychological adaptation, and where The Trail Life and Pacific Crest Trials disagree, I tend to agree with The Trail Life). Also, the gear chapter is the most useful PCT gear guide I’ve encountered, it’s actually worth the price of the book just to get the gear chapter.
      – As far as blogs, the most popular blog for learning about how to hike the PCT is Halfway Anywhere, and for good reason. The quality is uneven, but the good stuff there is really good. this is one of the best posts.

      There is a ton more information out there, but I think these are good resources to start with.

      On the one hand, proper research and preparation can prevent a lot of problems, on the other hand, every person is different, and trail conditions always change, so there are always some things one can only learn by going out onto the trail and trying it.

  4. Pingback: “Kissing, Hand Holding, Bed Sharing, etc!” – the May 2017 Carnival of Aces Round Up of all Submissions – From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

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