The man I love is as calm and pleasant as the day is long. He treats me with love and respect. He's gentle and soft-spoken, a perfect joy to be with. But when night falls, Mark undergoes a ghastly transformation. No, he's not a vampire. Are you kidding me? Vampires are hot and trendy.
It's much worse -- Mark snores.
He doesn't just snore. He also mutters and shouts and flails around. I love the guy, but he's a challenging bed partner.
My ex was just the opposite. Asleep, he was gentle as a lamb. It was when he awoke that I had to watch out! He and I slept quietly in each other's arms. I'd fall asleep holding him and wake up eight hours later, still holding him.
Mark and I start out quietly holding each other. Then he falls asleep and the wild rumpus begins. He moans. He cries out. His legs bicycle wildly. He slams his fists down on the bed, jolting me awake. Entering deep sleep, he sprawls onto his back and emits a variety of noises that are loud enough to set off car alarms, stopping only to shout nonsense phrases, or worse, yell "Oh no!" or "Look out!"
Last night I awoke to the sound of his moaning in fear, "It's on the... third step! It's on the... third step!" I nudged him into a more wakeful state.
"Skip the third step, sweetie, " I suggested. "Try going right from the second step to the fourth step."
"Can I do that?" he whispered.
"Of course you can," I soothed.
He fell back into deep sleep, smiling. I enjoyed 10 wonderful minutes of calm before the sound and fury started up again.
Because Mark sleeps through it all, from his point of view, I'm the awful bed partner, the demented harpy who spends the night inexplicably shouting "Cut that out!" and pushing him around. He'll pin me under the dead weight of a restless leg. I'll shove it off. He'll attempt to roll over onto me. I'll push him away. He'll cry out. I'll shush him. After I've woken up a dozen times, my responses can become quite testy, if not downright hostile. By the time we rise from bed in the morning, it's a wonder we're still talking to each other.
Many of my friends sleep apart from their partners because of snoring. My Internet research tells me that 25% of the population snores. And 80% of couples with a snorer sleep in separate bedrooms! I also learned that astronauts rarely snore in space. Even if you snore on planet earth, there's something about deep space that makes snoring subside. Some nights, after being jolted awake once too often, I'd happily send my beloved into orbit. But I'm pretty sure I'd miss him in the morning.
Appliances come with warning labels. So do drugs and toys. Why not men? "This man appears quiet and amiable, but will emit loud gibberish and thrash around when unconscious. Approach with extreme caution." If Mark had carried this warning label, would I have turned and fled? Maybe not.
But at least I'd have gone into sleeping with him with my eyes open.
This essay first appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.