Your Bed: A Woman’s-Eye Perspective

Wash your sheets, will you?

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So you’ve got your apartment reasonably clean, snacks on hand and a spare toothbrush ready to go? Congratulations, you’re most of the way to doing a good job of entertaining a lady at home.

But there’s still one key area that should give you pause: your bed. Maybe you’ve never given this particular chunk of furniture much thought. Perhaps you’re still using the brown sheets you bought in college because you thought they wouldn’t show stains (they do). Maybe you’ve never seen the problem with romantically laying your date down on a bed covered in dog hair. Or maybe you are aware how grody your bed is, but have no idea where to start its transformation into something a woman would actually want to get inside without wearing a protective sack.

Well, today’s your lucky day, because once again I’ve called in a crack team of experts (okay, my helpful female friends) to come up with a guide to making your bed a happy, sexy haven instead of a horror show.

The Vicinity
To begin with, the bed should be easy to get into and out of — if space allows, it should have room on either side so neither person one has to climb over the other to enter or exit. A nightstand on either side is also a nice touch. As my friend Liz points out, she’ll need a place to put, say, her glasses and to charge her phone. (An extra phone charger would also be handy, come to think of it).

And please, keep the area around the bed reasonably tidy: Any tissues and lotion should be hidden away, and as Daniela explains it, “Unless you’re someone who needs lubricant medically, [if I see lube] I assume you’re trying to put something in my butt.” Condoms should be handy, according to Xeven, but not visible until you’re ready to use them.

The area also should be clear of old coffee cups and other litter. Take Carmen’s experience as a cautionary tale: One partner had a small gap between the bed and the wall, and when she looked down, she saw it was stuffed with empty food wrappers. She didn’t make a return visit.

In terms of ambience, preferences vary. Colored lights are a hard no. “Unless it’s a mutually agreed-upon decision,” Daniela says. I have to agree: A man whose bed situation was otherwise excellent once flipped a red light on me, and it suggested a level of premeditation that was more off-putting than romantic.

In terms of scents, my friend Natalie liked when one partner burned incense, but when Daniela walked into the bedroom to find a dozen lit candles, she thought, “He thinks he’s being smooth, but I’m somewhat horrified.”

Tastes will always vary, so the key is to pay attention to the person you’re with and how the evening’s going.

The Bed Itself
Now we need to talk size, because beds are an area where it definitely matters. A lot depends on the length and nature of the relationship and how cuddly — or otherwise — its occupants are. Natalie and her former boyfriend, for example, shared a twin-sized bed at his place that she found sweetly cozy, but they were well into the relationship by then. “When you really like somebody, what would be a con becomes a pro,” she says.

For a hookup or a less established relationship, though, such a small bed would be uncomfortable. Most of the women I talked to want at least a queen-sized bed, and many expressed a preference for king or Cal-king. You might end up spooning anyway, but your partner likely wants the option of separate sleeping space.

Noise is another thing to think about. Can your neighbors hear your bed creaking through the wall when your nocturnal activities kick into high gear? My pal Hayley is “pretty much always up for a jokey time with [sex] so I wouldn’t be as put off by a squeaky bed,” but it’s not the general preference. Tighten screws, bolt the bed to the wall, replace boards, figure out the angles that make less noise—whatever it takes to make the sound of your bed less distracting.

Then there’s the mattress. The women I talked to didn’t have a strong preference for someone else’s mattress firmness as long as it’s clean and reasonably comfortable — not lumpy or uneven, with a decent amount of give (but not so much bounce that sex starts to resemble aerial gymnastics).

Of course, one woman’s firm and supportive may be another woman’s bed of nails. You’re not going to be able to please everyone, and since you’re the one one sleeping there every night, you should aim for your particular definition of comfort. That said, if you’re the kind of person who can just as easily sleep on the floor as on a double-pillowtop, do a visual inspection. Are there visible sags, tears or stains? If the answer is yes, consider getting a new mattress. The National Sleep Foundation says the average mattress lifespan is eight years, so if it’s older than that you’re probably due for a replacement anyway.

Linens and Things
When it comes to sheets and blankets, clean is the number one priority for every woman I spoke to (perhaps you’ll notice a trend here). That doesn’t necessarily mean freshly washed: In this case, clean sheets are more clearly defined by what they are not, i.e., visibly dirty.

Horror stories of unclean linens abound. Krista reports coming back from a semester abroad to find her boyfriend’s sheets “crunchy” because she’d been the last person to wash them. And Carmen recalls one partner whose sheets were so filthy there was “an oily imprint of his body like the Shroud of Turin.” The lesson here: Make a habit of washing your linens (sheets, pillowcases and comforter/duvet cover) and have more than one set so you can always have clean sheets handy.

Regarding fabric, think soft, simple fibers and higher thread counts. Natalie loves the softness of T-shirt fabric sheets, but cotton or cotton blends of at least 200 thread count are also fine. Polyester is sweaty and rough and an absolute no-go — don’t even think about it.

As far as satin or other more sensual fabrics? All the women I talked to found the thought of silk or satin sheets appalling, but as Daniela notes, silk is at least better than satin because, “Satin can be sweaty and cheap and imitation satin is even worse. So if you’re trying to be posh and luxurious, splurge for the good silk.” If satin sheets are an absolute must for you, opt for low shine and high quality, but in general, “Save the satin for dressing robes,” says Daniela.

The Pillow Question
It’s never a bad time to revisit MEL Managing Editor Serena Golden’s evergreen pillow advisory, but my friends were also happy to chime in. Your pillows should be in good condition, not stained, lumpy or thin. (According to the National Sleep Foundation, doctors recommend replacing them every two years.) It’s good to have three to four pillows with a mix of firmer and softer options, but two is the bare minimum. And as Daniela is happy to remind you, “Decorative throw pillows do NOT COUNT AS SLEEPING PILLOWS.” Pillowcases, meanwhile, should be washed and/or changed once a week because they get filthy from rubbing up against your face and head all night.

In spite of all this, you might find a woman still may not want to stay over. Hayley couldn’t even remember the last time she’d been in a man’s bed: “I always bring them to my bed for general, ‘This is always better on my own turf’ reasons,” she says. “I don’t sleep in beds with men; I get what I want [and] then tell them to leave.”

It’s an important point: Not every woman who sleeps with you is going to want to snuggle with you all night or have breakfast in the morning. In that case — and in every case, really — what you do in the bed is just as important as what you’ve got on it.

This is related to another important point, one that must be mentioned in the current environment: It’s a big deal for any woman to feel comfortable coming home with a man, let alone getting into his bed. It’s at least double- or triple-big if she’s just met him. The best way to make a woman love being in your bed is to make sure she feels safe with you before, during and after any sexual activity that takes place. That feeling will stay with her far longer than the memory of your mountains of pillows or 600-thread count sheets. Focus on that and you’ll be fine.

But also, wash your sheets.