Having failed to engineer the scenario in which I owned the ones wrapped round the rock hard waist of Jesus Luzas he padded muss-haired and pink-cheeked from the enseamed sweat of my super-king to brew me a good dark Nicaraguan, T K Maxx’s cut-price 450 thread count Egyptian cotton seemed a reasonable compromise.
But on opening the packet my plebeian fingers found them suspiciously satiny, summoning sense memories of polyester bedspreads more Travelodge than Thutmose III; squirming on the sheen, I felt like an ageing rock ho’ retiring to her bed in the Sanctum Soho after an evening splashing with prune-toed old head-bangers in a Jack Daniels bath. They were as comfortable as expensive things tend to be, of course, and my usual bed-head was tamed from scary Struwwlepeter to sultry Bat For Lashes, but there is something far too stagey about such luxurious sheets. They smoothly corrupt the two pleasures – sleeping and sex – that should remain fiercely defended against our ubiquitous modern circus of commercial pressure and pose. They belong to a soft-edged, beige-toned boudoir; a tuberose-marinated, Galaxy-advert shrine to commerce, where massage oils and eye masks have become false idols over sacredly unselfconscious animal acts.
This eight hour escape from the ‘because I’m worth it’ narratives that tyrannise our lives is so important that I crave rather extreme austerity in my night time nest. My perfect sheets are an aesthete’s starched linens, redolent of boarding school and convent, tight-woven with virginal scratch and monastic chill. Ennobling if you’re alone and titillating if you’re not, they are a blank canvas for the body, a commercially untainted space of imagination and desire.
The best bedtime image in literature belongs to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway:
Like a nun withdrawing, or a child exploring a tower, she went upstairs, paused at the window, came to the bathroom. There was the green linoleum and a tap dripping. There was an emptiness about the heart of life; an attic room. Women must put off their rich apparel. At midday they must disrobe. She pierced the pincushion and laid her feathered yellow hat on the bed. The sheets were clean, tight stretched in a broad white band from side to side. Narrower and narrower would her bed be.
With dream-haunting pathos and skeleton-swaddling tenderness, Clarissa’s ‘broad white band’ is a half welcome, half terrible refuge that shines with the cool light of mortality. It’s a tomb. It’s a womb. Bring it on.