I spent years hoping I’d get to live out the ultimate rom-com fantasy: lying in bed all day with my, ahem, lover.
Here’s the movie in my head, starring me: He wakes me up with a prince-like forehead kiss and asks me to spend the day together tangled in bedsheets. I protest at first, and rattle off a list of all the chores I need to do. He grips my arm gently and pleads with me to stay. “OK, fine, five more minutes,” I say, giving in. Five minutes turns into five hours, chores be damned.
Except, that’s not how it went at all. When I finally did fall in love and get my chance to waste a day reclining in queen-sized linens, I was fidgety and restless.
After only a few minutes of spooning, I was ready to get up and brush my teeth. The closeness was sweet and all, but I was sweaty and the sheets were clammy, and I just needed a break from the whole swampy situation. All I wanted to do was de-spoon and go fix my smudged eye makeup like Sandra Bullock does in the The Proposal, or maybe even scamper off to the bathroom for a surreptitious overhaul, a la Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids. Then I’d casually slip back into bed.
What was wrong with me?! I was lying in bed and being coupley — having exactly the day I’d fantasized about for so long. And instead of enjoying it, I was thinking about … escaping to the bathroom alone?
It was hard to accept the truth: What looked so sexy on screen was gross in real life. I was starting to understand people who trash-talk baths because “you’re just stewing in your own filth.”
Maybe I’d set my expectations too high. As a late bloomer who didn’t have a significant relationship until after college, I’d only known fictional romances.
Movies made lying in bed all day seem like an important relationship milestone — a sign that things were getting real. In Dirty Dancing, Johnny and Baby were so content to hole up in that Catskills cabin as the rain poured down outside. And there’s that scene in Notting Hill, when Will tells Anna to “stay forever.”
A bed-bound couple, I’d come to believe, was either already in love or rapidly on their way.
As a teenager, I clutched my chest and teared up during Playing by Heart when Joan (Angelina Jolie) and Keenan (Ryan Phillippe) profess their love for each other and then take to bed for the afternoon. In Good Will Hunting, Will and Skylar taught me that two people who can’t get enough of each other really can find a way to enjoy languishing for hours in a twin extra-long dorm bed.
In college, most of my romantic relationships were of the stop-start nature or never made it past the casual crush phase, but movies and TV shows gave me a glimpse of what came next. It would be like The Notebook, when Noah and Allie finally reunite, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when Joel revisits cherished memories of Clementine before they’re erased.
My lying-in-bed-all-day dream wasn’t about the idea of marathon sex as much as the prospect of being so comfortable with another human being. It was hard for me to imagine feeling strongly enough about someone that I’d give up half my weekend to do nothing with them. Still, the unimaginable was exciting.
And, as I learned from devouring Sex and the City during and after college, everyone has their own approach to the all-day-in-bed scenario. By everyone, I mean the show’s main characters. Samantha preferred to spend her in-bed hours shrieking in orgasmic ecstasy with her man of the week. Carrie’s style was more “snuggle in bed all day with Aidan and a bucket of fried chicken.” Miranda, never one for excessive mushiness, asked Steve how long she had to stay in his arms basking in post-coital rapture. (We only saw Charlotte partake in couples convalescing when she and Harry got food poisoning, I think.)
I spent so much time wondering what my version of the fantasy would be. And after all that, mine was the version that gets cut from the episode because it’s such a letdown.
But experiencing the letdown version made me realize that, in all the time I’d spent idealizing fictional relationships, I’d overlooked the love stories that cast the lying-in-bed trope in a more sinister light. In Unfaithful, Diane Lane forgets to pick up her child at school because she’s too busy being inert with her lover. In Match Point, Jonathan Rhys Myers murders Scarlett Johansson shortly after enjoying a few sexy days in bed — while she’s pregnant with his child! We all know what ensued in Fatal Attraction after Michael Douglas and Glenn Close spend the day in repose. And #NeverForget the time Buffy and Riley wasted hours in bed on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and their tryst caused a poltergeist to wreak havoc on their friends.
According to those examples, lying in bed leads to tragedy, mayhem, and heartbreak (and makes you desperate for a shower). Adopting this slightly less sunny stance helped me swallow my massive disappointment.
My disappointment waned over time, though, as I grew up and got into grown-up relationships. Rather than take cues from on-screen couples, I learned what I liked and needed.
Eventually, I did have the true lying-in-bed-all-day experience of my dreams: We watched The Devil Wears Prada three times, dozed off, bonded over our love of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, and exchanged TSA horror stories. We spent hours as a tangled mess of sweaty limbs, and I didn’t have any desire to go fix my makeup or flee.
Afterwards, I felt a rush of giddy relief that I’d actually done the thing I’d once longed for. But, most of all, I was relieved that I’d reached a new place with a partner. We hadn’t spent the day in a rom-com world, where bad breath and restless leg syndrome don’t exist. Instead, I’d abandoned my expectations of a cinematic meet-cute and let our relationship unfold naturally. The result was a gross, wonderful day.
A few months later, he and I once again found ourselves lying in bed all day, and I once again found myself feeling restless, waiting for my opportunity to escape.
But when he sat up and proceeded to get out of bed, I gripped his arm gently and pleaded with him to stay. “Nooo!” I said. “Just five more minutes.”