Buying a bed to attract love, and being O.K. with it

BY KATE WALTER | I could hardly sleep the night before the delivery. I woke up that morning in a panic. I’d cleared the bedroom area, creating messes in other corners. I was freaking out over which way to angle my beautiful new mahogany platform bed. I always envisioned it perpendicular to the wall, but now I thought it should go parallel. I kept pulling out my tape measure and making calculations.

As soon as it was nine o’clock, I called my designer friend Beth, who was coming over later to help hang art. I still had paintings and posters strewn about my place, lined against the walls, waiting to be hung once my loft came together.

“I think you should have the bed facing the room,” she said confirming my new idea. Now I worried it would be sticking out too far.

In my first session of 2013, I’d told my shrink my big news, “I finally bought a bed.”

“Mazel tov,” she said. “That’s wonderful. Why are you focusing on the delivery?”

I was obsessing over my fears that the front desk would send the delivery men to the freight elevator and they would be unable to find my apartment in my confusing building complex.

“I feel unworthy, undeserving of having nice things,” I ventured. During 20 years of therapy, we’d discussed my intense Catholic education and how I viewed austerity as holiness.

“You have this conflict inside you that if you get something nice, you’ll be punished,” said Dr. R. “So you segue into worrying because it’s safer. Getting what you want terrifies you.”

At 63, I was much too old to be using a pull-out sofa. Since my gay divorce from the love of my life, I spent years sleeping on a convertible couch in a tiny studio in the West Village. I’d been single too long after the breakup of my 26-year relationship and realized I had to make one big change to bring love and sex back into my life. It was time to buy a real bed.

In the beginning, I used space as my excuse for not having one. But a year ago, I upgraded into a small (570-square-foot ) one-bedroom loft in my rent-stabilized complex. After shelling out money for the move, I was broke — my new excuse. When I caught up financially last summer, I decided I’d rather go to the beach. This past fall my building (Westbeth) got badly flooded by Sandy and I needed to focus on surviving in an altered environment.

I also wondered if my procrastination was fear of romance, of bringing a new woman into my life after my partner abandoned me. Not having a cozy place for two to sleep was a foil to romance. I’d been dating off and on but nothing materialized. Friends kept telling me I was sending the wrong message to the universe by not having a bed. I agreed. My astrologer said that 2013 looked promising for love, so I needed to be ready.

Then my mother gave me Christmas money and told me it was for a bed. Now I would feel guilty if I kept holding off. I had to laugh when my mother wondered if I’d get a twin because my place is not that big. I made it clear I needed room for another person. It had taken years for my parents to accept my being gay, and my mother had become way more open-minded after my father died, so I dismissed her slip.

Everything was on sale in January, and on New Year’s Day, I bought a full-sized platform bed and mattress from a Charles P. Rogers, a classy store in Chelsea. I had so much anxiety over this big purchase that I needed permission and had to act fast. After looking online, I dashed to the showroom, picked out a frame, tried two mattresses, set up a delivery date.

My doorman buzzed to tell me the men from the store were on their way upstairs. They brought everything in one trip on the main elevator next to my apartment. It took just five minutes for them to set everything up. Wow! My bed looked fantastic and was definitely facing the right way. I gave a generous tip and they were gone.

My friend Beth came over and admired my choice. We hung artwork and picked spots for the big paintings that would require me to borrow a taller ladder. Then she took me out to lunch to celebrate. That night, I was too wound up to sleep well on my comfortable new mattress with its fresh blue sheets.

The next morning I spent my entire therapy session discussing my anxiety over my fabulous new addition and obsessing over my process of designing a put-together New York City loft. Now I worried about where I’d put the items displaced from my bedroom — my bike, stereo system and four boxes of yoga and New Age books, still unpacked.

“Why can’t you just enjoy this?” Dr. R. asked. She suggested this was related to my father, a lovely man but anxious devout Catholic who disliked change and prayed compulsively every day. “Having a nice space puts you outside your comfort zone.”

I agreed my nervousness was related to my father as well as growing up in a frugal household (teacher father and stay-at-home mother), where we lived on a tight budget and only went out to dinner twice a year. I’d been deeply affected by parents’ concern about expenses. My shrink complimented me on venturing beyond my upbringing and reminded me that my mother, who had loosened up in her old age, gave me money for this purchase.

“It is so cool that I can see the Empire State Building while relaxing in bed,” I said, allowing myself to bask for a moment. I told her I’d ditched my original plan to put up a bookcase as room divider. “I love the open and airy feeling — and the view.”

“You have the kind of loft everyone wants,” said my shrink. “You need to chill out and be with having a great space.”

“Well it’s not that big,” I replied, immediately realizing I was negating my happiness.

We ended the session with my therapist noting, “Hold it in your head that you are afraid of change and worrying too much.”

The next day I began to relax and started to enjoy fixing up my place. The bed transformed my entire loft — it now looked bigger — and I felt like I had a real home. I went to ABC Carpet and used a gift certificate to buy a gorgeous fabric-art bedspread from Tibet. I picked out two new down pillows at a Macy’s bedding sale.

I moved a small table into my sleeping area to create a nightstand and this opened a space for my stereo cart. I started measuring corners and looking for bookcases. My super installed a pulley device to hang my bike from the kitchen ceiling. Then he helped me secure the big abstract painting high over my bed. That area looks fabulous. I could see myself with a date here. So I started obsessing again to take in all this good stuff. As I lay in bed gazing at the Empire State Building, I began to worry the art would fall on my head when I’m asleep.

It’s now the end of February. I’ve been sleeping peacefully in my bed for a month. The gay couple next door gave me a  vintage dresser (circa 1940s) in mint condition, with six drawers. I put my art deco lamp and old typewriter on top. My books are still piled on the living room floor, but my bedroom has art and antiques and extra dresser drawers for that special someone.

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3 Responses to Buying a bed to attract love, and being O.K. with it

  1. Love this piece. I'm currently wrestling with a similar dilemma. The king size bed left over from my marriage needs replacing but my love life has been sadly lacking for quite a while. Should I get a queen, which would be a good size for two people or a double which is really too small for two, especially since I'm not small?. I'd like to spend less money and have more room in my bedroom, but mmmmm who knows, things could change. It was very brave of Kate to go for the big fancy bed. Hope she finds someone to keep her company in it very soon.

  2. A wonderful, well-written essay. The author's honesty, and her revelations, show us not just how hard it is to break out of our pasts and our patterns but that once we do, it's so very satisfying. Thanks for the great at read!

  3. The king-size bed remaining over from my wedding needs changing but my romantic lifestyle has been unfortunately missing for quite a while. Should I get a master, which would be a excellent dimension for two individuals or a dual which is really too little for two, especially since I'm not small?.

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