A few years back, when I still lived in D.C., I was dating a guy who lived in New York City. His job as a freelance lighting programmer often required him to work a shift or two on weekends, so usually I was the one who’d hop a Bolt Bus/MegaBus/whatever bus was cheapest that week to go up and see him. I never minded doing it — he was so witty, handsome and fun to be around that even six hours in Friday-evening traffic seemed a small price to pay.
What I did mind was that, after spending all that time on a bus and swapping my comfortable house in Washington for his dorm-style room in a converted warehouse in Bushwick, I could not lay my head on a halfway decent pillow.
He had one comfortable pillow — you know: fat, fluffy, just firm enough — but he insisted on using it himself. Not wanting to tote an extra pillow all the way to New York and back, I was stuck using his spare, which was about as thick and supportive as a single sheet of paper.
This was the case every single time I went up to see him, despite the fact that he could easily have run out to Bed, Bath & Beyond and picked up an adequate second pillow for all of seven bucks—and despite the fact that I repeatedly, politely requested that he do so. In retrospect, it’s a wonder that relationship lasted as long as it did.
When I met my current boyfriend, the situation wasn’t much better. He had two pillows and I was welcome to my pick of them, but they were both pancake-flat, limp and visibly stained. When we moved in together I replaced them with my own pillows, relegating his to the spare-room futon — sorry about that, overnight guests, I will actually replace those one of these days.
A quick survey of my female friends revealed that the problem is pervasive. “I go through this with every man I ever meet,” moaned Anne, a gorgeous bachelorette who meets quite a lot of them. “They’re always FLAT and NOT ENOUGH.”
My friend Carrie agreed: “Both of [my now-fiancé’s] pillows were garbage. How do they even get the bad pillows in the first place? Are they all from a dingy bin in a back aisle at Target?”
Natalie’s boyfriend briefly had good pillows, albeit through no doing of his own: “He had pretty nice pillows that his aunt bought him, but we had to throw them out after the mice debacle and he never bothered to get new ones. So now [when I stay over] we just sleep on the throw pillows that I had given him to go with the real ones.”
I didn’t ask her to explain the “mice debacle,” but I know what I’m getting her for Christmas.
And Gloria dated a guy who owned only one pillow. After (eventually) noticing her quiet distress, he very generously allowed her to share it with him. He did not, however, buy another pillow.
But I think the absolute winner has to be Hayley, whose ex didn’t own a single pillow — “Just a thin duvet that you couldn’t even bunch properly to make a pretend pillow.” When she asked if maybe he couldn’t get a pillow or two, if only for her to use, he informed her that sleeping without one was “better for her back.” Thanks so much for your concern, bro.
Of course, everyone has their own taste in pillows, and no one is expecting you to be psychic. But all the women I asked agreed that every dude should have at least a couple of pillows with some fluff and heft to them — I think down is most comfortable, but it’s not important that a guy shell out extra for the real deal (and some people are allergic). The fattest synthetic ones you see at Walmart or Ikea or whatever will do just fine, provided you replace them every few years or so — we can tell if you haven’t gotten new pillows since the ones you bought along with the twin extra-long sheets you needed for your freshman-year dorm room.
Just, for the love of God, don’t wait for a girlfriend — let alone a one-night stand — to complain: “It’s hard to replace a guy’s pillows without feeling like you’re in some soul-sucking rom-com about a woman making a man grow up,” Carrie said, “so I toughed out the shitty pillows rather than embracing my inner Sarah Jessica Parker.”
Don’t do that to a woman—nor to a man, nor to anyone else you might be bringing home. Just get yourself some decent pillows. It’s that simple.