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Penkava: How to stop waking on the wrong side of the bed

Michael Penkava
Michael Penkava

I grew up a very confused sleeper. I actually thought I had a twin because I was told I slept on a twin bed.

“Mom, do I have a twin brother?”

“Of course not, Michael.”

“But why do I have a twin bed?”

“That’s just what they call it. It doesn’t mean you have a twin.”

“That’s too bad,” I thought. “If I had a twin, I could blame him for whatever carnage I would create today.”

I never did find out why they called it a twin bed, but I certainly felt important knowing that I was unique, just like everyone else in the world.

When I got married, I graduated to what was called a full-size bed. I thought it was called that because I was now grown up and had a full-sized body. Plus, there was another full-sized person sleeping next to me.

Initially, the full-size bed was quite adequate. I seemed to have about as much room in my twinless bed as I had when I was single. The mattress was comfy enough, although I was such a deep sleeper I could have slept on a mattress stuffed with leaves and animal hair.

The problem with the mattresses of the ’60s was that they had these metal coils that cushioned your body. That was great until some of them rebelled and began pressing through the protecting fabric and digging into your spine. That’s when the bed turned from a dreamy comfort to a medieval torture device.

There was another problem, as well. My wife started complaining that I was creeping over to her side and pushing her over the edge of the bed. That’s when I discovered that, evidently after a few years of marriage, “our bed” mutated into “your side” and “my side.”

“Michael, stay on your side of the bed.”

“But, honey, our bed doesn’t have sides. The Bible says we are now one flesh.”

“Well, please keep your flesh on your side of the bed.”

Well, that was romantic. Eventually, we moved up to a larger queen-size mattress to solve the border crisis. With more space, we established a demilitarized zone between us. It was neutral territory that neither of us could enter.

That was all well and good when I was awake. But when I went to sleep, my body assumed the role of an undercover agent, and I slipped through the DMZ like James Bond into an Aston Martin.

Before long, I was appearing at the Spousal Embassy and informed that further mattress intrusions would result in confinement with forced labor.

That’s when I suggested we place a barricade between us – a rampart, a roadblock, some kind of a sleep-rolling impediment. My idea was a hockey stick. She countered with a proposal to buy a king-size bed.

“But, honey, those beds are expensive!”

“Michael, we spend one-third of our lives sleeping in bed.”

Ever the optimist, I replied, “Yeah, but the other two-thirds of the time I don’t push you over the edge.”

“Oh, Michael, I dearly wish that were true.”

So we bought a king-size bed. It is so big that the DMZ has been replaced by an entire country. It has solved my midnight invasion problem, but I still think the hockey stick idea would have been cheaper.

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. Before they bought a king size, he was always waking up on the wrong side of the bed. He can be reached at

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