Oprah, my favorite talk-show prophet, has called it the most important room in the house. The master bedroom, she insists, needs to be an oasis more than just a place to sleep. And it should never have a TV.
Any rap star on MTV’s Cribs presents his bedroom like its Downton Abbey. He opens the door with a gentle click and the room glows into focus. He always, always says, “Here’s where the magic happens.”
But Oprah doesn’t have kids who wake her up at six o’clock and who can be bribed to remain in a horizontal position only if she puts on her TV. She doesn’t have a husband, either. She has, instead, a person or two whom she’s employed to change her sheets and replace her pillows every two months so she doesn’t have to sleep next to a million microscopic organisms that live in what looks like yellow coffee stains that hide underneath the pillowcase. She also probably never has to see her own dirty laundry piled in the corner of the room.
The rappers on MTV Cribs show off houses that in actuality, they barely inhabit. It might be more interesting to see the state of their hotel rooms after a night of ransacking the mini-bar. (Wait. There’s probably already a reality show for that.)
If you want the truth about the sorry state of the American master bedroom, you need to read Jeffrey Eugenides’ short story, “Great Experiment,” from which this excerpt is taken:
It wasn’t the only master bedroom of its kind in Chicago. Across the country, the master bedrooms of more and more two-salaried, stressed-out couples were taking on the bear-den atmosphere of Kendall and Stephanie’s bedroom. In this suburban cave, this commuter-town hollow, two large, hirsute mammals had recently hibernated. Or were hibernating still. That twisted mass of bedsheet was where they slept. The saliva stains on the denuded pillows were evidence of a long winter spent drooling and dreaming. The socks and underpants scattered on the floor resembled the skins of rodents recently consumed.
In the far corner of the room was a hillock rising three feet in the air. This was the family wash. They’d used a hamper for a while and, for a while, the kids had dutifully tossed their dirty clothes in. But the hamper soon overflowed and the family had begun tossing their dirty clothes in its general direction. The hamper could still be there, for all Kendall knew, buried beneath the pyramid of laundry.
How had it happened in one generation? His parents’ bedroom had never looked like this. Kendall’s father had a dresser full of folded laundry, a closet full of tailored suits, and, every night, a neat, clean bed to climb into. Nowadays, if Kendall wanted to live as his own father had lived, he was going to have to hire a cleaning lady and a seamstress and a social secretary. He was going to have to hire a wife. Wouldn’t that be great? Stephanie could use one, too. Everybody needed a wife, and no one had one anymore.
The Master Bedroom might be where the magic happens, but the reason we call it “magic” is because it seems so unbelievable that people consider physical intimacy amidst such disarray.
I hate my bedroom a lot of the time. Mostly, I hate it because it’s filled with clothes. I’d like a wife, for sure, as long as she had no ambitions and simply loved doing laundry and wouldn’t one day burn all of my clothes on the front lawn after years of being undervalued.
In fact, what might even be better is to go back to the old days, where people owned five good tops and five good bottoms and only one or two pairs of shoes. Each night, we’d hang up our day clothes and put on our one, single nightgown. On Sundays, we’d go to church or something and come home and walk around naked while someone did the wash. This special someone—who doesn’t even have to be human as long as he’s efficient—would wash, dry, fold and put away our clothes. And we’d all do very important things like sip tea and read novels.
Wouldn’t life be so much simpler?
Really, I don’t see any other way out of disorder, short of this tremendous proposition.
Wife, get me a network executive on the phone!
I have a reality TV show to make.
Read the rest of Jeffrey Eugenides’ fabulous short story here.