Saturday, November 03, 2007

Light Sensitive

One teeny-tiny source of contention over the course of our sixteen year marriage has been the issue of reading in bed, or more specifically, lights out time. Diane has developed a need to quash nearly every source of light in the room before she can go to sleep. Clock radios must be set on dim or covered up, a VHS tape is placed in front of the VCR's digital clock, and the bathroom door must be closed to blot out the light from the toothbrush charger. While all of these sources do produce a significant amount of light, they are easily blotted out by simply allowing your eyelids to close. All of my arguments as such have fallen on deaf ears, and over the years I have been gradually trained to cover my clock radio and the VCR, and to close the bathroom door. Yes, I have been assimilated.

So imagine Diane's chagrin when I bring a book to bed and read late into the night with light from my bedside lamp flooding the room. She tolerates me for the most part, occasionally covering her head with a pillow. But when I hear that disgusted sigh emanate from under the pillow, I know that's my cue to reach for the bookmark. Assimilated.

We discovered this issue early into our marriage. On an evening that we decided not to do what newlyweds do at night (and morning, midday, and for an afternoon snack), I kissed Diane goodnight and grabbed a book while Diane rolled over. I've noted before that Diane has what I consider to be the "gift of sleeps" and it amazes me how instantly it grabs her. She doesn't drift. She plummets. This night was no different and soon her deep, patterned breathing filled our small bedroom. I smiled as I scanned the face of my sleeping beauty before returning to my book. Fifteen minutes later my beautiful bride rolled over to face me.

"WILL YOU TURN THAT LIGHT OFF! I'M TRYING TO GO TO SLEEP!" she erupted, startling me.

"But, but you were just asleep," I tried to explain, wondering what kind of beast had invaded the body of my wife, who, moments earlier, had seemed to be enjoying a peaceful sleep.


You know that whole thing about not going to sleep angry? At that moment I dismissed it as complete crap. I was pissed and there was no way I was going to try to "resolve" it right then. I would have gladly turned my light if she had simply asked. She didn't have to be so crabby about it. I slammed my book down, turned off the light, and went to sleep. Angry. And I woke up angry the next morning. Diane noticed my moodiness and asked me what was wrong. As. if. she. didn't. know.

"Well, I didn't particularly care for the way you snapped at me last night."

"Snapped at you? About what?"

"About turning off the light."

"What light?"

She remembered nothing of what had transpired the previous evening. In the same way some people walk in their sleep, Diane had bitched in her sleep. I was married to a sleep-bitcher. This scenario played itself out several times over the ensuing months, and I decided to have a little fun with it.

"Turn off your LIGHT."

"You're asleep."

"I am not."

"Yes you are."

"No, I'm NOT. I can't SLEEP 'cause your LIGHT is on!"

"You're not going remember any of this in the morning."

"Yes I will, now TURN OFF YOUR LIGHT!"

"Wow, you sound like a crotchety old woman."

I eventually decided to cut back on my nighttime reading for sanity's sake. Oh yeah, and for the sake of our marriage. Even though I liked messing with Diane during her sleep-bitching episodes, I still couldn't help but be a little freaked out by them. It also occurred to me that it might be possible for Diane's sleep-bitching episodes to transform into a sleep-knifing episode should I continue with my mental hijinks. So I regulated my bedtime reading and sleep-bitching drifted into the memory of our marriage past.

On Father's Day, Diane gave me a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. I was already working through a small stack of books, so I didn't get around to using it until last week. I picked out three books, and as I approached the checkout line, I noticed a display filled with book lights. I've often thought about picking one up over the course of our marriage. Why I haven't, or why Diane hasn't given me one as a gift, is beyond me. So I grabbed one and added it to my short stack of books, believing this would be the solution to our long-standing night reading conundrum.

In theory, the book light should have worked, except for the fact that this particular model harnesses the light from a thousand suns. It is so frickin' bright. "Oh, that's not going to work at all," Diane commented the first time I tested it. I put the light away until a couple nights ago, when I decided to give it another try. I had roughly twenty pages left to go on Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and I wanted to finish it. Diane was sleeping soundly, so I grabbed the book light, situated it on the spine of my book and flipped the switch. The incandescent lamp burst to life,
flooding the bedroom with an eerie blue light. Diane stirred, then settled, and I felt a wave of self-consciousness wash over me as flashbacks of sleep-bitching filled my head. I laid a pillow between us in a lame attempt to shield her eyes, but it didn't ease my growing anxiety.

I finally pulled the covers over my book and the book light, and curled up into an uncomfortable position on my side so that I could see the pages to read. This is ridiculous, I thought. I'm a grown man who's afraid of waking up his wife. I'm pretty sure I could take her if I needed to. Yeah, right. I finished the book and, disgusted with myself, switched off the light and went to sleep. The next day I awoke with a stiff neck, the result of reading in that weird position. Next week, I'll try to exchange my book light for a "lesser" model. Otherwise it'll be back to the same ol', same 'ol. Assimilation.


Bee said...

I'm so glad that I'm the one who spews songlossum venom. But it's not torch light that apparently gets my ire, Mrs. Bee likes spoken books.

[songlossum (tm) is a new word I just made up, it sounds like proper medi-latin so I might get away with it]

the battered ham said...

So she wants you to read to her, huh? Yeah, that would suck.

You should tell her they have these things called "books on tape" and these other things called "headphones" with which to listen to said "books on tape". ;)

And "sunglossum"? I like it. And you would have gotten away with it had you not spilled the beans.

Tina Rowley said...

Hello, Mr. Battered Ham,

There's a very fine bendy book light I've purchased from Target which is fulfilling all our booklight needs. I haven't seen it at B & N. It's...bendy, and it...lights up. Is how you can find it. Target. (It's bright enough but not a supernova eye-melter.)

I found your blog from the ol' NaBloPoMo blogroll. I'm in favor of this blog! I will be back for more. I'm NaBloPoMoing, too.

the battered ham said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll check it out. And thanks for your kind feedback on my blog. I'll be by for a visit. Good luck this month!