Aerobeds: The Reason for the Season

Hosting in a Brooklyn Apartment (Image:  Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Universal Pictures, 1983)

Holidays are upon us. Are your kids about to receive gifts from relatives that you never wanted or would have bought for them? Lawn darts? Nerf Sawed-Offs? A cotton candy machine? Do you and your brother not really get each other? Is your Grandma suffocating under a pile of coats? If you live in a Brooklyn apartment, she might be. This week's column is about all of the tidings and tensions of non-stop holiday togetherness.

"...If you were able to somehow levitate the beds in our house and hover above the arrangements of stuff, you’d see a carefully composed anatomy of detritus. The beating heart of the whole composition is the Aeorbed Collection, life preservers of Brooklyn holiday hosts. We have the full compliment of mattress sizes—don’t be jealous!—Queen, Twin, weird Toddler-sized raft. I don’t think anyone ever slept on that one; it looks like it’s designed for a large house cat. The dulcet tones of Bing and Burl floating through Christmas Eve are, by necessity, interrupted at bedtime by a cacophony of air-mattresses inflating all over the place. If you’ve ever stood there, your finger on the inflation trigger, staring down blankly at the thing ballooning to life, you’d agree that even though it’s oddly satisfying to watch it flop around, all you’re thinking about is the poor night’s sleep that is your destiny. One December, before my brother moved to a sleek tower in Williamsburg, there were so many people sleeping in the apartment that my air mattress ended up at the foot of the refrigerator, where I was lulled by the vibration of the motor all night. It wasn’t bad, even vaguely amniotic, but really, is it normal for a grownup to sleep on the kitchen floor? I sometimes look out the window to the buildings across the way as I blow up the bed and wonder how many other urbanites are doing the same, analyzing their choice to live in vertical, domestic asphyxiation.  

This procedure, with its whine of what sounds like suburban leaf blowers, is standard when family comes to visit. And lots of family, whether you’re ready or not, is coming to town. They’re going to have huge sacks of gifts, wheelie-suitcases, Currier & Ives cookie tins, novelty items, colorful plastic toys, tissue paper billowing from drugstore gift bags, coats you have nowhere to hang, and the expectation of a chair on which to sit. Also, questions about street parking. Are you ready to contend with all of this? Do you have the chairs? They don’t really get why you live in such a close quarters and don’t know how you do it, so you’d better be prepared to show them how we roll here in Brooklyn, and host them with confidence. Provide them with top-notch air mattresses, Ikea folding chairs to slip a disc by, absolutely no TV on Christmas, and lots of wine and stinky cheeses. Because for a number of days in and around the holidays, you and your family need to understand one another. You are all going to get very, very close. I mean physically. They see you when you’re sleeping, and also, they know when you’re awake. Because they’re right next to you! Asking you to turn the heat up a smidge and leave on a bathroom light."

Read the full column here.