Okay, what’s the deal with bed sheets? I know, I seem to have an obsession with beds, if my previous columns are any evidence, perhaps because sleeping is not one of my best things.
And with all the catastrophic wars and wildfires and epidemics in the world, there are surely more important issues I should be addressing.
But seriously — what is the deal with bed sheets?
First of all, they never fit properly. Fitted sheets that claim to be sized for full-size beds have to be stretched on the rack from your dungeon before you can put them on your mattress.
Twin-sized sheets fit your toddler’s crib, if you’re lucky — and any mattress has to be folded over on itself by three NFL linebackers before you can wrestle a fitted sheet onto it.
Queen-sized sheets seem to be large enough to cover king-sized beds, and king-sized sheets seem to be large enough to cover Australia.
The flat sheets which are supposed to go on top are just as erratic. I have bought queen-sized flat sheets that barely reach my navel once they’re tucked under the mattress. Conversely, I’ve bought queen-sized sheets that could cover the outside of our 15-foot x 15-foot pavilion tent.
Isn’t there some sort of internationally accepted standard measurement for all these bedsheet designations? Like we have time zones that start from Greenwich Mean Time, couldn’t we have bed sheet measurements that are regularized worldwide?
The same goes for clothing measurements. On the rare occasions when I am intrepid enough to purchase clothing online, I find it’s a real crapshoot to try to get something that fits, especially if the product is coming from anyplace farther away than Altoona — and sometimes even then!
I bought a size 4X jacket from a place in China one time, and when it arrived it was too small for my size 2 niece. Another time I coughed up for a blouse from Texas in a size 14; when it arrived, it would have comfortably fit an Apatosaurus.
But I digress. Back to bed sheets.
If you buy inexpensive sheets, you cannot sleep on them more than twice before they develop little “pills” on the surface of the fabric which begins to feel like you are lying on pebbles.
Expensive sheets give you “thread counts” on the wrapper, which tells me exactly nothing. Presumably it’s an excuse to charge you more, but having more threads in my sheets doesn’t seem worth the extra $50.
Any sheets are terribly expensive these days to begin with. If they have a designer label on them, they cost more than childbirth. Designer sheets are clearly only expensive because of the label; they are never any prettier than the cheap sheets, and sometimes not as pretty.
Lots of the designer-label sheets look like they were made for use in the solitary wing of a maximum security prison.
When I was a kid, most of our sheets were just plain white. This made a lot of sense, because then you didn’t have to go hunting through the laundry for the sheets that matched in design — they ALL matched. Fitted sheets weren’t really a “thing,” either; you used top sheets on the mattress itself, you just learned how to fold them under so they stayed put.
One of the rare improvements about today’s sheets is that they don’t require ironing — not that I would anyway. I’m sleeping on them, not entering them in an art exhibit.
My mom spent hours ironing sheets in our basement, where the washer and dryer were. I never could understand why. They were just going to get all wrinkled up anyway. I’d put it down to the regimentation of her military background — except that she didn’t have one.
For some reason entirely unknown to any sane human, I decided to sort through and re-organize our linen closets a few weeks ago. I am frank to admit that I haven’t delved into their depths since we moved into the house in 2001.
I discovered a large amount of baby paraphernalia which I haven’t used for over a decade, plus a lot of things that had no business being in a linen closet, like the Allen wrench my husband’s been looking for since 2008 and a copy of “The World According to Garp.”
There were also a ton of sheets which apparently didn’t match any other sheets anywhere in the house.
I pulled all of these out and began to pair them up as best I could. It was then I discovered the shameful secret of bed sheets:
Many of their labels don’t tell you what size they are claiming to be.
Why on earth not? I’m not going to re-wrap them in their original packaging every time I use them! And I certainly don’t have time to try to put them on a bed to figure out what size they are every time they come out of the dryer!
I don’t care that the label says “Tommy Hilfiger” on it! (And by the way, who the heck is Tommy Hilfiger, and why should I care?) And what difference does it make to me after I’ve bought it that it was made in Hong Kong? I just want to know if it’s twin, full, queen or king!
It took me four hours to get all the sheets and pillowcases paired up (and whose stupid idea were “pillow shams,” by the way?) and longer to match up towels with washcloths.
Then I put them all away in neat stacks in the linen closets and I intend to forget all about them for another 18 years.
And tonight we all start sleeping in hammocks.
Ellen McDaniel-Weissler is a LaVale freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.