"Take off your pants," I command. When I say this, my date inevitably gives me a look from somewhere at the crossroads of bewilderment and sexual excitement.
To quell that second emotion, I've learned to quickly clarify my request with a follow-up statement: "I'm not going to sleep with you, but you can't sit on my bed in your street clothes."
And that, also inevitably, is followed by a conversation about my particular proclivity. Which is that only clean things — from purses to human beings — are allowed to touch my bed. No suitcases or purses; they've been on countless floors and other suspect surfaces. Not even me when I'm dirty; I'm the weird roomie who showers when she gets home from the bar.
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And definitely no other polluted people or their polluted clothing.
I'm always surprised when my request confuses my guests. I mean, why would you legitimately allow street clothes in your bed?
I explain it like this: "Just think about where your clothes have been: on a subway seat, a city bench, a bar stool. Now think about who else has been on those seats, benches and stools. Would you invite them into your bed? I didn't think so. Well, then what makes their sweat or cooties or bodily particles any different?"
Despite what you might think, I don't have fears about getting a specific virus or fleas or anything, but I don't discount it either. I just can't stomach the idea of running the risk of my bed being filled with something dirty or potentially dangerous.
One time, my girlfriends got to see just how serious I was about this rule.
We were in Nashville. Two friends and I had stayed out a little later than everyone else, and in an attempt to keep quiet when we returned, one friend went into the bedroom to grab all of our pajamas.
Much to my chagrin, she returned with the leggings I'd worn on the plane. Plane clothes are the worst offenders. I can't imagine how many bodies and dirty travel clothes were pressed into those cushion seats.
My face must have said it all because my friend quickly asked me what was wrong.
"Those are street leggings," I said, with disgust.
The ridiculousness of my answer — and maybe the million vodka sodas we'd just imbibed — sent us into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Which woke up the rest of the girls and forced me to explain my comment to everyone.
They weren't too stoked to have their slumber interrupted over the hygienic condition of my PJs, but I don't think they mind the fact they get to mock me about it to this day.
And waking them up did have an added perk: It meant I could enter the bedroom, grab my unsullied indoor leggings, and fall asleep without fear of the many people who'd sat in that airplane seat before me.
I think my fear of a dirty bed stems from the fact that I've seen things in the street I would never want touching my bed. Or perhaps it's because my mother is Japanese, and in our culture, people bathe before bed — not only to relax, but also to keep your bed clean. Or perhaps it's because I've lived in several studios, where my bed's been my only piece of furniture.
At its basest, though, the fear is because my bed is my sanctuary. I want to cuddle up in my sheets knowing they only contain the germs of me and the people I've invited into it. So, at least in my active imagination, I run the risk of my bed declining into a center of dirt and putrefaction if I let anything dirty touch my sheets or my outer cover.
Now that you've read this, I've probably ruined you forever. #SorryNotSorry.
When I explain my views to my friends, it's like a light bulb clicks on. Many of them start forbidding street clothes from their beds too. I've probably converted more than a dozen people over the years. (You're welcome, BTW.)
As for the guys who come home with me? They generally don't complain either.