I’ve written a lot about my marriage to Sophia, and our separation. But I was married and separated once before — for about fifteen minutes. Here’s the story:
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I needed to buy a bed. I didn’t realize that buying a bed was so complicated, with all the Sealys and Sertas and all the different foams and coils. To make thing worse, the mattress industry makes it impossible to price match. The Serta "Fenway Park" is only called this at Sears. The exact same mattress at 1-800-Mattress is called the Serta "New Yorker." The mattress industry is the most consumer-unfriendly industry in the country, one notch below car dealerships. Mattress stores also take their cue from car dealerships, with aggressive salespeople out to sell you more bed than you really need.
I read about some discount mattress store in the Valley and drove out there to check out the mattresses. After trying out some beds, some flashy salesman tried to sell me this Serta mattress that was on sale. It actually felt pretty good — it was comfortable and firm, but not too firm. I didn’t yet know how difficult it was to price match, so I promised myself that I would "shop around" before I bought anything in the store. The salesman pressed me hard to buy it NOW. He offered me 300 dollars off, then 400 dollars off, then as I stared to leave, 500 dollars off if I bought it right NOW. I’m not very good with salespeople or aggressive people, so I started to get nervous. I needed to come up with a solution that would keep him off my back, without losing the bed.
Me: "I really like the bed, but I don’t want to buy it without my wife trying it first."
Salesman: "Oh… Of course. Of course."
I noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring, so he knew how fickle women were. Of course, I was not married. I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, but I guess he either didn’t notice or maybe he thought I was just some guy who didn’t wear one. I did not have a girlfriend. I actually knew few women.
I left the store, feeling pretty satisfied with my little white lie. I called up my friend in New York, who just bought a new bed. He told me that this salesman was offering me was a terrific deal. I went back to the mattress store and told him that I wanted to buy the bed.
Salesman: "What about your wife?"
Me: "Oh, she said it was fine. If I like it, she’ll like it."
Salesman: "It doesn’t work that way. She really needs to come try it herself."
Me: "It’s really OK. She totally trusts me."
Salesman: "How long have you been married?"
Me: "Six months."
Salesman: "You need to bring her here."
Me: "It’s really not important that I do that."
Salesman: "I’m telling you, for the sake of your marriage, you need to bring her here."
This salesperson, who a few minutes ago was aggressively selling me a bed, was now aggressively selling me marital advice.
I was stuck in my own lie.
I drove for a half hour, back to my apartment. I knocked on the door of my next door neighbor, Nadine, and asked her if she could be my wife for an hour. If she did this, I would buy her lunch. She was an actress (an out of work actress) and thought the idea was funny. It was like she was going to be in her own sitcom episode.
I went back to the mattress store with Nadine. We climbed onto the bed together, to try out the Serta mattress that was on sale. She said it was very comfortable, and a great price. As we stretched out on the bed, our legs accidentally touched. I thought about how pretty Nadine was. She had a good sense of humor. She was adventurous. I visualized us, one day, being on this bed together, making love in my apartment.
Nadine: "You know, I really could use a new bed. Maybe I’ll buy one, too."
Me: "You can’t buy a bed here. We’re supposed to be married."
Nadine: "What does he give a shit? We’re paying him money."
Me: "But I told him we were married. Why are we buying two beds? I’ll look like a lying idiot."
Nadine: "You think he really cares?"
Nadine and I ended up having our first marital spat while lying on this Serta bed in the mattress store. Eventually, I caved in — as all husband do with their wives. We ordered two mattresses, one for each of our apartments.
As we ordered the mattresses, the salesman looked at us, confused.
Salesman: "You mean you live in two different apartments, right next to each other?"
Me: "We’re separated."
A few weeks later, I could hear Nadine next door having sex with her new boyfriend on her new Serta mattress.