The pillow is an invention that is centuries old. The earliest recorded use of the device dates back to the civilizations of Mesopotamia around 7000 B.C. Back then, only the wealthy owned pillows, so they symbolized status. Thus, the more pillows one owned the more affluence he or she held.
This bit of history may partially explain a truly strange decorating practice I’ve encountered in guest rooms and bed and breakfasts from Sarasota to Spokane and everywhere in between: that of covering a perfectly usable bed with so vast a quantity of decorative pillows as to render the bed’s surface almost completely inaccessible. I simply can’t fathom what could be the possible merits. I can easily, however, enumerate the grating impracticalities presented by such rampant over-cushioning.
Just when you’re ready to call it a day and drift off to dreamland, you’re faced with the annoying project of removing thirty-seven pillows of various sizes and finding them alternative homes for the night. Throwing them on the floor doesn’t seem right, there are far too many to stack on a chair, and carrying them into another room would take several dozen trips. So, unless the pillow collector has installed a special en suite pillow shed or some such, you have quite the puzzle on your hands—and at the worst possible time, when your brain is all but done for the night.
And all that work would be fine, I suppose, if only the puffy little doodads served some sort of purpose. But many of them are crafted in ways that defeat the very use of a pillow. Some are covered in dangling metallic plastic things, twisted strips of suede or leather, thick paint, scratchy glitter—textures upon which none but the kinkiest of us would want to rest our faces. Others come in cutesy shapes: sunflowers, elephants, buildings, shapes that align with no part of the human body.
Far more comfortable, but also far more obnoxious, are the ultra-frilly, lacy, ornate ones, which typically take up so much space that a single pillow could be used as a guest bed for two in a pinch. It all amounts to nothing more than a big fluffy mountain of voluntary clutter that would be the envy of any hoarder.
All that notwithstanding, bed owners who employ the copious pillow technique seem perfectly willing to engage in the nightly exercise of relocating the entire collection, then, upon awakening, replacing and arranging it anew, only to remove the entire lot again at bedtime. This Groundhog Day-like repetition is all done in anticipation of the occasion when a guest may visit these private quarters, in the hopes that they’ll be impressed by the bed owner’s talent for accumulating dumplings of stuffed fabric. Of course, should the visit turn intimate, there is still the passion-killing interruption to contend with. “Hold that thought while I find a place for these decorative pillows, lover.”
If time travel were possible, I know just what I’d do . . . well, there are a lot of things I’d do, but one of them would be to gather up all the silly little pillows in the world, travel back to the 7000s B.C., and distribute them to the poor deprived lower-class Mesopotamians. Imagine how popular I’d be.
I might keep just one. A small one. Just big enough to scream into.