If you are one of the three people left in this town who have not mastered the urban metaphor of ‘make your bed’, here is what you need to know: They say to make your bed first thing in the morning, before you do anything else.
Don’t let it air while you take a piss or clock in your vinyasa yoga. Don’t drink your prescribed three cups of water, to empty your bowels. Don’t reach for your phone to check your Instagram feed, or your emails or WhatsApp chats. Don’t flip the pages of your journal or your Bible. Don’t put the sufuria of tea to the boil. Don’t feed your paradise fish or water your peace lily.
Make your bed first, and make it well: tuck the sheets tightly into hospital corners, fold the duvet over, fluff up the pillows and arrange them as they do with the beds at Kempinski Hotel.
To make your bed in this manner – every morning – is a metaphor for life.
They say that it may seem like a trivial seemingly meaningless task, but what it does is set you up for great success. To change the world. The discipline and pride of completing this trivial task every morning sets the pace to complete other onerous and significant tasks throughout the day. And if you just so happen to have a shitstorm of a day, you will come back home to a well-made bed. A bed you made, nonetheless, and you will think to yourself, ‘I’m not so hopeless after all.’
Here is my truth: I no longer care if my bed is made or not. First, it is no longer my bed but ‘our’ bed. I share it with GB – my lover (he-he), baba watoto, Mr. Kinyatti himself. One of the rules GB and I have in our marriage is that whoever leaves the bed last makes it.
I like this rule because it has no room for bullshit.
I don’t even remember who came up with it.
Anyway, the rule is simple and unambiguous but what it doesn’t take into account is how GB and I are built: He and I have utterly different chronotypes. (I just learned that word as I researched this story. It’s a smart word, aye? Chronotype, I like it.)
I am an early bird, GB is a night owl. Picture this, it is 9p.m, the jingle for Citizen News is playing on TV. The kids, the nanny will be in bed. I will be in bed as well, under the covers, courting sleep while reading a book from my Kindle. GB will catch the news to the end – sports, weather, bloopers – then he will fire up his laptop to clock in another three, maybe four hours of work. He tells me he relishes the stillness and silence that the night gifts him.
I almost never hear him come to bed at night. He almost never hears me when I awake at five in the morning. He possibly can’t because he is layers deep in his sleep, the restful kind that makes your limbs feel like boiled spaghetti – I can tell from his laboured irregular breathing and snoring.
Surely, at 5a.m, I cannot exercise the metaphor to make the bed because the man is in there sleeping.
GB is the kind of person who packs on the day of the trip or gets up at 8.48 for a nine o’clock online meeting. And he won’t be late. He is also the kind of person who, once the ball is in his hands, will run with it until the sun sets. Everything else in between will be secondary to him.
This is why I return home from beating deadlines all day to find the bed as he left it in the morning: neglected and unmade, his head imprint still on his pillow.
What would you do here, dear reader? Hell, what would Jesus do?
I am 37. Urban mother to two toddlers. A published author, columnist. Small business owner. I no longer have it in me to throw a fit over an unmade bed. When I was 26, I would have thrown a royal fit, I guarantee you that. Now I just don’t have the willpower to. I am depleted at that hour, my battery is flashing critical.
Plus generally, at my age and station, there is a lot I overlook, I no longer sweat the small stuff. I overlook the nanny burning the gas cooker at the highest flame, burning it until it is hissing. Her washing teacups with what feels like a swimming pool of water. GB slamming the microwave door, as though it owes him money. The living room rug that has dried mounds of bean stew from last Wednesday, when we had chapos.
I don’t burst a hernia from the kids breaking my favourite plates and bowls one by one by one. (As a young wife fresh in her new home, there is a 24-piece John Lewis set I used to save for wagenis, ha-ha. Getting them out from the cabinets was like putting on white gloves to read medieval manuscripts. And after our guests had used them, I would wash them myself and dry them straight from the sink, so they would go back into the cabinet. Express, special treatment. That was in 2014, when I cared too much, got my knickers in too many knots. Now we are in 2022 and most of the set has been exposed to an inch of their lives. Only three bowls are left, all the side plates and dinner plates have been chipped. If John Lewis would come to our house and ask to see the set, he would collapse.)
My major concern when I am at home in the evenings is whether the kids’ bellies are full, their backs have been scrubbed and they are layered up proper for our chilly Nairobi nights. Having them in bed by eight makes me feel like an army general claiming victory in war.
I know you are wondering if I make our bed before I go to sleep at night. I don’t, actually. What I do is to straighten the sheets on my side of the bed, smoothen the duvet cover, fluff up my pillow and dive right in.
We can carry on like this for a week, give or take. Or until the edges have come undone – when the bedsheets have tightened into a ball and the duvet is facing in the wrong direction, so your feet are out in the cold. This is when I will make the bed. Or he will. Or won’t.
But for most days, I allow myself whatever sleep our unmade bed offers.
My personal equivalent to this make-your-bed metaphor is to take a shower. I discovered this secret in 2021 – the first thing I do when I awake at five in the morning is to grab my towel and head straight for the shower. I take a shower then I dress up in clean decent clothes. I dress better if I am planning to leave the digs later.
For me, it is not about completing a task but readying myself for whatever randomity the day will fling my way. You wait, I will be smelling like a flower when I change the world.
I will be smelling so fresh that no one will ask me whether I made my bed.
An edited version of this story first ran in the Saturday Nation on 1 January 2022 (I think), under my Culture column15