It was, then, with trepidation that I prepared for this weekend, where my girlfriend and I planned to spend 2 and a half days and 3 nights together in something approximating bliss, with time off for separate planned dinners and some work we both had to do. I'd attempted sleeping with her before, and while it hadn't been terrible as an experience it had gone pretty badly as far as actual sleep. One night of bad slumber I can handle, but three in a row seemed to be treading towards thin ice. Would I become irritable, disengaged? Would I fall asleep in the middle of some important conversation or act of lovemaking? Would she blurt out "I want to make love to cabbage" during a REM cycle, leaving me both confused and slightly turned on?
In the end it went pretty well. We figured out that sharing my bed would work better if we slept head to foot, so we did so. We ate Mexican food for dinner one night and I released foul smelling gases. She took it in good humor. Our last night was interrupted by an unfortunately located cockroach, but overall it was...nice. And I figured something out.
The thing about sleeping with someone, besides the pleasure of a warm feminine body lying next to yours, is that it is an act of trust. Not only are you entrusting the other person not to do something horrible to your unconscious shell, but you're trusting them not to judge you for the things you do when you are at your least controlled.
Humans are social animals and we remain social in all but the most extreme of conditions. Even during sex we lie and mislead, telling others what we believe they should hear. We say "Oh baby, that's perfect, don't stop doing that" even when we may be thinking "I wish this was over, Pedro Martinez is pitching in 7 minutes!" Sure you can argue that orgasm represents a loss of control, but it's 6 seconds of goofy faced heaven and then back to being a member of society.
In sleep, however, all social controls are lost. You snore, you fart, you kick, you roll over, there's nothing you can do about it. You have to trust the other person not to care.
That's where the true heart of a relationship lies, at least as far as I can tell. In the way people can judge one another not by what is done but by what is intended. You can't hold someone responsible for something they do in their sleep, and you shouldn't. Likewise you can't hold people responsible for success or failure, only for the attempt they make. This world judges you so often on results. Your grades in school, the job you get, your salary in the real world, but who we are as people is defined by our attempts not how they turn out. Humanity and virtue are found in the striving for a better world and a better life. Success? A lot of that is the luck of the draw. You judge someone you love for her effort and her desires, not her results. Let the rest of the world see her for her external accomplishments, to see the real person you have to look within.
Last night Jennifer and I found ourselves out of sorts with one another for a little while. We weren't fighting, just mis-connecting. This continued for about an hour until I drew some silly lines on my face with her markers, and that evolved to us drawing on one another's faces, and pretty soon I looked like some sort of avant-garde lecherous clown, one who uses his painted smile to hide not sadness but a dark-born grin. I gave her an uneven mustache and a big green scar. We looked at one another and ourselves and laughed. It didn't matter that her drawing was much better than mine, or that we both looked like fools, or that the markers were a little more permanent than the box suggested. We had left ourselves vulnerable to mockery or abuse and found instead companionship and judgment of humorous intention rather than unfortunate results. Later that night we washed our faces off and went to bed. Together.