Let Them Eat Worms

Mar 04

womanalarm_clock.jpgWhy does everyone get up so damned early?

A symbol of wealth back in the dark ages of the last century was that you could sleep till noon. If you were truly blessed, you’d be someone like
Bette Davis in All About Eve, with a sassy servant (how politically incorrect!) named Bertie, who would bring you breakfast in bed, late. This would probably include a bloody Mary, hair of the dog and all that, because you were out late the night before doing something glamorous. Then you would read the papers and get ready for (a late) lunch. . .

Only farmers got up at dawn. Or construction workers. Or so we imagined. We didn’t think about doctors; we thought they were on the golf course at some civilized hour in the morning, if we thought about it at all. Of course, the caddies would be up early, but they were in the same category as construction workers.

Yes, yes, there is that old, old saying, “the early bird catches the worm.” But when society changed from more agrarian to more cosmopolitan (or martini-an, if you wish), it grew out of fashion to think that way. For a while. Then the pendulum swung back. With a vengence.

What happened over the past few decades is a kind of creeping guilt, which makes you feel that you can’t sleep in — ever — and that the earlier you get up the better a person you are. Getting up early may have its benefits, but because we’ve always been a little-does-good-more-does-better society, we have carried this way too far.

What really bugs me is that people are finding more and more ways to let you know how early they get up: 6 AM these days is nothing; you have to say 4 to make an impression. 3AM? Why bother to go to bed at all. And these people aren’t farmers. They get up before dawn for a number of reasons: they commute ridiculously long distances, they have impossibly crammed schedules, they have to go running before work, or walk the dog, or some other damn thing. And they make you feel a positive slug about sleeping later than they do. Early equals virtue, late equals evil.

I wouldn’t mind this so much if I thought that most of these people were actually accomplishing something special with all this extra time. And some of them are: Take Diane Sawyer, or any of the newscasters with morning shows. Or people with jobs that have to start early in the day. But it’s my observation that most early risers are not human after 9 PM, and therefore can’t go to, much less actually enjoy. a concert or show, and that they spend a lot of time complaining about how busy (and tired) they are, and are forced (sometimes by illness) to completely collapse from time to time.

Yes, there are those super achievers who move mountains on three hours of sleep a night. I’ve read about those people. But most of us need the good old eight hours, and I, for one, don’t believe for a second that you need less as you get older. That might have been true once, when all you were  expected to do was sit on a rocker and reminisce about the good old days. Not now! We are active and getting more so. We work until a later age, and when we “retire,” if we ever do, we travel, exercise, write nasty letters to AARP, join the co-op board, bother our relatives. You need a lot of sleep for this.

Eight hours used to be a respectable amount of sleep; ten was sleeping in. A popular book in the sixties was “Sleep Til Noon and Screw Them All.” Was this literal, I wonder? Well, the sixties. . . Anyway, back then the general rule was: don’t call anyone before ten, unless you know for sure that the person was an early bird. Nowadays, when almost everyone gets up at some ungodly hour, the term “early bird” means the 4:30 dinner at the diner. I’d rather eat worms!

So, if you need eight hours of sleep a night, and you want to go to an evening event that ends at, say, eleven, and you get home around midnight, you have to sleep until eight. This is called arithmetic. I mean, math. And if the event runs long, or you’re wound up and can’t get to sleep for a while, that means you need to sleep later.

But if you do, someone will call around eight, and be totally amazed to realize that they’ve woken you up. Still asleep at 8:30? Weird. Strange. How very retro. You must be sick. You are morally corrupt. Most important: You lose the How Early Can We Possibly Get Up Contest. And that’s what it’s all about, I think. Competition. To be the biggest, the best, the richest  — and now, the earliest.

Sleepyheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but those bags under your eyes! Do something drastic about this godforsaken trend. Be daring, be original, be rested. Unless you actually enjoy those early hours, and I’ve noticed that some people do, figure out the latest time you can get up and still get the job done, not the earliest.
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Sleep late once in a while — get up at the crack of noon  — without guilt. Be lucid after dinner. Stay awake during dinner! (You’ll save on cleaning bills if you stop falling asleep in the soup.) Get through a show without dozing off. Enjoy New Year’s Eve, and actually listen to  the words to Auld Lang Syne. Then explain them to me.

If you really must get up so early, please stop wearing it like a red-eyed badge of courage. And don’t tell me about it. Not until after ten. . .

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