Pillow Talk


Gorillas sleep with their unshaven, rubbery cheeks and big chins resting on their chests - just like the drooling primates you see in pubs sprawled on chairs with their lanky arms hanging by their sides, having had too many bananas.

Because cavemen hadn’t developed a language they had to repeatedly club each other on the back of their heads for attention. This constant fracturing of skulls left a permanent dent just above the shoulder blades and pushed the brain further up and into the skull cavity. Cavemen also had to drag their womenfolk by the hair to get them home on Saturday nights. Thus over millennia our species developed heads and necks as we know them, which enabled us to look over our shoulders at nice legs or see if we were being followed by the Brits. In the same way, giraffes evolved long necks in order to reach the highest and juiciest leaves on tree canopies.

Heads constantly held erect and subject to constant swivelling placed great strain on the neck whose muscles became fatigued by the end of each day. Finding a solution for this pain in the neck encouraged our brains to enlarge, our consciousness, language and creativity to come into being. And that is how the Flintstones came to invent the pillow. Admittedly, this theory of mine is in its early stages, and I am no anthropologist, but you have to admit it all sounds highly plausible.

The first pillows invented were made of moss and grass, and in those pre-religious, pre-marital days, people only slept together to keep warm, apart from Saturday nights when men had glints in their eyes and women sore scalps from being trailed around.

As well as providing head-rests pillows can also be used to raise up small drivers in cars, to suffocate unattractive partners or legitimate heirs to the throne. Interestingly, when kids play at pillow fights they are atavistically re-enacting the origin of the human neck (see paragraph three above).

Pillow-cases, which cover and protect the actual pillows from lice, hair lacquer, Brylcreme, Morgan’s Pomade and runny ears, also have practical uses: for example, as an improvised hood for an emergency Klan meeting; or as a bin-liner for Santa’s Christmas presents to well-behaved children.

How often should pillow cases be changed? It depends. On, for example, the size of one’s head. You could economically use the same side twice by simply rotating the pillow one hundred and eighty degrees. Turn it over and you can get two further goes. The advantages of using two pillows are obvious in terms of cutting down in the number of washes, the damage to the environment from harmful phosphates, and the savings on electricity. Hygiene is not as crucial as appearances, though. In the early 1970s Micky Bradley from Beechmount refused to get out of bed in protest against internment. He spent two years in Cage Two sleeping on the same pillow without any apparent psychological side-effects. A streaked and mouldy pillow.

How many pillows a person uses is not indicative of breeding or intelligence. The late Dame Barbara Cartland was surrounded by twelve cushions, stuffed with the finest feathers, but she still wrote crap novels. Frank McCourt had no pillows, no shoes, no socks, no coal, and no dad, and wrote some wonderful books.

Pillows have also been responsible for some of the greatest tragedies to have befallen the human race. I am referring to ‘pillow-talk’; that is, the post-coital swapping of secret or confidential information which has led to many betrayals, the thwarting of daring escapes and revolutions, the revealing of business, trade or national secrets to rivals. Dame Barbara Cartland told her poodles everything. And Bill Clinton told the gullible Monica Lewinsky that, swear-to-God, he was on first-name terms with Gerry Adams and she swallowed it.

Finally, on the subject of the USA: research has shown that one third of Americans put their old pillows in their guest rooms rather than buying new guest-room pillows. And that almost half of Americans never wash their bed pillows. Those must have been the ones in solidarity with Micky Bradley, protesting against internment.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison