Bedside Table Manners

By Xanthe Fuller

Bedside tables are funny things, they are immensely practical and mundane, yet have a somewhat symbolic status. While many pieces of furniture are exchangeable – tables for desks, cupboards for wardrobes etc. – the function, or indeed absence, of a bedside table is categorical. But why is this object quite so important?

Like all tables, it is a gathering place, although in this case of objects rather than people.  It is the surface for things that have been forgotten until the end of the day and things that must be remembered at the start of the next; rings, wallets, passports, post-it notes and phones placed like monuments on day’s final table-top.

Beyond the practical, it gathers up our most valued – and secret – items. The surface, or interior of the bedside table, is littered with books we read or intend to read, diaries we fill, and pills we take. It has strong associations with sex, as the custodian of contraception, and yet is also, somewhat ironically, a well-established home for sacred texts and religious acts, with the distribution of Gideon Bibles in hotel bedside tables and the perfect space for pre-bed prayers.  Novelist and academic, Ian Sansom, states that ‘everything significant that happen to us, tends to take place in bed’, from birth, to sleep, to sex, to death itself. If this is the case, the bedside table is of great importance. It reflects who we are, what we chose to conceal and reveal, and emphasises the objects and acts that we deem most immediately important.

With the long evenings of winter stretching out, and the increasing need for warm bedside lamps, and restorative lie-ins, I asked the women of Cambridge Girl Talk to share this private space.

Alina:

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Photo of my family in Rome in 2016, in Zara Home frame

‘Confabulations’ by John Berger with Girl Talk bookmark

The Pill

Watch (grandmother’s), ring (mother’s), ring (mine)

‘Advantages of Being a Woman Artist’ poster by the Guerrilla Girls, a gift from my friend Luke

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Mishal:

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My bedside table right now consists of: Glossier Super serums and lip balm (would recommend for sad, winter skin); ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith (for obvious reasons); tasty treats for lonely winter nights and acid reflux medication – keeping it real, social media is a facade people!

Lola:

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On my bedside table there is: the book I’m currently reading, La place by Annie Ernaux, it’s in a diary format about her romance with a Soviet diplomat; moisturiser, otherwise I always forget;  magazines, to read or look at the pictures before falling asleep, and unread student newspapers piling up; my pill, I’m trying to take it in the morning to stop forgetting about it; the little Ganesh is a gift from my mum and the collage was made by a friend.

Xanthe:

My bedside table is littered with books I’m reading or pretending to read, earrings taken off before bed and small things that I don’t want to lose: postcards, trinkets and bank-cards.

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Feature photo from Abi Smith’s bedside table

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