Bachelor Beds: the Round Bed, Waterbed and Futon

Here’s a “beds” warning. I’m planning to offend you as gently as I possibly can.

The round bed

In a recent conversation about whether or not the kind of bachelor parodied by Austin Powers ever actually existed, I found myself discussing the round bed. In the sixties, it was the symbol of the swinging bachelor, an entirely average looking man with strange clothes who was surrounded by giddy, willing women with large hairstyles who wanted to join him in his big round bed. Was he real? My conversational partner and I remain doubtful, but round beds titillated and impressed us in our youth.

We first saw a round bed in Casino Royale (but not with each other). There a point in this movie (I think it’s in this movie) where Peter Sellers presses a button and the bedspread lifts off his round bed. After that, I forever associated the round bed with that swinging bachelor who navigated his seductions with the pushing of many buttons, buttons that managed the closing of the drapes, the dimming of the mood lighting, the volume of the slow-jazz musical selection.

As a very young man (okay, a kid), my conversational partner associated the round bed with orgies. He wasn’t exactly sure about why or how the round bed would be involved. Perhaps people were arranged on it like spokes in a wheel? But did this really increase the possible points of connection? In truth he had limited understanding of anything about orgies at that age, but the association existed.

These were definitely bachelor beds. Occasionally, though, you walked into a friend’s parents’ room and they had a round bed, and you just backed out of the room in horror because you knew what that round bed meant. Horrible.

“…the Round Bed is definitely not for squares. But active playboys (and those retired) will appreciate the potential this House of Menna exclusive represents. Your bedroom will be the talk of the town.”

Okay. But what exactly is the town going to be talking about? What is that Round Bed “potential”? Can anyone tell me? I never personally experienced one. By the time I was sharing a bed with anyone, the round bed had been supplanted in suggestiveness by…

The waterbed.

Ah, the classic waterbed. That burnt wood sin bin.

Many thanks to the Waterbed Doctor for this fine photo.

These were some mighty beds. Oh, the painful edges (unless you had padded rails), the gold-veined mirrors and round-edged shelves, the pedestal base with drawers on the deluxe models. It was astonishing in its rustic ugliness, but this was a real piece of furniture, and it was as just as rife with suggestion as the round bed. It carried so many 1970s seduction associations– component stereo systems, pot smoking, incense, candles stuck in wine bottles, Orleans albums and so on.

(Yes, that’s Jimmy McNichol. Please note his padded rails.)

The waterbed had quite a reputation for carnal gymnastics, but it was undeserved. It was just a big, bouncy bag of water. My conversational partner and I had both had waterbed experiences (though again, not with each other). We agreed that the problem was an inability to gain the necessary purchase to make anything happen. Was one supposed to just set the bed a-slosh and then ride it out, so to speak?

“Pleasure is…a waterbed.”

Not in our experience. But it was at least comfortable to sleep in, which made it so much better than what came after.

The futon

At some point, this happened. This bed of a monk.

Those slippers kind of seal the deal there, as far as being non-sexy (please note, I wear slippers like that).

No futon on which I have ever slept is this fluffy. They have been about a half inch thick, and full of hardened cotton lumps that press painfully into my aging body. And somehow, the futon became the bed of choice for nearly every man I dated in the nineties and aughts. Sometimes the lumpy futon sat on a little wooden frame with slats, and sometimes the lumpy futon sat on the floor. This was the new bachelor bed.

Now, even though I put them in the same category, I consider the futon to be a total about-face from round beds or the waterbeds. This cotton-stuffed sleeping mat has nothing to do with imaginary seductions accomplished in remote controlled mood lighting. The futon is as sexless as brushing your teeth after a rousing session of tai chi.

I rest my case.

The futon is humorless, organic and chaste. It fits nicely in a tiny home. Ads for the futon look like this:

How very yoga.

You would never flip a switch and lift a bedspread electronically from a futon. There is no hint of satin sheets or mirrored ceilings in the futon. If you were installing a bed in your custom Chevy van with airbrushed stallions painted on the side panels, it would not be a futon. And the futon is never going to offer you a bong hit, or give you a ride home in a Camaro.

How did we come to a place where THIS is the new bachelor bed? I shudder to think of what’s coming next.


  1. Reply
    Linda Fields January 14, 2017

    Love it, Karen. I associate round beds with ads for honeymoon destinations. In the 60s (when I was a wed) Brides Magazine used to feature full color ads for honeymoon “suites” in hotels (motels?) in the Poconos with round beds dressed in red satin sheets. There were fake fur rugs on the floor (that I wouldn’t have touched while wearing a hazmat suit). So the thought of round beds evokes mental images both tacky and lurid.

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