There are those among us who take great pleasure in rising to meet the day. Eyes crinkled with joy, these people embrace the morning with a smile on their face and a song in their heart. Some whistle as they shave, chuckle at the morning paper’s comic strips, jump into their running shoes to hit the pavement, or simply meditate over a good cup of coffee. These people are what I like to call irritating.
To say that I am not a morning person is an understatement, and one that is best not said to me until well after the sun has risen. Whether I go to bed early or stay up late, my internal timekeeper finds something inherently wrong about starting the day while bats are still at work, and birds haven’t yet given a thought to chirping. I catch a lot of grief about this from the eternally cheerful early risers, who just don’t get it. These people take great pleasure in calling me at 7 on a Saturday morning, starting the conversation with, “Oh, did I wake you?”
Well, duh. It’s 7 on Saturday morning. Unless I’m booked on a 5am flight to Paris or George Clooney is popping over for breakfast, it is a pretty sure bet that I am sleeping. Though I am fairly certain that sleeping to a reasonable hour is not a punishable offense in any of the 50 states, the implication is that being asleep at this hour reflects a serious character flaw. My husband refers to this offense as a crime of “burning daylight,” so when I get a call, I pretend to have been awake for hours; putting on a bright chirpy voice as I shake the cobwebs out of my head and squint at the clock. Then I hang up and go back to sleep.
That is not to say that I am incapable of functioning before dawn. Like most of us, I have run miles on the treadmill of life that requires rising ridiculously early. I was once a working mother; one of the many required to accomplish more before daybreak than others do in a day. I wondered then and wonder still, who came up with the bright idea of sending children off to school before chickens crack their eyes?
I personally know of a child, who having dressed herself in the pre-dawn hours, was spotted getting on the bus with her pants on backwards. Her mother noticed just as the folding doors closed; sadly too late for a switcheroo. I’m still apologizing for that one. But I also know for a fact that same child’s mother once hobbled half a day at the office before realizing that she wore two very different shoes.
Contrary to popular belief, getting up early does not make people like us better at anything; it simply makes us cranky, and badly dressed.
It gives me great empathy for what my mother endured when I was growing up. For years, she brought my breakfast to me on a tray, gently calling me to wake to the smell of bacon and eggs or cinnamon toast, only to have me snarl and pull the covers over my head. I’m ashamed now for having been such a brat, but karma paid me back in spades when my own daughter came along; a child who did not sleep through the night until she was two, and had to be dragged from the bed kicking and grumbling until she was about twenty. Breakfast on a tray didn’t make her a ray of sunshine, either.
My husband is so exasperatingly cheerful in the morning that on many occasions I’ve had to restrain myself from punching him. He always awakens before the clock goes off. Where mine is beaten and scratched, he has no earthly idea where the snooze button is located on his alarm clock. Even the dog sees something wrong with this behavior; raising his head and opening one eye before snorting with annoyance, and burrowing under the covers.
You can always spot the early risers at a party. They’re the ones nodding off into the baked brie at about 8 o’clock. Pop culture is lost on them. When the music signaling Jeopardy’s final question is the cue to break out your jammies, it’s a pretty sure bet that you have no idea that Gray’s Anatomy is not just a medical book, or that if you kill someone in Washington, your first call should be to someone named Olivia Pope. This knowledge is only available to those willing to stay awake until 9 o’clock. You can’t just DVR yourself into that loop. How to Get Away With Murder over breakfast is just not the same.
Mock those burning daylight if you must, but where would the world be without us – the Cinderellas and the Paul Reveres? Punching your pillow right after dinner makes for a pretty dull fairytale, and if you’re asleep at midnight, you better hope we’re up to let you know the British are coming.
I make allowances, however, for brain surgeons and airline pilots required to start their days before dawn. I don’t want them to even be awake for the evening news, much less able to pick Jimmy Fallon out of a lineup. They should be fully rested before they crack open my head or fire up a 747.
The early birds might see a lot more sunrises, but given that I have no desire to catch a worm, I have no cows to milk and no one is waiting for me to deliver their paper or brew a Venti espresso, I can’t think of much that requires my participation before the sun comes up.
No matter what time the day begins, there are still twenty-four hours in every one. Surely, we can live together in peace. If the early risers will agree to occasionally stay awake for some late night TV or a lunar eclipse, I guess I can acquiesce to hearing the occasional rooster crow or watching a sunrise or two. I will do my very best to be embrace the morning with a smile on my face and joy in my heart – but there’s a better than average chance that I’ll have my pants on backwards.
By Susan Frampton