MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - An alarming face-off in the bedroom

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When you think about all the ways that two different people - say, a Norwegian Artist and a Polish Writer - do things, it's amazing that relationships last at all.

Take alarm clocks, for instance.

For years, the whinnying diminutive exploding box resided on the Norwegian Artist's side, and, because he didn't like red numbers shouting at him all night, he turned the face of the clock away so that he - with his 20/20 vision - and I especially - with my Makes-A-Bat-Seem-Like-An-Eagle eyesight - could not tell what time it was.

Deep beyond the gloaming hour, the Norwegian Artist's grunt was anything but sensual when I pulled myself up over his shoulders to reach for the box, bring it to my face and set it back down. Admittedly, I wasn't feeling so vixenish myself as I did this, night after night after night.

So after several years, it occurred to me to broach the subject of moving the clock to my side of the bed. The Norwegian Artist, can, after all, read one-inch numbers from six feet away.

Consultation, discussion, consideration, analysis, mutual agreement: the clock was moved to my side. A relationship counselor would have been proud, and out of a fee.

Several years after that, tired of straining at itty bitty one-inch numerals one foot from my lustrous blues, I brought up the concept of 4-inch figures.

(By the way, this appalling lack of vision isn't age-related; it's a genetic gift from my father.)

"I could read these with a minimum of squinting," I said.

"But the light - that irritating luminescent scarlet aurora visually resonating off of the ceiling!"

He didn't put it precisely like that, but the meaning was there.

More consultation, discussion, consideration, analysis - a bit more lively this time - and then the issue was resolved when College Girl, in her impulsive way, gave me a digital clock with giant letters for Mother's Day.

Backed in a corner, the Norwegian Artist was.

Ah, but Norwegian Artists are a determined race, and the offending item was banished to the far Netherlands of my night stand, and that only with my avowed promise to use my body as a shield against the Aurora Borealis in numerical form.

A tenuous truce prevailed.

And then I started waking up at night - why, it's really no one's business, but it had to do with being hot in a non Marilyn Monroe sort of way - and I found that the red light, unfocused though it may be, bothered me, and kept me from getting what little sleep I was rapidly accustoming myself to getting in this new, hopefully short, phase of my life.

"Studies show that the glowing red and green LED lights of today's alarm clocks keep people - especially women going through a frustrating, hopefully short, phase of their life - from getting the sleep that they need," a friend of mine told me.

And you can believe her. I mean, she's a nurse and a friend of a doctor read about this in a magazine at the gynecologist's office. This stuff is real science.

I passed on the information to the Norwegian Artist, who mentioned mildly that for years he had been bothered by the nightlong sunset on the ceiling, and together we came up with the solution:

Every night, before I head off to sleep, I set the clock face down onto the surface of the nightstand, and there is no longer any glow, - red, green, blue, healthy, or otherwise - assaulting the sight and senses of the Norwegian or the Pole.

The room is dark. Oscuro. Obfuscated. Totally without light.

And when I wake up - because I do, still - I don't stare at the numbers advancing one by one in the minute section.

I also, unfortunately, don't know what time it is, at all.

Neither does the Norwegian Artist, but at this point, we're both so exhausted from the battle that we're giving the matter of the clock - and the size of its numbers, and which way it faces, and even what room it, or either one of us, should be in - a much needed rest, so that somehow we can get one.

Now, there's just the issue of the fan, which one of us runs because he likes the white noise, and one of us wishes would just permanently QUIT.

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