Cambrian: Opinion

For anyone who has struggled to fold a fitted sheet, I feel your pain — literally

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

I owe Husband Richard a belated apology. Again. Still.

Poor guy.

In 2002 (and a few times since, I admit it), I’ve ribbed him in this column about something he was trying so hard to do. Unfortunately, I now understand his problem much too well, even if I suspect his impairment was related to male DNA and mine is due to wounded-wing syndrome.

Here’s how I described his efforts then:

“He lurched through the house, totally enveloped in white, encircled by a twisting, turning being that was devouring him, inch by painful inch. … A nightmare? A horror movie? A Stephen King novel?

“No, no. Nothing that dramatic. It was just valiant Husband Richard, trying one more time to fold a fitted sheet for a king-sized bed.”

Now, I must admit, I’ve never had a problem folding fitted sheets (sorry, honey). Maybe it was because my single, working mom always needed help around the house and kitchen, especially during the many times when one of her brittle-bone limbs was in a cast.

Maybe it was my brief stint as a motel maid.

Maybe it’s because I’m female. It’s that DNA thing again.


I wrote, “I do try to be empathetic to my husband’s predicament.

“But, try as I might, I still don’t understand the problem. I’m not one to boast, mind you, but I can take a fitted sheet and, in mere moments, fit it into a neat-and-tidy rectangle that would slide back in its original package with room to spare — if I hadn’t had to shred the original package to get the sheet out in the first place.

“And tidy? When I fold a fitted sheet, the edges are even, the corners are flat and so is the sheet. Please, no applause. I embarrass easily.”

How do I do it? Stretch the sheet out, “fold it in half, and lay it on a bed. Then tuck the corners tightly into each other. Do it again, folding the sheet into quarters, with three corners tucked into the fourth. Fold the edge with the corners on it to the middle, fold up the other edge and …”

Oh, dear. I’ve lost him again. And he’s not even trying to fold a sheet.

Even so, “My poor, sweet husband tries so hard. He looks at my tiny, tidy, package of sheet. He sets his shoulders, then works and wrestles and fights … and winds up with a questionable art form that looks like William Calder fought Quasimodo’s ghost, and both lost.”

I suppose I could have rented him out as a Halloween ghost.

Maybe not.

But all that gloating has come home to roost.

With three torn tendons in my right shoulder’s rotator cuff, I’m learning that fitted-sheet folding is way trickier (and more painful) than I ever thought it would be.

I now have a dominant arm that I can’t raise above shoulder level or even fully extend without flinching and or shrieking.

Therefore, folding laundry is now in a class with lots of other things I can no longer do pain free: Grabbing something on the top shelf of the fridge; patiently holding my camera up to my eye while I wait for the wildlife to turn around; shaking hands with someone enthusiastic; lifting a carton of milk.

Opening our heavy front door.

Rearranging the comforter over me at night.

Hugs (baw!).

Grocery shopping? Arrrgh.

Personal hygiene’s a literal pain. Putting on a bra is contortionistic. Fastening a necklace … pulling up my trousers … washing, rinsing or brushing my hair (thank heavens it’s short!) … they’re all ouchies.

Have you ever tried to wrap a terrycloth robe or towel around your shower-soggy bod using only one arm?

It doesn’t work.

That clean bedding? I’ve even considered wadding the sheet up into a ball and jamming into in the linen closet. But I hate wrinkled sheets. And I am woman. So, I figured it out.

I’ll just wait to wash the sheet until right before I’m ready to put it back on the bed. Boom. Mic drop.

Correction: Until somebody else is ready to put it on the bed.

Fiddlesticks. This wounded wing schtick is for the birds.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune