A Portuguese Bedroom Superstition
Or, what I wish I’d known before marrying a Portuguese man
In December of 2021, my husband and I moved into his childhood home in Portugal—a dilapidated farmhouse inherited from his recently deceased father. This was not a country house built for comfort but a cramped, lightless space built for people who spent all their time outside growing food and taking care of animals. I think it was built without a square or a level, as I am challenged to find a right angle or flat surface anywhere.
However, undeterred by its discombobulated state, I summoned my inner gay and called upon my time as digital creative director for Elle Decor. I love a good challenge, and I refuse to let this house beat me.
First up, we needed a place to sleep, so I started in the bedroom. It’s a tiny room, and there’s only one logical way to place the bed if you want space to walk around it comfortably.
I dragged in the various pieces, placing them where I intended them to go.
“No, Jimmy,” my husband Jose exclaimed. “You can’t put the foot of the bed towards the front of the house!”
“But it’s the only way the bed fits in this room.”
“Somebody will die if we put it like that!”
I’ve had over 50 addresses across three countries and seven US states. I’ve never encountered this superstition, and I’ve frequently slept with my feet towards the front of the house.
“The Portuguese never sleep with their feet towards the front of the house,” he explained. “My grandmother and the old people always told me that if your feet face the front door, they are pointed to the cemetery. If you sleep that way, someone in the house will die.”
This superstition seemed utterly crazy to me, but he was serious. He refused to sleep in a house with a bed whose feet faced the front door.
I mentally scanned the house, thinking of the battles I would need to fight to make it livable. Was the position of our marital bed worth fighting over.
“Ok,” I relented, “But I’m sleeping on the easiest side to get into.”
I continue to revisit the subject with my husband, hoping that my Americanisms will rub off on him and this crazy Portuguese superstition will somehow fade away.
No such luck.
Six months later, I’m still sleeping in a wackily-positioned bed. The good news, I guess, is that nobody has died.
Jimmy Farren Hickey is an extroverted introvert passionate about yoga, mindfulness, personal growth, self-care, gardening, travel, cooking, laughter, art, music, beauty, and burritos. He is a passionate human-centered creative professional who has led creative direction and UX design for hundreds of advertisers, more than 25 magazines, and at one behemoth e-commerce giant named Amazon. He currently lives in Portugal with his husband and dog.