Last fall my mother, who worries about me constantly, got it into her head that I was freezing in New York. Her solution? An electric blanket: "Early Christmas present for both of you," the email that unexpectedly popped up in my inbox said. "A super soft electric blanket for your bed. Just turn it on about an hour before you go to bed and be sure to turn it off when you get in! Love u, Mom."
I had some questions, first among them, "Won't this set my house on fire and kill me in my sleep?" My next question was, "I am young and sprightly and tough as nails. Do I really need an electric blanket?"
The answer to the latter question, dear reader, was yes. Yes, I needed one. And you do, too.
I have been a proud electric blanket owner for almost a year now. After my laptop and phone, which I need for work, my blanket is the number one thing in my life I can't live without — I could make do without forks, without a TV, without no-show socks, but I don't think I could drag myself through a day without the promise of a pre-warmed bed at the end. With snow already rearing its ugly white snowflake icon in my 10-day forecast, I relish nothing more than the thought of waking up to the soft, toasty magic produced by thin wires and fabric as the world shivers beyond my window.
I admit I initially eyed my electric blanket with the same distrust I give to other domestic objects that could go up in flames at any moment (the toaster, the dryer lint thing). After a matter of time, though, it became clear that to not be killed by your electric blanket, all you need is common sense. Don't do crazy things with the cords. Don't tangle the blanket all up and then turn it on — keep it flat on your bed or couch. Don't wrap the blanket around your body and then try to see if you can reach the kitchen on the length of the cord (this one is just messy). Unless you're using a low voltage-blanket, consider turning the whole contraption off when you go to sleep, just to be safe.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit that researches electrical safety in North America, reports that electric blankets and their cozy cousin, the heating pad, combine to cause around 500 fires a year but that "almost all of these fires involve electric blankets that are more than 10 years old." Electric blanket newcomers really ought to have no fear, so long as they're using the devices properly and didn't buy them from a yard sale with the wires poking out. The only thing most users are in danger of is turning it up too high and waking up in a sweat.
Still, electric blankets' unfair reputation persists, at least among younger Americans. The electric blanket is a perversely lame device, something I had formerly associated with bad ideas from the 1970s, like yellow refrigerators and wall-to-wall carpeting. That's not to mention the fact that they're basically a giant blaring admission that you're too much of a baby to deal with a little cold.
Here's the thing, though: I am. There is nothing worse than crawling under cold sheets and then just lying there as you beg unconsciousness to take you. Prior to my life with an electric blanket, going to sleep would be an ordeal involving finding the thickest flannel pajamas I owned, burrowing under a pile of 15 covers, and then curling into a fetal position and shivering to warm my under-blanket pocket of air, which I would lose instantly if someone else got into bed. You wouldn't know any better if you've never lived with an electric blanket before, but I'm here to tell you that life doesn't have to be this way.
The other best part about an electric blanket — and one that doesn't get talked about as often as it should — is that they only warm what needs to be warmed (yourself). While people without electric blankets might wave away the suggestion of getting one, pointing to their Nest or some nonsense, keep in mind that while central heating warms the actual air of a room, it also dries it out and makes it stuffy. You can even save money by using an electric blanket in responsible doses, rather than keeping the thermostat on high overnight. And in drafty apartments, or places like New York where you might not control your own heat, they're all the more essential for comfort, and far safer than a space heater.
If you and your partner happen to disagree on a satisfactory level of heat, there are plenty of blankets that allow you to each control your own side of the bed. And if you're single, that's even more reason to invest in an electric blanket — they are especially snuggly when you're sleeping solo.
Sure, there's still a certain preposterousness to electric blankets, the ultimate indulgent luxury. But winter is long and just getting started, and there are many chilly nights ahead. When you get in bed tonight, think about how nice being warm is. Think about how you could be warm right now. And then order that electric blanket.
You can thank me later.