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Posted on Apr 16, 2024 in Blog, Writing

Mattress Tester

Mattress Tester

When I was in high school, my Sunday night ritual consisted of watching the 10 pm news in my parents’ bedroom and wishing I could become a tester for the mattress store that regularly advertised on the program. This may come as a surprise to people who knew me as a high-achieving student; after all, a career as mattress tester doesn’t imply great ambition.

Me, living the dream as a mattress tester.

Truth is, I hated school. Being a top student was stressful. I couldn’t miss too many test questions or lose points on essays, lest a rival end up with a higher grade point average. And academics was all I had. If I made a sports team — which I did only twice in my high school career, before enough people tried out for softball that they actually had to cut people — I warmed the bench. The school clubs where I became a mainstay were the unpopular ones. The staff of our never-read school newspaper was so small that as co-editor I wrote half of the articles myself. (I got a lot of practice writing that way!) And speaking of unpopular, kids who generally like school do so because that’s where they see their friends. Without friends, it’s a lonely and alienating place.

My little pig, Elon, tests a mattress too.

It’s no secret that many students who appear successful are in fact anxious, isolated, stressed, and unhappy. One of the reasons I gravitated toward writing young adult books is that I wanted to create books for the kind of kid I was in middle and high school. I didn’t see books that presented people like me, or portrayed as heroes the kind of kids I wanted to read about.

For me, things did get better. It’s a cliche, but a lot of times it’s true. I went to university far from home, where I met people with whom I connected. I had more choice over my life, including the subjects I could study and the other interests I could pursue. Athletic ability isn’t the kind of currency at this level as it is in high school.

The result of a microwave popcorn accident. We’re outdoors because the fire alarm also went off.

And decades later after careers as a teacher and a magazine editor, I achieved my teenage dream (haha!) of becoming a mattress tester. Late last year I answered a call from Wirecutter, the consumer product/advice column of the New York Times, which was looking for senior adults and people with disabilities to evaluate products. I applied because I appreciated both the Times‘s inclusion goals and the money, as even well-published, award-winning authors have trouble making ends meet. Since landing the position, I’ve tested, among other items, kitchen appliances, water bottles, reacher/grabbers, and, yes, mattresses. I survived a microwave popcorn accident (it wasn’t my fault!), and was invited back to serve as a photo model for the recommended mattresses. Apparently, I was a very good mattress tester — or perhaps I had the perfect medium body type to complement the large and small models who joined me for the session. Kirby, Maggie, and I had a lot of fun together, and my stuffed pig, Elon, even got into the act.

Not only did I not cause the accident, my popcorn came out perfectly.

I look forward to seeing the mattress recommendations when the article is published, as well as to future days working with Wirecutter. I still have a hard time believing that I eventually got to be a professional mattress tester. What we imagine can become real!


  1. I love this so much!!

    • Thank you, Jacqui! It really was a lot of fun! (And maybe there’s a book in there.)


  1. Making Kidlit in Translation Mainstream | Lyn Miller-Lachmann - […] may be thinking that I’ve taken this mattress testing thing a bit too seriously, given that I’ve been sleeping…

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