"To the sensitive young woman who has had the benefits of proper upbringing, the wedding day is, ironically, both the happiest and most terrifying day of her life. On the positive side, there is the wedding itself, in which the bride is the central attraction in a beautiful and inspiring ceremony, symbolizing her triumph in securing a male to provide for all her needs for the rest of her life. On the negative side, there is the wedding night, during which the bride must pay the piper, so to speak, by facing for the first time the terrible experience of sex."For women, sex is a chore, a duty that must be endured. God knows they don't enjoy the sex act. Feigning headaches, stomachaches and menses can only postpone the dreaded inevitable. Then it's time to grit your teeth, hike your skirt, Lie Back and Think of England. The phrase seems to have originated in one Lady Hillingdon's journal, where she wrote in 1912 that "When I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, open my legs and think of England." However, the journal itself has never been found, so it's uncertain how reliable this attribution is. It's possible the phrase was invented as a joke on the assumption that Victorian and Edwardian ladies were prudish in the extreme. Keep in mind, though, that in this time period it wasn't unheard of for a woman of a high class to have to choose between marrying a strange man many years her senior who had no interest in pleasing her, and suffering serious societal repercussions including being possibly left penniless when her parents died. In other words, lying back and thinking of England may have been the best of bad options. Additionally, Lady Hillingdon (if she was indeed the author) was in her fifties when she wrote this, and so may have had problems —many now treatable—which rendered sex no longer enjoyable for her. Finally, contrary to Common Knowledge, it's got nothing to do with Queen Victoria, who had died eleven years earlier and who was very Happily Married. The sentiment "All Women Are Prudes" is also used and is not as severe. It is also used as an Inverted Trope, one used to prolong a sexual experience: when a man is reaching the point of no return, he may get in the habit of thinking of something else to try and muster up some more stamina. Thinking of Baseball (or Cricket, or some other sport - perhaps even one in which balls are not struck with some form of stick) is especially common. Thinking of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day is a terrifying last resort recommended only for characters in comedies (... however, young men in Latin American countries were often recommended to think of Celia Cruz - before her death, that is - although Mexican men prefer Elba Esther Gordillo). Compare British Stuffiness and Stiff Upper Lip, related to the same national stereotypes. Contrast Think Unsexy Thoughts. For the trope about wives "putting up with" sex they don't actually want, see Marital Rape License. See also Awful Wedded Life for when nothing about being in a relationship is enjoyable.
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- This phrase is used a lot in Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction. As in, a LOT (but it's usually a massive inversion of the trope). It's somewhat played straight in this fic, which has Queen Victoria herself literally doing this.
- Mentioned in the Thor fanfic Between Worlds, during a flashback showing Loki taking a young noblewoman to bed. She invokes this (replace England with Asgard), thinking that he will not let her enjoy the experience. She's wrong.
- Done in the Frozen fanfic Ice on the Rhine, where Elsa has a marriage/procreation agreement with Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon) and on her wedding night she lies back and thinks of Arendelle. However in Elsa's case it's less dislike of sex, and more due to political calculus.
- In Hivefled Mindfang manages to secure protection against Dualscar for herself and The Dolorosa by having both of them have sex with The Grand Highblood, and keeps this sort of attitude during it to keep her disgust at bay. She also thinks to herself that she'll wipe Dolorosa's mind of it after to spare her from remembering it.
- The line is used in A Scotsman in Egypt by Depraved Homosexual Puccio to a handsome and rather uninformed English diplomat, who wasn't aware he was an extra incentive in allying Milan and England against the Scots.
- Frozen Hearts Melting:
Narcissa: And eventually like I said, Lucius only came to my bed quarterly and we have settled into a routine where I am ready and he uses a lubrication and engorgio charm and it's over in about ten minutes. I just stare at the photo of the three of us on my nightstand. It gets me through it.
- Snorkacks: Redux:
Luna: A woman is supposed to be subservient to her husband in all things. Thatís how the pureblood laws are written. For instance, did you know that a pureblood witch is still expected to enter her wedding bed a virgin, undress her husband and then herself, lie on her back, and then allow her husband to do exactly as he pleases, without protest of any kind, whether she wants what he does, or not.
- A Rare Male Example in ''A Northern Dragoness when Jonnel Stark tries to protest about his Arranged Marriage. When he wonders if his bride was refused by the king for being ugly, his father merely answers Jonnel will have to bed her with his eyes closed.
- In the Jane Eyre fic "Mustard Seed, Mrs. Fairfax gives this as advice to Jane on her wedding night. Jane isn't thrilled with the idea.
- In the RWBY fanfic The First Times, the girls talk about (you guessed it) their first sexual experiences. In Blake's story she had to prostitute herself for food and shelter following a surge in anti-Faunus racism. To distract herself from the act, she tried to count the number of tiles on the ceiling.
- Used in the Neptunia fanfic Buyout during the Attempted Rape of Blanc, told from her POV. "Just lie back and think of Lowee..."
Films — Live-Action
- In Like Water for Chocolate, this view is held by both men and women. They have sex only to procreate, they use a special bedsheet between them with just a small hole you-know-where; and before the act they both pray to God, asking forgiveness for any pleasure they might accidentally have while trying to make a baby. This system is used by one of the main characters because he isn't attracted to the woman he is about to have sex with. He married her to become closer to her sister, the one he actually loves. But because he doesn't want to dishonor his wife or fail to fulfill his duties as a man, he agrees to have quick, unenjoyable sex once in a while.
- The Assignment.
Jack Shaw: Don't think of it as cheating on your wife. Think of it as... fuckin' for your flag.
Amos: When in doubt, close your eyes and think of England.
- A variation in The Guns of Navarone. Sergeant Miller is trying to force Captain Mallory to kill a traitor.
Miller: Climb down off that cross of yours, close your eyes, think of England, and pull the trigger!
- Done by James Bond of all people.
James Bond: My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?
- In Thunderball.
- In You Only Live Twice, Bond mutters, "The things I do for England," while unzipping an evil woman's dress.
- Parodied and gender-flipped in xXx. When Xander has to sleep with one of the Big Bad's prostitutes to maintain his cover, he smirks and mumbles "Oh, the things I'm gonna do for my country."
- The Right Stuff: When John Glenn (Ed Harris) has to masturbate for a sperm sample, he's heard humming the Marines' Hymn ("From the halls of Montezuma..."). In the next stall, Air Force pilot Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) tries to outdo him, humming a spirited rendition of the Air Force Song ("Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...").
- Mocked in The Stone of Destiny, when it comes time to suit up to steal the stone of destiny in question, Ian must get all of his tools on inside the car, with Gavin's help. To stop him from squirming, Gavin tells him to "lie back and think of Scotland."
- Invoked word for word in the Rifftrax of The Room. Michelle is trying to convince Lisa that it's wrong to cheat on Johnny. As Michelle leaves, she reminds Lisa to "think about what I said." Kevin says "Just lie back and think of England." In this case, though, it isn't so much that anyone thinks Lisa shouldn't enjoy sex, but because Johnny looks like "a catfish in a suit."
- In A Brother's Price Jerin fears that he may have to do this, as he dreads being married to the daughters of the neighbour family Brindle. Eventually, he marries a group of sisters one of whom was raped by her previous husband, and does a something that looks suspiciously like a "mount him and think of England" variant of this. They do cuddle affectionately, though.
- Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride (etc.) is a 19th century educational pamphlet intended to prepare upright young women for the horrors of — (shoulder check) — sex. It is an obvious hoax, but it's probably one of the most amusing parodies of the trope you'll ever read.
- In one scene in Hunting Ground, from the Mercy Thompson universe, Anna is taking the lead during sex and being particularly active and assertive. Her husband teases her by saying, "Well, I'll just lie back and think of England, then." Her response is that if he's thinking of England, she's not doing it right, and steps up the action.
- In Dragon Bones it is implied that that was how sex worked for Ward's parents. At best. Averted with other women; while the marriage bed of the queen is probably this (the king prefers young men, anyway, and he's a jerk), she does have a younger lover, who, it seems, is .. talented, judging from the noises that his brother, who sits in the room next to the bedroom where things are happening, complains about.
- In Nineteen Eighty-Four, "goodthinkful" women are taught to call sexual intercourse "our duty to the Party." Of course, men are discouraged from enjoying sex as well, and it's the Party's goal to get it seen as a disgusting but necessary act because the Party doesn't want anyone to feel devotion or attachment to anything but the Party. It's mentioned that the Party's scientists are working on altering the nervous system to remove the orgasm entirely.
- Invoked in The Guardians by Alice when she's trying to convince Jake that she's not attracted to him.
Jake: "So you'll let me [kiss you]?"Alice: "I will if I must. I shall bear it by thinking of England."
- In the Gemma Doyle books, Felicity mentions this trope when the girls find a picture of a man and woman having sex. Though all four girls have sex drives to some extent (Gemma kisses Kartik and gets aroused, Felicity and Pippa are Lipstick Lesbians), so they laugh when the phrase is brought up.
- In To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Robert A. Heinlein doesn't use the exact quote (only reasonable, since most of the book is set in the US). But before Maureen's wedding, her mother gives her the "traditional" introduction-to-sex talk and tells her to just lie back and think of her children. Why she bothers is unclear, since Maureen, like most Howard Families brides of that time (including all female relatives whose first marriages are discussed), is pregnant, and her mother is very well aware Maureen has had an active sex life for quite some time.
- Subverted, justified and gender switched in Mix Beer With Liquor And You Will Get Sicker. Lauchlan goes into his relationship with near to no knowledge of male to male relations beyond tab A goes into slot B. He actually believes that the dominant partner will be the only participant who feels pleasure, and resigns himself to performing this trope. Thankfully, Corbin is quick to disillusion him.
- The protagonist of Moving Mars (except, you know, with Mars instead of England) uses this line to counter a clumsy seduction attempt from her boss.
- In the Aubrey-Maturin series, Sophie may have been brought up to follow this trope, despite Jack's best efforts to encourage her to enjoy their marital relations. Then again, Jack approaches sex with the same cheerful energy with which he approaches boarding actions, and his idea of foreplay is getting drunk at dinner. Sophie has good reason to not enjoy sex with her husband.
- In Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, the heroine, when she was forced to sleep with the man who bid for her virginity, lay back and "put all the force of my mind to work in making a sort of mental barrier between [the man] and meÖI searched the shadows on the ceiling for something to distract me."
- This happens in Froi Of The Exiles where Quintana is forced to be with all the last-born males in the hope of breaking the curse of non-fertility in their country. She just makes shapes in the shadows with her hands while they quickly finish.
- In the Arly Hanks mysteries by Joan Hess, Mrs. Jim Bob's mother taught her that a proper wife should lie back and think of England. She takes this recommendation literally, although she'd never understood what England had to do with a small-town Arkansas woman's sex life.
- Something along these lines is stated to be what the prostitute characters resort to in Redeeming Love, to the point that the heroine, a former prostitute herself, cannot understand why her husband possibly thinks she is capable of enjoying sex. Fortunately, he eventually proves her cynicism wrong in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Jace tells Clary to do this before they kiss in front the fairy court in City of Ashes. More like "Close your eyes and think of England."
- More common than not in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Sex is often something the female characters need to endure, not enjoy. Princess Sophia in particular does her best to knock herself out with wine before consummating her marriage.
- In The Red Tent, Zilpah views sex with Jacob like this, because she Does Not Like Men. It is hinted that she may be a lesbian or asexual, or it may have something to do with her father molesting her and Leah as children. In any case, she only sleeps with Jacob because Leah (whom she is a Lady-in-Waiting to) has asked her to, and makes it clear that she did not enjoy it when her sisters ask how it was. After she very nearly dies giving birth to the twin sons from that union, she tells Jacob that she doesn't want to have sex with him ever again.
- People who live in the crushing theocracy of Holyland in The Gate to Women's Country refer to sex as a man "doing his duty". No one's supposed to enjoy any of it, of course.
- Warbreaker: When Siri is wed to the God King Susebron and told to produce an heir, the palace administrator Bluefingers warns her that Susebron could have her killed for any reason. Although she is the only one allowed to touch the God King, Bluefingers suggests not touching him too much, and just letting him handle everything. She spends every night of the next week kneeling naked in front of the God King, waiting for him to ravish her. She eventually snaps and yells at him. The priests blame her for the whole affair, and not-so subtly threaten her homeland with war. As it turns out, Susebron knows absolutely nothing about sex. His only education is a children's book his mother left him. He was therefore completely bewildered at Siri's behavior. The reason the priests got mad at Siri is because it was her duty to seduce Susebron. Unfortunately, Bluefingers was secretly a rebel trying to distract the empire from his own homeland, so he deliberately gave Siri incorrect instructions in order to delay the birth of the heir and foster distrust between both sides.
- In The Handmaid's Tale, the protagonist is assigned to a high-ranking official and has to have ritualized, emotionless sex with him in order to conceive. She thinks of the phrase "close your eyes and think of England" during one such encounter and mistakenly attributes it to Queen Victoria.
- In the poem Bored Courtesan this is a subversion, as the titular courtesan isn't thinking of anything besides doing the deed (she's interested and is wanting to do it) and neither is she fulfilling her "duties" while she thinks.
- Coral Lansbury's Sweet Alice:
Nobody had told her much about sex, and what she had seen on the neighbouring farms had hardly filled her with any joyful anticipation. Aunt Matilda told her that a decent woman closed her eyes and spelled chrysanthemum slowly while it was going on, and if it was still continuing then you spelled herbaceous and bougainvillea in that order. No man, Aunt Matilda had said with considerable satisfaction, had ever been able to outlast a bougainvillea.
- The line itself was used by Bear Grylls in one episode of Man vs. Wild. So, what could a man on a show about wilderness survival be doing saying a line like that? No, nothing like that. He was demonstrating how to use an enema to bypass consuming dirty water to absorb the nutrients.
- In Will & Grace, when Jack is dating Beverly Leslie (Karen was forcing him to be with Beverly because she was broke and he was rich) he mentions that he doesn't really want to stay with him and doesn't want to "do it." Karen simply saying, "Oh you'll do it. You'll do it the same way any self-respecting woman does. Get on your back, point your heels to Jesus and think of handbags."
- Dempsey and Makepeace, episode "The Squeeze":
"Besides, he's only with us for 12 months. Lie back and enjoy it. Think of England."
- Stargate Atlantis, episode "The Return: Part 2":
Richard Woolsey: He put his hand in my forehead. How can you resist that?
Maj. Gen. Jack O'Neill: Well, I like to close my eyes and think of England.
- Torchwood has "Lie back and think of Torchwood" in the episode "Countrycide" while Owen tends to Gwen's gunshot wound.
- Discussed and invoked on That '70s Show. Jackie knows that the trope isn't true, but pretends it is anyway. If the guys find out that girls enjoy it too, Jackie will lose one of her "buy me stuff" bargaining tools.
- Discussed and invoked again in Desperate Housewives. Gabrielle says that their mothers had the right idea. By convincing men that sex was a unpleasant chore they didn't enjoy, they were able to use it as a bargaining tool. When men realized that women enjoy it as much as men, it eliminated some of their power.
- One episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman finds the women of the town sitting in their quilting circle. Dr. Quinn outright says that her mother only described "it" as "the wifely duty". However, it turns out that she finds marriage "very agreeable", to which all the other women readily concur. One of them even slyly comments that "if men knew we find it just as agreeable as they do, they'd be very upset."
- Referenced in a Gilmore Girls story line. Lane says that the only thing that stuck from her ultra-religious mother is waiting to have sex until she's married, even though she does want to. When Lane is about to be married, her mom sits her down to have The Talk. Her advice basically consists of "You'll have to 'do it' with this boy. If you're lucky, like me, it will only happen once" while Lane tries not to die of embarrassment.
- After she's married and home from her honeymoon Lane tells Rory that her first time was so awful (on the beach at sunrise, with the cold water and the sand ...) that she's convinced no woman ever sincerely enjoys it.
- In another (humorous) reference to this, Rory gives Lorelai advice in the Living Pictures episode that in order to stay still she should "Close your eyes and think of England".
- United States of Tara references this in one episode.
- True Blood: Pam says "Lie back and think of Estonia" to Eric's new Estonian dancer, while giving her oral sex (it is unknown if any bloodsucking was involved). The girl was clearly enjoying Pam's "services."
- Veronica Mars:
- V suggests this as a way for Mac to get through prom with her goober of a date.
- Mac is excited/nervous about getting a hotel room after prom; Veronica says this jokingly to calm her down.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- In their mockery of The Starfighters, one of the many, many jokes made over the endless Stock Footage of midair refuelling in the movie was "just lie back and think of England's airspace."
- For Agent for H.A.R.M., a Russian woman deals with our sleazy middle-aged "hero" Adam Chance, prompting Mike to say, "She's thinking of England, France, the entire European community, the Middle East..."
- In the episode "Reluctant Heroes" of Highlander: The Series, Duncan MacLeod says, "Close your eyes, think of England," before cutting off an English villain's head.
- In one episode of The New Statesman, one of the conditions that a depraved older man puts on doing a deal with Alan is having sex with Alan's flunky Piers.
Alan: Now, Piers, just bite the pillow and think of England!Piers: Ohhh no! I had enough of that in boarding school!
- Played with in Scrubs; generally, any time they pull out the "women have power over men because they can go longer without sex" joke plays it straight. One episode, less so: Carla's hoop for Turk is to prove to her that he truly knows her, which he does by giving her a gift which is relevant to who she is as a person rather than the generic flowers or chocolate (in this case, a pen, because she loves to write everything down). So when he learns, and subsequently puts off sex to tell her, that it turns out the lost-and-found box where he got it is actually an " ass-and-found box", she almost tells him he doesn't get any...until she realizes he pretty much just did exactly what she told him better than any gift ever could. What's weird with Scrubs is that they had one episode where Carla freaks out because she wasn't able to have an orgasm and apparently that had never happened to her before. Clearly she does enjoy sex.
- Referenced word-for-word in Bodyline: Douglas' girlfriend says she does this whenever he starts talking about cricket.
- An episode of How I Met Your Mother had a Flashback to Barney's youth, wherein his brother James, who at this point in time didn't yet realize that he is gay, reveals that he always thinks of his favorite sports team while having sex with women - in order to finish quicker.
- Invoked in Jonathan Creek. A female doctor says this phrase to Johnathan right before administering a rectal exam.
- Used jokingly by Franklin on Babylon 5. When Ivanova learns that an alien diplomat will only seal a potential alliance through sex with her, he suggests, "You could put a bag over his head and do it for Babylon 5!"
- Averted when Cora begins a conversation with Mary before her wedding on Downton Abbey, as she tells her daughter that "it really is terrible fun!"
- Game of Thrones:
- Daenerys has to go through this during the early days of her marriage. Drogo would simply flip her over and go to town on a whim, with no real thought to her enjoyment. After Dany learns some secrets of lovemaking, however, her marriage improves greatly both in and out of the bedroom.
- The High Sparrow seems to see this as the normal state of affairs for women. Sex is only for producing heirs, and pleasure is irrelevant.
Margaery: I no longer have such desires.High Sparrow: Congress does not require desire on the woman's part. Only patience.
- A very dark version of this trope is presented when Jaime advises Brienne to think of Renly when her would-be rapists have their way with her, knowing she will be killed if she resists.
- Gender-inverted in Blott on the Landscape. Lady Maud wants children, and is griping that her husband isn't interested in having sex with her (because she's a Big Beautiful Woman, while he's more interested in kinky sex with his young mistress).
"Women have always been expected to lie back and think of England.""I'm not sure thinking of England has the same effect on a man.""I don't care what he thinks about, as long as he lies back! I'll do the rest."
- In the Mini Series Children Of The Dust, a woman is advised by her overbearing mother-in-law that she must "relax and think lovely thoughts'', because it's her duty to give her husband a son.
- In Into the Badlands, Lydia tries to council Veil with her inevitable Forced Marriage to Quinn, telling her that she has to go through with it for her and her infant son's sake. Luckily, the marriage is not consummated.
- In The End of the F***ing World (season 1, episode 2), the phrase is used by Phil.
Arthur: Touch me and I'll scream.
- Zigzagged: Men and women alike see sex as necessary for pumping out kids, but very few seem to be that interested in it. The main exceptions are Arthur (who spent his formative years in Rome and has several mistresses, but doesn't seem to view sex as a particularly worthwhile goal) and one of his mistresses, who thinks being good in bed is a good if not the most important trait in a queen.
- Ever on the lookout for new ways to antagonize his son-in-law Arthur, Leodagan gets him to participate in a clan tradition after pacifying rebels: the victorious leader must rape the defeated chief's eldest daughter (Arthur is understandably disgusted but Leodagan threatens to secede if the king refuses to honor his alies' traditions). So Arthur enters and explains to the girl that he's willing to act as though he'd raped her, but it turns out the girl is the chief's second-eldest daughter who was very much looking forward to it (Arthur being known as one of the few men in Britain who bathes and has romantic ideals), to the point that she'd persuaded her sister to switch places. As Arthur continues to refuse to do the deed after they come to an agreement (he'll make her one of his official mistresses and she'll live at Kaamelott), she ends up threatening to rape him at swordpoint.
- Punned by Skyclad as "Think Back And Lie Of England".
- Used in Emilie Autumn's "I Know Where You Sleep": 'God Save The Queen, I fucked you, I can never live it down, I can never live it down...'
- Specifically, it sounds like whoever she's singing to is an utterly repulsive person (at least in behavior). It's unclear if the attitude is exclusive to that person or is universal.
- "Marry Me" takes this attitude towards the ugly husband, whom she married for his money, but she has a lover on the side and maintains that "I'll fuck who I choose/ For I've nothing to lose!", implying that she's pretty active otherwise.
- "How can you lie back and think of England when you don't even know who's in the team?" - Billy Bragg's 'Shirley'.
- Implied in The Lonely Island's "I Just Had Sex", where one woman is mentioned as constantly looking at her watch during the act.
- The song "Born to Be a Dancer" includes the line "Once you asked me what I'm thinking/I lay back and think of England".
- In Divinity: Dragon Commander, you may marry the cold and practical Princess Camilla, who also serves as the Supreme Justice of her people. If you encourage her to be a Hanging Judge in her rulings, she will harden into a more Lawful Neutral character. Eventually, she will tell you that if the issue of heirs should arise, she will simply close her eyes "and think of Justice."
- Out There: Sherry uses "while I think of my homeland" in reference to hand-shaking, which is a parody even more than is normal. For someone who Hates Being Touched, that'd be a legitimate reaction.
- Invoked in Shortpacked! when Amber is trying to determine the gender of her new pet hamster.
- Played with in this strip of Partially Clips.
- King of the Hill:
- A female police officer attracted to Hank feels him up during a frisking. For the duration he sings the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the National Anthem.
- In another episode, Peggy has to be a substitute teacher for ... (dramatic chord) ... a sex ed class. Discussing with her female friends the teaching horrors that await her, she shows them the sex ed textbook she used while growing up — which just contains pictures of "flowers." One of her friends says she used the same textbook, and that it was EXCELLENT... because she could close her eyes and imagine the flowers while her husband was having sex with her.
Peggy: Oh, you poor thing.
- Name-dropped in another episode where Hank and Cotton send Bobby to a military school. At lights out, the instructor tells the boys to be ready for their upperclassmens' "welcoming party". Bobby, upon hearing a noise, tells the boy at the next bunk "Lie back and think of England!" This was actually told to him by Peggy, who admits she isn't sure what it means. Bobby does it literally, thinking of typical British things like Paddington Bear and the Spice Girls. (It was The '90s.)
- The Simpsons episode, "Postcards from the Wedge", has Lisa saying this to Bart when he is about to be given a rectum examination from Marge checking on his fever:
Lisa: Just close your eyes and think of Milhouse. [chuckles]
- The Futurama episode "All the Presidents' Heads" gender-flips it. During some time travel, Fry goofs and causes America to lose the Revolution. After returning to a ridiculously British 31st century America, Farnsworth doesn't want to try and fix it, since he's now a duke and wealthy beyond his wildest dreams... until he finds out that he's also the consort of the horrifically ugly Queen.
Queen of England: That's right, love. For centuries, the Farnsworth gentleman has provided service to the Queen. Now, close your eyes and think of England.
"I think I'll paint the ceiling beige...Yeah, beige, to match the curtains."