Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Towels and tribulations

When the Farmer and I got married, we got towels as wedding gifts. A. Lot. Of. Towels. I’d registered for household furnishings at a local department store (this was before bridal registries at Target and Walmart were a thing, if that tells you how absolutely antiquated I am), but many thrifty friends and family members bought less expensive towelery (that’s a word – don’t argue) at the big box stores instead. 

 I’m totally not complaining. Towels are wonderful, useful, practical gifts with many applications beyond post-bath drying. Subduing cats for medical treatment and preventing in-house floods when plumbing malfunctions are just two of them.

But eventually the vintage 1991 towels wore out and I was forced to replace them. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have stockpiled towels like people stockpiled toilet paper a year ago. There would be boxes and boxes of brand-new towels stashed in our house, waiting to be pressed into duty when their predecessors expired. 

But I didn’t. And life went on. And now the inevitable has happened. Another 15 years have passed and the circa 2006 towels have worn out. I’m amazed they lasted as long as they did, especially since 2007 marked the arrival of Phoenix in my life and he was obsessed with destroying - among other things - towels. One of his great joys in life was to shove into the bathroom after I showered and attack the towel. I was usually done with it by the time he got his teeth on it. Sometimes I wasn’t. The result was every towel in our house had a series of puncture wounds. 

Even today, there are still a few Phoenix towels in the people cupboard and even more in the dog drawer, where I use them to dry a dog with no interest in attacking bathroom linens. I can hold them up and see light through the holes and they make me smile. 

Buying new towels has been one of those things that was simple in concept but difficult in execution. Towels have gotten complicated. They have evolved from simple pieces of terry cloth used to dry wet skin after a bath to elaborate, plush fabrics whose main purpose seems to be being put on display to show off how luxurious one’s bathroom is. Our bathroom is strictly farmhouse utilitarian - it's not campaigning for a photo spread in a home decorating magazine. 

Then there is something called a bath sheet. I am unclear on why anyone would want one of these since they are the approximate size and weight of a sleeping bag. Did I miss something in the last 30 years? Has there been a shift to wearing towels as garments? I’ve never enjoyed a lifestyle where lounging about, swathed shoulder to ankle in a towel, has been a normal practice. Towels are part of the journey, not the destination. 

Most of us have a designated towel cupboard in our bathrooms. It holds a certain number of towels and they have to be folded in a specific manner (bi-fold or tri-fold). If you don’t fold them the right way, you can’t get the door shut. Between the bath sheets and the ultra-plush luxury fabrics, we were going to need to build an addition onto the house just to hold the new towels. 

My initial forays into new towel purchasing were not successful. Even though I avoided the voluminous bath sheets, I bought what I thought was the standard-issue bath towel, only to find it was larger than its thin and frayed colleagues. It interrupted the tidy arrangement of the towel cupboard. 

After several more towels purchased at different stores did not fit either, I resorted to the ultimate in OCD: I measured my old towels and found out manufacturers have moved forward with a “More is better!” approach. 

No. More is not better. More does not fit. More irritates my need for things in cupboards to line up neatly. I was ready to pull the old, raggedy towels out of the designated dog towel drawer (where things also line up neatly) and press them back into service for the humans, but then I’d be faced with the “Is this a dog towel or people towel?” conundrum. Don’t laugh. The struggle is real.

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