2011.01.26 Bath towel mysteries

Written by David Green.


We’re traveling back 20 years this week to a column that I have no recollection writing. It starts off with a discussion of bath towels, something that still brings a sense of mystery to my marriage.

Then it turns to the vacuum cleaner and my dislike of cleaning everything off the floor before vacuuming. We solved that problem by not vacuuming.

If this discussion were continued today, talk would turn to the need to empty all the dirty dishes out of the sink before washing can begin. One of us tends to leave dirties in the sink.

Eventually we’ll find the solution: Stop washing dishes.


I learned something truly fascinating about my wife the other night, something that could preserve our marriage forever. Unfortunately, she learned something about me over the weekend that could destroy it all. We’ll just have to wait and see which force triumphs.

What I learned about Colleen is that she has her own bath towel. Nearly nine years of marriage and just last Saturday I discovered she has her own towel.

There’s a good reason for my ignorance over those nine years. Colleen doesn’t have one particular towel that she owns. We have no monogrammed “his” or “her” items. In fact, it’s not even a specific white towel or pink towel or any color. Essentially, the best definition of her towel would be “whichever of the large, fluffy ones is the cleanest.”

If it fell to the floor around the vicinity of the diaper pail it’s not hers. If one of the kids wore it around the house for a half hour after a shower, dragging it across the kitchen floor before it was swept and then down the hallway collecting dust balls, then that one wasn’t hers, either.

A towel that’s perfectly clean except that it’s been used over and over for a week and a half—that isn’t her towel either. She might use it, but it isn’t her towel.

How she keeps track of the cleanliness of each towel is beyond me. It went beyond her once last week, as well, and that’s how this whole thing got started. I’ll spare you the details, but the situation brought forth a response from her that went something like this: “You do that with a towel, then you hang it back up to dry again?”

We discussed the matter with some friends Saturday night and heard this sorrowful tale.

“We were this close to divorce,” said the male friend, holding up a hand and allowing a mere quarter inch of empty space between his thumb and forefinger. “We sat to ponder the problem, knowing there must be some way to save our marriage.”

That’s when they hit upon the notion of separate but equal towels. Everything has been fine ever since, my friend said.

“When it comes down to the nitty-gritty,” he said, “it’s all a matter of towels.”

That’s fine, but what Colleen learned about me is from the realm of vacuum sweepers. It could probably be called Differences between Men & Women, No. 174.

I don’t mind vacuuming—particularly in dim light—but I don’t like to spend a half hour picking up everything from the floor before I can get started. Shove it to the side. Kick it over into the corner. Let’s get this machine in motion.

That’s nothing new. What’s going to endanger our marriage is Colleen learning of my fondness for hearing the noise a vacuum can make. You’re using the power head and you suck up a Christmas tree ornament hook. It beats around inside the head for a while and eventually gets ejected.

I like the challenge of listening to a noise and trying to guess what’s going to pop out before it appears. Is it a penny? Nope, just a spoon.

Well, the fun ended Saturday night before our company arrived, when I sucked up Rosanna’s change purse. It was a mistake, honest. The vacuum made a noise I never heard before and then another new noise. And then I discovered the drive belt was broken. I later learned that my neck was almost broken.

I showed this column to Colleen and told her I wasn’t finished with the ending. She said the only ending would be to publicly announce that from now on I’m going to pick up first.

No way. Kick that idea into the corner. Shove it to the side. But I will pledge this: Never will I suck up her towel.

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