Friday, January 2, 2009

Do You Have A Hanky?

If you will indulge me for a moment, I would like to complain briefly about the beastly cold I have had for the past few days.  My head is dreadfully stuffed up, and I feel that I have been spending the vast majority of my time blowing my, by now, very tender nose.

Puffy tissues, tissues with lotion, they all rub my poor proboscis raw.  And there is nothing more depressing when you already feel like death warmed over than channeling the look of Rudolph... or rather, an eczema-ridden Rudolph.

Is there anything to be done?  It turns out there is, but to find the solution, you must delve deep into the past, to the days when commonly accepted practices demanded that a man always have a clean, white handkerchief on hand to offer a lady should she find herself in need.

I was first introduced to the wonders of the soft, cotton handkerchief by Paul, who I must say does have exceptionally good manners, so I suppose I should not be surprised that it was he who first offered me one.  But he opened my eyes to a whole new world.  A world in which I could blow my nose without wincing in pain, a world in which my nose remained closer to white than red throughout the course of a cold.  And as a plus, it is a far more environmentally responsible option than going through an entire box of Kleenex.

Now I have heard some concerns regarding hygiene (and I suppose, the general gross-out factor) when it comes to cloth handkerchiefs.  Look, the reality is that when you have a terrible cold, you are completely gross, whether you are using paper tissues or cotton handkerchiefs.  

In terms of hygiene, I have found that handkerchiefs tend to be quite large, and quite, shall we say, absorbent.  Which basically means that during the course of a day, you can use an area, fold the area over on itself, leaving the rest of the cloth clean and ready for your use.  It is possible to do this several times over.  And at the end of the day, just drop it in the laundry hamper to be washed with the rest of your laundry.  And if you're feeling very proper, go ahead and iron them after they are laundered, but it is most certainly not necessary in my opinion.  I feel that ironing your handkerchiefs is right up there with ironing your sheets...lovely if you have a household staff at your disposal, but not mandatory if you don't.

So far my favorite handkerchiefs have been those that I've bought on the first floor of the Barney's men's store (I believe that they cost something like $30 for 3 about three years ago), but you also can find good ones at Thomas Pink (and they will embroider your initials on them for a nominal fee, which I really love), and at Turnbull & Asser.

Your budget is your own business, but I would not advise going to crazy with respect to prices.  I have seen plain white handkerchiefs for $60 for one (please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this is absolutely insane).  I personally find it hard to distinguish the $15 ones from the $60 ones so I don't see the point of going to the high end.  But if your tastes are finer than mine, by all means, go for it.  

My only other pieces of advice is this:  go with cotton over linen.  As beautiful and crisp as linen is (I love it for napkins for just this reason), it is rough on the delicate skin of your face, thus negating the entire point of the cloth handkerchief!


wambalus said...

Hankies seem to be a british thing. Let's just say they're right about one thing ;)

I like hankies. And as long as you wash them regularly, they are no more gross than strewing used kleenex around the floor.

Terry B said...

Sorry you've got such an awful cold, Laura. Selfishly, though, I was relieved that "Do You Have A Hanky" didn't refer to some tear-jerker chick flick you were going to rave about. Beware of getting monograms on your hankies, by the way. They can be murder on a tender nose.

Laura said...

Yes, the monograms must be used mindfully, I agree. Luckily, the cold has largely retreated, so I'm back to hanky free living!

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