Posted: August 18, 2014 in Humor

There’s a custom in America, and I suspect a few other countries, to place useful things on a useful space in a useful room and then to issue an edict throughout the house, stating that such things are hereby off-limits, rendering those things useless.

The custom of placing decorative towels on a hook or a rack or upon a shelf next to the dried flowers or above the wicker basket that holds the decorative soaps that we are not allowed to use has been going on for at least three generations, testing the self-discipline of children — and grown men — since the end of the depression.  

decorative towels

Look, but don’t touch… and by God, keep your damn hands off my flower, too.

In my house, such towels often become the magnet for the toothpaste left over after tooth-brushing regimens, the streaks of white or blue evidencing the failed self-discipline of a teenager living under this roof.  I, as a grown man, would certainly never do such a thing.  I always wait until three or nine months of dust has accumulated on my decorative towels before deciding to wash them.  I wouldn’t even think of forcing the issue by wiping the corner of my mouth with one of them.

I’m thinking of installing a second toilet in my bathroom.  It’ll be right along side the other one, but I’ll put a pretty purple bow upon it and then I’ll issue a new house rule:

“No pooping in the decorative toilet.”  

I mean, really… look how beautiful it is.

Photo courtesy of

  1. More than once, I’ve been snarled at by some person for using the wrong soap to wash my hands.

    “Not that soap!”
    “What do you mean ‘not that soap’? It’s the only soap I see!”

    I love the idea of a decorative toilet! Or maybe, just decorative toilet paper? You can put the decorative toilet paper on the spool in the wall next to the toilet, and put the toilet paper that people are expected to use across the bathroom in a cabinet somewhere … maybe the cabinet that contains the regular soap.

    • jodiardito says:

      omg! As I was reading this blog post I was reminded of the time I wanted to wash my hand with (gasp!) the seashell soap!! I got “the look” from the hostess. How about don’t put decorations where the dollar soap pump belongs!!!!? right? 😉

  2. You are so right! There are a million things we aren’t supposed to touch in the bathroom, even as adults! That’s the good stuff, we’re saving it.

    We used to have entire rooms like that, sofas and lamps covered in plastic, furniture that we were “saving.” I’m not sure why, perhaps in case the president ever came to visit?

  3. Laurie Welch says:

    Didn’t you know decorative towels are unused because you are not actually supposed to use or do anything in that bathroom AT ALL? That is because guests are not supposed to know you do all those base and not-to-talk-about bodily functions, lol

  4. So funny! Expecting company, I told my husband to clean up his bathroom, forgetting that I had already hung the “guest” hand towel…. of course he used that towel to wash out the sink! then returned it to the towel rack.

  5. Joan Spiller says:

    “Leaving things for best” is another way of saying “Bury me with this” (or perhaps even “if you use it I will bury YOU!”) and is a stupid and wasteful tradition that I hope dies with the younger “YOLO” gen! I have good towels and fabulously expensive china purchased on a whim one day and I USE them. Because I’m a bad ass *grin* Fun post 🙂

  6. Bruce Goodman says:

    There’s only one way to stop the nonsense: USE THEM.

  7. bkolisha says:

    Eric, please keep making me laugh. Your blog is sometimes the light of what is otherwise, at times, a bleak day. I enjoy these little snippets. Thank you!

  8. Absolutely hilarious! Thanks!

  9. writerinsoul says:

    Have you noticed the snooty little decorative towels appear to be made of a special non-drying fabric? Just TRY to dry your hands on ’em!

  10. dcomeaux says:

    Eric, let me give you kudos. You’ve at least given this whole fiasco some thought. Most men don’t consider or reconsider the whys of home décor. They just barge in and move and use everything then play dumb when caught. But you’re making me rethink the man’s psyche. Maybe you guys do pay attention to the smallest of details. Maybe you know more than you’ve let on. Oops! Did you let the cat out the bag? Eric, you are now a marked man! Sorry.

  11. PrairieChat says:

    I’d leave a witty comment, but I am using by guest brain.

  12. PrairieChat says:

    Obviously using my guest typing too

  13. Hi, Eric. Thanks for liking my last blog entry. I checked out your blog, and this particular post is EXACTLY the kind of bizarre cultural anomalies I want to document for posterity. I was wondering if I could either reference your blog in mine? Or…best yet…if you want to complete the “Share with Postremo” form on my blog and enter the things you’d like me to post on your behalf. I’d give your blog full credit. Not necessary of course. Just curious. Thanks!

    • Hello Mr. Oddfellow,

      I did indeed share the blog in question on your “Share with Postremo” page. I did so in the form of a link, as I wasn’t quite sure what the expectation was. Truth is, I have no problem with anybody disseminating my writing, so long as they credit me as the source. Is there any higher honor for an amateur writer?

      Feel free to re-blog anything I post as you wish, should you feel it worthy of the eyes of future anthropologists.

      Thank you,

      Eric Schlehlein

  14. Many thanks Eric for a great laugh – I was geting myself ready to close down and go to bed… it is 3,30am after all. Now I’m wide awake after laughing so hard. Oh My – a walk on the lighter side of life. Don’t think I’ll let my hubby see it tho – he doesn’t need any encouragement 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by – I’ve really enjoyed looking over your blog.
    Susan x

  15. chuwechuwe says:

    Reblogged this on Ode to Life and its Lessons and commented:
    Amusing read…

  16. […] is speaking specifically of decorative hand towels, that pervasive villain of middle-class suburbia. I’m sure many of my contemporaries know […]

  17. Chris says:

    This rings far too true, it seems to be some sort of nesting, the bathroom that you have to gingerly pick your way round the decorative adornments, and especially when the lady of the house has invited friends round, you are best to find a large cupboard and just hibernate for the duration least you breath too close to the mirror and just upset the reflection that makes the whole arrangement work just so. And don’t get me started on the crockery that can not be used, the bed linen that comes out on special occasions, it is a minefield out there,

  18. In the same vein, one of my favorites: a plate full of freshly baked cupcakes that are off limits to me, being that they are “for company”.

  19. sknicholls says:

    It is such a taboo to touch the guest soaps that my guests won’t even touch them when I encourage the to. Even the soaps have dust on them.

  20. Lausanne says:

    Oh, major pet peeve! Guest baths and guest bedrooms with so much decorative STUFF on all the surfaces that you have no where to put anything.

  21. zikaolofin says:

    You did a good job of the humor, here.

  22. motheroad says:

    This is a major problem facing our society today. I think we should form a decorative committee.

  23. I won’t mention any names or how a person fits in my family, but this was practiced to the nth degree with this person. She never dusted anyway and the film on those towels (plus a washcloth!) must have been as thick as the articles themselves. Stupid practice. Do you write about other farces as well? I must check you out!
    And by the way, thanks for stopping by The Fruitful Life and liking my post

  24. Thanks for the visit,ike and follow.

  25. Kate Rauner says:

    Everyone’s said it all – I’ll just add my lol.

  26. Max says:

    I’d like advice? How do you dust decorative towels, I mean sitting there, they collect dust or are the towels actually there just to stop dust falling on the metal rail? Do you know I can’t really be bothered – rip them down! Don’t get me started on Potpourri! You know you can judge how often a room is cleaed by the layers of dust on that horrible withered fruit?

  27. Arman says:

    You are funny and sarcastic 😀 I love it! Btw, while we are at it, how about we add decorative spouses to the list? look but don’t touch … in daaaaaaayyyyyyss … or great to look at but pretty much useless otherwise 😛

  28. fikalo says:

    haha wow, as an Aussie I can say I’m not familiar with this particular custom, but it sure does look pretty!

  29. Lucie says:

    And the embarrassing thing is when your at a friend’s house and there’s “guest towels”.Are you suppose to use them if they look brand new?I always wipe my hands on my clothes!:mrgreen:

  30. jaypochapin says:

    Hi, Eric!

    First, let me say how delighted I am to discover a kindred spirit such as yourself when it comes to dysfunctional bathroom decor…

    Second, let me say how much I enjoy reading your output!

    Third, thank you for liking my own humble efforts at!

    And last but not least, please DON’T TOUCH this comment! It’s for the guests!…

    Sincere best wishes from among the quizzically-challenged,

    Jay Pochapin

  31. OldenGray says:

    Our mother’s must be related somehow. The horrible thought of what may happen if somebody were to be stoop so low as to touch one of those items you mention. May their soul rest in peace! :o) A wonderful true story.


  33. moylomenterprises says:

    Hahaha, read this post and laughed out loud almost waking my sleeping child!
    I discontinued that practice as soon as I left home. Didn’t make any sense to me.

    This also reminds me of an aunt to whom I’ve given countless gifts but she never opened them, choosing instead to keep them on display on a shelf ‘unused’ to admire year after year ‘unused’. I don’t get it!

  34. Even as an American woman, I STILL don’t understand this custom. I mean, I get it, they are pretty… But that is like going to a fancy restaurant that has beautifully and creatively folded napkins and being told you can’t use them after demolishing the rare steak you ordered and subsequently got all over your face and front of your clothes. (Then again maybe I am just a messy eater.) Having pretty things is fine, but at least make it functional.

  35. Sim Stevenz says:

    Wow, having kind of a crummy day, and then I read this and cracked me up! Thanks!

    • Max says:

      Has anyone spoken in defense of this custom? I mean if we hear the arguement from both sides we can keep this post going until there’s a book in it? Did this evolve from the habit of drying your hands on the seat of your pants or your shirt – and some people forgot what ‘those things on rails are?’

      • Sim Stevenz says:

        Hmm, that’s a thought. Wow, just thinking about it makes me realize just how deep this issue really is.

  36. Max says:

    What gets wetter the more it dries?

  37. I have never seen or heard of a decorative towel. I am so glad you included a picture. Definitely not an Australian thing. If I ever make it to the US, I will respect the decorative towels.

  38. Oops I was just looking for some new decorative towels (tip toeing away now). Its nice to have something to wash! No one in my house would dare to touch mine & I have 7 kids including 5 teenagers. I keep mine on top of a cabinet only visible when the door is left ajar. Makes the little room look tidy haha. Think most of us have them in Scotland 🙂

  39. Max says:

    “No one in my house would dare to touch mine”, “Its nice to have something to wash!” Why are you washing them then? No much of a test for the washing machiine! I think you should organise a five-a-side football game at a nice wet and muddy field then let your kids wipe the mud off with your towels? Fold up the towels and put them back – see if anyone notices the difference?

  40. Oh, my goodness! I have so much health now, from all the laughter medicine! Your post is sublime. And the comments are perfect.
    Thank you for liking my post. Bucket Betide.

  41. Love this post. So true. Aren’t we first worlders just so silly? Perhaps we should have two houses…one we actually use, and one for company.

  42. Hahaha!! Yep, right up there with the plastic furniture covers that I never understood. Thank you for the laughs, this was hilarious!

  43. novelgnome says:

    Definitely an invitation to mess them up when they sit there all tidy!!

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