What invention of the last 100 years do you still use and appreciate? Think hard because we’re not talking about the big, world-changing stuff like the automobile, television or Google glasses, but the insignificant things we take for granted.
What’s my favorite? In a word – Kleenex®. The blow and throw helpmate that is so much better than the alternative handkerchief, or “snot rag” as my fourth grade desk mate Joey Morgan called it. He was right because that is exactly what they were and unfortunately still are.
Men and women honk into this square of cloth then fold it up again and put it back in their pocket or purse. Ugh. And what about the poor soul that must wash, iron and fold them for the next go-around?
Is there a more disgusting thing than the handkerchief?
When it comes to good manners, it has always been considered trashy to comb one’s hair outside of a lady’s room or lavatory and never at the dinner table.
But for some reason, polite society has given a pass to hankies. It was and is still perfectly OK to blow the contents of one’s sinuses into a bit of cloth in public then fold it back up and store the nasty thing in a pocket or purse ready for a second, third or fourth use.
Aside from a few primitive beings, the reusable handkerchief has gone the way of moustache wax. Maybe.
On this day, eBay listed a cool 1.2 million hankies for sale on its website. Thank goodness former users are getting rid of them.
However, only 23,592 were listed as “vintage,” which means they have been used. In all that is hygienic, let us hope bidders and buyers are collecting them. It is unthinkable modern man and woman are buying some random stranger’s pre-used hanky, “vintage” or not.
Meanwhile, that same day over at Amazon, where they sell new items, there were just a shade more than 8,000 fresh, unused handkerchiefs for sale.
We view this as progress. However, it did give us pause to find both eBay and Amazon list handkerchiefs as a subset of “scarves.” Let’s hope everyone knows the two things are not interchangeable.
Still, there are knuckle-dragging handkerchief users walking among us because even menswear designer Perry Ellis continues to make them. Although we don’t imagine much “design” goes into creating a cloth square made for nose-blowing.
No one knows when it happened, perhaps during the belle epoque, but at some point the handkerchief migrated from nose to the lapel area where they were displayed in the upper left breast pocket of suit coats as a “for show not for blow” fashion statement for the male uniform, which had not changed much since the codpiece went out of style.
Handkerchief display is discussed in an article on Trendhim, a men’s fashion website, which features 52 ways to fold and wear a handkerchief. Could each configuration be man code for communicating “Tonight we ride, no wives” or “Cigars and absinthe on the patio at 9, no wives.”
But, to us, these breast pocket fancies still represent a threat, ready to be whipped from that pocket at any moment, blown into then returned from whence it came.
One last thing, dear reader.
Let’s raise a glass to Kleenex® in all its forms – aloe infused, purse size, double and triple plies, scented or unscented and all the product pretenders that followed.
So, hereby be it resolved that – whereas it is cold and flu season; whereas you have made a giant contribution to congested nasal passages; whereby saving man and womankind from experiencing the gag reflex inspired by the sight of the gross “blow and stow” reusable cloth handkerchief – we hereby proclaim February as “National Kleenex Month.”
An afterword: Kleenex® was developed by the Kimberly Clark company and introduced in 1924 as a cold cream remover but soon became a “disposable replacement for the handkerchief,” according to Wikipedia.
A package of 100 sheets sold for 65 cents a century ago and costs only slightly more today and still a bargain at any price, as far as we’re concerned.