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Towels and House Guests

It was a sweaty, hot day in NYC. I stepped off the train in Brooklyn, blocks from my home. After having to transfer 3 times because of construction on the MTA lines. And before that, having been on a train for 2 hours traveling from Philadelphia. Where it was standing room only—FOR TWO HOURS.

It was a miserable trip. The number one thing I wanted to do was hop into the shower and scrub the smell of train off my body. Yes, “train” is its own scent. I slid the key in my lock expecting to be greeted by my dogs…but instead sitting in my family room was a group of 5 people–and Sean standing there with a beer.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day today!?”

I gritted my teeth, nodding and forcing a smile.

I said my hello’s to the guests, asking them not to get too close to me…I didn’t want to be an ungracious host. I just really, really needed a shower.

I slipped into the bathroom and peeled the damp clothes from my body. It felt like taking a layer of skin off. The steam from the shower filled my nostrils and I immediately felt better. I noticed 4 different used towels hung up around the bathroom. Unsure at which ones were used by Sean’s dad (who had visited for the weekend while I was out of town), I grabbed the towel that I had been using before I left. It needed to be washed, but one more use wasn’t a big deal.

After cleaning up and hanging out a few hours, the guests left. I wandered around, grabbing random bits of pieces that needed to be laundered. Approaching the bathroom, I yelled to Sean: “Which towels did your dad use in here?”

He came up behind me. “Why?”


…blink, blink…

“Because we need to wash them.” It seemed so obvious to me.

He paused again. “I don’t know. Just wash them all.”

Breathe, Colleen. “What do you mean, you don’t know?”

“I mean, I don’t know. He probably just used whatever was in there.”

“…but…but, my towel was also in there. The towel I just used today as well.”


“So?!?!?! It’s my towel! MY towel! I DO NOT share my towels…particularly not with your dad!”

The conversation went on like this for about 30 minutes. Me: BECAUSE IT’S GROSS! Him: But, why? It’s just cells. Me: BECAUSE IT’S GROSS!

He couldn’t understand why it was a big deal..but I was really disgusted that he really didn’t get why it was considered so gross. In my experience and opinion…if you go to someone’s house, you either bring your own towels, or you expect to be given a clean towel that you will use for the weekend. YOU DON’T JUST USE WHATEVER TOWELS ARE AROUND AND HAVE BEEN USED ALL WEEK.

Apparently Sean doesn’t know how to be a good host. A host launders all pillowcases and sheets after a guest leaves. All towels given out should be clean and folded.

We finally came to the agreement that “because of social rules, we need to give guests their own towels, pillowcases and sheets” but I could not get Sean to admit that not doing so is disgusting. He claims that the couch is more disgusting than a used towel.

Anyone else have thoughts or opinions? I always believed that this was just proper etiquette when it came to house guests.

So basically, if you come to stay at our apartment, make sure I’M home when you come for the weekend. It’s the only way to ensure clean towels.

7 Responses to “Towels and House Guests”

  1. Jewels Says:

    I have your back colleen, 100%!!!! sharing towels is just weird on top of disgusting. There is nothing better then clean towels and linens.

    I think my man would understand that…why? because dude uses a clean towel EVERYTIME he showers. Do you know how much laundry that is???? I’m okay with using my towel repeatedly.

  2. D.C. Says:

    It is absolutely proper etiquette to offer your guests their own linens. There is no disputing that.

    However (you knew there was going to be a “However”), Sean is absolutely right about the couch being just as disgusting as a used towel - if not more so. A couch NEVER gets laundered, and people eat on them and let their animals get up on them and they are FILTHY. GROSS. DISGUSTING.

    That said, Mr. Murphy isn’t going to be competing in any Mr. Manners competitions anytime soon.

  3. Lila Says:

    Colleen, myself and my parents are in complete agreement with you. Growing up, I always had my own towel, and a very simple rule: use your own towel! Even when I was really little, there was a linen closet brimming with towels and sheets .

    I also once stayed with a friend where the towel she gave me (which I knew was washed) was so old, tattered and gross smelling, that when we were out at target, I went and got towels for myself. When my friend asked me why I got towels, I said that the ones in my place were stating to look old and tattered, and I liked the colors. I really wanted to get her towels, but I thought that would be really rude.

    It seriously horrifies me to see how some of my friends live–especially those friends who I know make a lot more money than I do, and are about ready to have kids! Bedsheets and towels are not that expensive! 

    Even in my 235 square foot apartment (a placed designed for one person), I had 5 extra towels thst weren’t tattered or old. I also made sure they were all different colors so people knew which one was theirs when they stayed over.

    I’ve also started bringing sheets and a towel with me when I’m staying with friends who I know arn’t the cleanest or friends who I’ve never stayed with before. 

    People need to seriously be schooled on this very unsanitary habit. I’m really considering buying just buying towels as  wedding shower gifts, because most couples need them so much more than fine china.

  4. TJ Says:

    You know, I agree with you in principle, Colleen. But I must admit that, in practice, some people simply have different habits. Often, it’s because they just never bothered to consider other, more sanitary, arrangements; other times, it happens out of necessity. I remember asking a similar question of some friends in high school Two were twins, and the third was only a few months younger. Being an only child and one of the few boys amongst my cousins, I had no idea how vying for resources worked. I just assumed that everyone had their own stuff and there was some sort of color coding system going on. Of course, in my absurd brain, people’s stuff simply did not MIX; that would likely unhinge the earth’s gravitational pull, cause Sarah Jessica Parker to make “Sex in the City 3″, or something equally catastrophic.

    So one day I asked them, “How do you know who’s socks are whose?” My friend simply replied, “On laundry day, it basically goes like this: ‘You get 3 pair, he gets 3 pair, and he gets 3 pair.’” And, in retrospect, that was pretty much how a reasonable portion of their lives were organized. After digesting what had, only five minutes beforehand, been the unfathomable situation of sharing one’s socks, I realized that they had done it for the better part of 17 years and were all, invariably, still alive. The earth’s gravitational pull had not been unhinged and I’m sure we’ll still have enough time to prevent SJP from getting anywhere near a S&TC 3 script.

    So, while I do agree with you, older, wiser TJ would likely not have been so harsh on younger, grosser Sean. My dialogue might have gone something like this:

    “Towels, Dad, weekend, blah, blah….”

    “Is that how you do it at home?”


    “Well, in our house it was considered good manners to provide all guests with a fresh towel. It would really upset me if I thought your Dad felt we were really crummy hosts and went away saying ‘OMG, how was she raised.’ Plus, to be honest, it makes me really uncomfortable to use someone else’s towel. It would be like if I used your razor to shave my armpits. It would make me feel gross all day. And if I felt gross all day, I might never want to have sex again. Ever.”

    Regardless of how he feels on the matter at large, I think cohabitants need to respect each other’s personal levels of hygiene. Requesting personal towels is not out of bounds, I suspect, for the vast majority of happy couples. And if a plea to reason doesn’t get him, the sex thing definitely will.

  5. Colleen Says:

    Jewels - Thanks for having my back, girl! I’m like you–I reuse my own towels a few times, so I don’t necessarily take it to the level of your bf! =0)

    DC - Understandable that the couch is a dirty place. We actually try to wash ours with upholstery cleaner a few times a year, but even with this, I’m sure I’d be appalled at how gross it actually is. But with towels…I dunno…you rub your naked body with it. And for all I know, I washed my face with the area his dad dried off his butt!

    Lila - Agreed. Towels & sheets are inexpensive and are an important item to have for guests. I don’t mind bringing my own, but if they’re being offered to me by a host/hostess, I would expect them to be clean!

    Conclusion: Sean is a weirdo.

  6. Alejandra Says:

    Just stumbled upon this post of yours and have to say that I totally agree with you. I think guys are blind to basic things like that sometimes (except DC, but DC is often an exception).

    I sometimes have to point out to Eugene that his towel is dirty and must be washed. And he’s always confused about why I want to change the sheets every week. And I get annoyed when he repeatedly moves my towel and leaves it draped on top of the dirty clothes in the hamper. Because THAT’S a good place for a clean towel!

    I’m all for clean sheets and towels for all guests. I don’t want someone’s butt towel on my face. That’s gross.

  7. Jeannie Says:

    Sean must not have been paying attention growing up. Debbie always brings towels for the family when they go for a visit or has a towel available for her guests when they visit.

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