2010-07-29 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Beware the towels of strangers

Here’s what happens when you meet someone at a wedding: The chemistry is instantaneous. It has to be, what with all that champagne and romance thick as butter cream frosting. One minute you’re meeting a handsome stranger, and then suddenly you’re exchanging numbers, flying across the country and drying your face on the towel he just used to wipe his butt. Wait. That last part comes later.

Let me explain.

At a friend’s wedding, I had the romantic good fortune to be introduced to an extremely eligible bachelor. He was the corporate type, dashing in a dark suit, and he spoke easily of books and politics. He had grown up overseas and travelled widely. We spent the entire reception together.

After the wedding, we continued to talk over email, then upgraded to phone conversations. Soon, he suggested he fly in for a visit. We booked a week at a condo on the beach, and the next thing I knew we were sipping piña coladas as the sun set over the gulf.

It was smooth sailing in the sea of love — until mid-week, when we came in off the beach for lunch. I pulled cold cuts from the refrigerator while my wedding date excused himself to the restroom.

As I slathered mayonnaise on a slice of bread, he came into the kitchen and fiddled with the stereo on the counter. I sliced a tomato and laughed as he danced across the living room. He pirouetted, and I noticed something suspect on the back of the towel wrapped around his waist. There was a distinct brown crescent amidst the white expanse of Egyptian cotton.

I tried to ignore what I had seen, to imagine that the mark was an unfortunate imprint left by another guest. I mentally berated the hotel’s cleaning staff. But that evening we dined on Mexican food, and the jalapeños did not agree with my date’s stomach. He spent most of the night in the condo’s bathroom. When he finally stepped out and I went in to wash my face, I noticed the towels looked wet and disheveled.

In hindsight, I know what was going down in there. But during that week, in the first flush of love, intoxicated by too much sun and too many strawberry daiquiris, I denied the situation I had on my hands (and on my towels). I persuaded myself that I had an overactive imagination and that no one would ever — ever — use towels as a standin for toilet paper.

I nearly had myself convinced. Until the morning of checkout, anyway, when I reached for the hand towel by the sink. Here was the cloth I had been using to dry my face during the week, the material I used to wipe my mouth after I brushed my teeth. The fabric had always been blue and pristine, its embroidered sailboats untouched. But as I pulled the towel from the metal bar, I saw that it, too, had been besmeared.

Somewhere in all this, there is a lesson. Something about not

taking vacations

with people we

barely know; perhaps a moral about falling for strangers at weddings.

But the truest take-away is this: Always inspect your towels, because you never know just what they’ve been toweling. 

Return to top