It’s Time for a Little Hanky-Panky

The cats showing up for dinner at five on the dot. My rage at the fools who’ve highjacked the term for a convivial late afternoon party, and made it a symbol for boorish ignorance. The sun rising in the east — you get the idea. Things I can count on.

Here’s a fourth: Ian Moss McArthur, whether he’s wearing his gardening jeans or his tux, has a folded handkerchief in his pocket. In fact, he keeps one in his pajama pants. I know this because he’s my father, and I’ve been around for a big chunk of his eighty-three years. They’re good quality, surprisingly pricey, and he irons them every time he pulls a load of whites from the dryer.(He’s a master with an iron — I can press a mean dress shirt, but his virtuosity with the Sunbeam makes me look like a lousy laundress. The engineer thing, I guess.)

Somehow, that classic item in the top drawer of every lady and gentlemen’s chest of drawers has disappeared, I suspect from the yuck factor. My brother, Ian Leyland McArthur, dubbed them “Dad’s snot rags” when he was a waggish six year old. Sure, Daddy would sneeze into it, blow his nose occasionally, but we always had boxes of tissues around for hard-core colds and grippe. Somehow, handkerchiefs have gone the way of cloth diapers; a tiny niche market.

I own hankies, pretty ones, but mostly they get tucked into an evening minaudiere once a year for a wedding or restaurant outing that demands that attention must be paid, wardrobe-wise.

My Mother, being  my mother, not only owned hankies, but owned a specialized, adorable fabric accordion file hanky-holder.  It’s mine now.

When I pull out one of her handkerchiefs, I’m overcome with Joy. Mummy didn’t mess around with lavender water.

I think it’s time to bring back the handkerchief, not just the delicate embroidered hankies, but the full-sized men’s version. Here are a random three from my top drawer: two little lovelies fit to drop at the feet of a likely young player, and a big beauty that my daughter bought at Moji when she was at the US Open last August. It’s smaller than a tea towel, but bigger than a handkerchief.

It features a map of Manhattan. A detailed map.

Here are my Top Ten reasons for buying a three-pack or two of men’s handkerchiefs and having one always-handy in your pocket or purse.

  1. Well, let’s get the dull environmental thing out of the way. You get it.
  2. This is the easiest laundry you’ve ever done. Throw them in with your whites and your washer won’t even know they’re there.
  3. You don’t have to put them in the dryer. Take them out damp, and iron them. It’s easy and fun.
  4. If you are, like me, a lady, who, um, glows,in hot weather, dabbing at your face with a handkerchief is a more dignified solution than my habitual move — pulling up my shirt to mop my face.
  5. I’m told Japanese women use them in Ladies’s Room situations — do you really want to waste your time with that damned hand blower when there’s no paper towel on offer?
  6. If a skunk has sprayed your sunflowers, or you’re dealing with smog in Saigon, it’s a handy mask.
  7. If you’re sobbing in a cab when you’ve realized your lover is a louse, one hanky takes care of a whole little package of purse-sized Kleenex.
  8. If you’re picking up seashells or pebbles, you can knot the ends to make a tidy package.
  9. If you’re transporting a croissant back from the bistro fabric works better than a paper napkin.
  10. OK, you’ve seen him across that crowded room. Drop it. He’ll pick it up, and he’ll see that you’re the realization of a dream.
  11. This just in: my husband is anti-hanky, but he did bring up one excellent use: cleaning your glasses.
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6 Comments

Filed under Five bucks or fewer, Needlework

6 responses to “It’s Time for a Little Hanky-Panky

  1. Lloyd

    Here’s to the Elder Ian!
    I’ve been a user since University days; my tissue budget pales compared to most households.

  2. Lloyd, love, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

  3. Thee and me, my Dear; Thee and me.

    I love the wispy things, the embroidered and the tatted-edge, the cutwork and the batiste like squares cut from a Christening gown. I’m also very fond of the good heavy dutiful cotton numbers, even the guy kind. Chris carries a dull-brown one on all occasions, bought in dozens at the AAFES store, and I think one of the kids might have tucked three camo ones in his Christmas stocking.

    A lot of mine were Mother’s and I’ve picked up quite a few, mostly at estate sales—I’d rather see a pile of two-dollar hankies than a whole box of jewelry folks might take to the Road Show.

    And one black lace number has seen quite a few elegant evenings, tucked into the decolletage of my favorite black dress.

    Dear Miss Manners: What should a lady carry in her purse?
    Gentle Reader,
    A clean handkerchief and enough money to get home if she needs to use the handkerchief because she has been taken ill or made to cry.

  4. Aw, this is terrible. And great. I have a bunch of hankies… my faves being the ones with crocheted edges and trims, incl. a quite elaborate butterfly which as a needlewoman I can see required a corner cutaway.

    My Mom is the source of most of them, her great aunts, Victorian ladies… she said that the aunts told her that it was the sort of thing one would bring to a friend when one went visiting. And the aunts were never without some small piece of needlework in progress, no idle hands, so my Mom figured they amassed quite a lot of them, for this purpose and others.

    To me it seemed impossible, how could something so fine and complex be made in such quantity as to be given away as a sort of hostess gift? But the magic of crochet, and the casual speed with master crocheters loop and knot, I didn’t know yet. I can’t hope to match it, but I do like the process.

    My Dad always had a clean white man’s handkerchief in his pocket, way into anachronism. Kind of cool.

  5. Betty and Daddy! Welcome! Go check out my response to your post on the Didier Boursin wallet story.

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