When I was a child in the forties and fifties before I went to school my Mum would ensure that I had clean underwear and a clean cotton hanky. We were allowed to wear skirts, shirts and cardigans all week but to go out in yesterday’s underwear, or be caught with a dirty crumpled hanky was just not done. As a teenager in the sixties however we had paper hankies (note the spelling) and facial tissues all in smart boxes to be seen on your dressing table and even little handbag size packets of hankies to be taken everywhere, those beautifully embroidered cotton squares were put to the back of the drawer never to see the light of day again.
Men however were still expected to carry the half tea towel sized piece of cotton in their top pocket all neatly laundered and ironed with precise square creases. It was considered almost a uniform for men to have that little triangle or strip of white cotton handkerchief peeking from the top breast pocket of their business suit. The ‘mods’ of the sixties even had ‘faux’ or ‘fake’ as we called them, little oblongs of cardboard with several points of white cotton cloth sewn to the edge of the cardboard which would sit neatly in the top pocket of his ‘Italian Bum Freezer Suit’ which would not need laundering or ironing. Man size tissues were not readily available until around the seventies.
When I first got married, as a dutiful wife I would wash and iron my husband’s handkerchiefs and would curse under my breath at the unfairness of it all. My mother-in-law bless her, did come to my rescue and used to do some laundry for me including the dreaded hankies, but looking back, I do wonder if it was to make sure her precious only son was correctly turned out with neatly ironed shirts, underwear (yes she ironed underwear) and hanky. As the years have gone on most men have left their white cotton squares in the back of the drawer where they should be and will use the really manly MAN SIZED tissues the only person not doing this.......you guessed it ......my husband.
Now, after forty years I absolutely refuse to iron hankies and even with the front loading washing machine I still have to handle these little squares of snot and put them in the machine and hang them out to dry, thanking god for ‘Marigolds’ every time. So the question is, how can I persuade the most stubborn man that was ever born to get rid of these germ infested squares and use tissues like everybody else?
And while you ponder this really important question take a look at my new Christmas Cards.