Men get brawny with paper towels

September 02, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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I found it mildly amusing. The satirical newspaper, The Onion, ran a headline that read: "Local Man a Paper-Towel Black Hole."

The story begins:

"DENVER -- Apartment 3A sources confirmed Tuesday that 26-year-old Stephen Refkin has become a gaping, all-consuming vortex from which no paper towel roll is capable of escaping. 'He uses so many paper towels,' roommate Jeff Dunowitz said Thursday, estimating that over the past month three eight-packs of Bounty Basic have vanished into the limitless void."

Like I say, amusing, but it's not as if it's "Blazing Saddles" or something.

Unless you're a woman. Every woman I have mentioned this item to has laughed uproariously and immediately launched into a litany of male/paper towel regalia.


One guy carries around a sheet all the time, grabbing a new one intermittently, even if he hasn't used the old one. One guy will tear off a paper towel to wipe something up, even if he already has a sheet in the other hand. One guy grabs 10 paper towel sheets to wipe up a spill the size of a fruit fly.

Men, I'm told, kill stink bugs with paper towels, do the dishes with paper towels, dry the dog with paper towels, blow their noses with paper towels, wipe sweat off their chests with paper towels, use paper towels instead of plates, write notes to their wives on paper towels and line tackle boxes with paper towels.

Men believe paper towels have some magical quality that will erase a mustard stain from a white shirt, or absorb the contents of an entire 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor from the carpet.

Anything that goes wrong in the house, just wave a paper towel in front of it and the problem will go away. What duct tape is to the shop, paper towels are to the kitchen. For a guy, the common kitchen sponge was a wasted invention.

"It's one of the things men do that women talk about when they get together," Beth confirmed.

"Really? I thought they just sat around drinking Schnapps and saying, 'I can never get him to go to the doctor.'"

This small piece of comedy in The Onion has caused me to analyze my own paper towel behavior.

I believe I am the exception that proves the rule. Way before paper towel companies began perforating half-sheets, I would take a pair of scissors and cut a sheet in half when a full sheet to swab a blot of poached egg seemed like overkill.

And I tend not to say a whole lot. In my experience, the more a guy talks, the more paper towels he uses.

I did detailing at a car dealership when I was in college, and I recall working with a gregarious fellow who would be in the middle of a story, or in the middle of offering some "constructive criticism" of the younger generation when he would reach for the paper towels.

As he talked, he would pull and pull, gather and gather, bunch and bunch more towels from the roll until he had a wad the size of a Buick. When he stopped talking, which was rare, he himself always seemed taken aback at the size of his towel acquisition.

So this may be less of a failure to conserve than it is a failure to multitask.

And as a final caveat, it should be noted that not all women agree on the one man/10 paper towels paradigm. I asked my colleague Erin about it and she said, "That doesn't seem right to me; that means the man would have to notice the spill in the first place."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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