A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

family culture wars: napkins vs. kleenex

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 1, 2008

When we decided to move back to the US for a bit, we agreed that going out to eat every night (or ordering in) would be too expensive. So, I agreed to cook, and H agreed to wash dishes.

Agreeing on meals isn’t a problem for us – we have highly compatible taste buds. But agreeing on what should accompany those meals has been an ongoing challenge.

To put it bluntly, H and I simply come from different cultures. We arrange our silverware differently: I learned the “Grandpa Knife takes Granddaughter Spoon to the circus, buying a ticket from Vendor Fork” way, while H’s arrangements are more, um, poetic. Or perhaps more conceptual – sometimes we sit down to the table with no silverware.

But this is a minor problem compared to our real cultural battle:

napkins versus kleenex.

I’m solidly in the napkin camp. I’m not a total snob (I know: some of you may disagree on this!) – I am more than willing to use paper towels when out of paper napkins. But my preference is for a proper napkin, paper or cloth: something that to me adds a note of grace to a home meal.

H is equally solidly in the kleenex camp. I’m not sure what his family did for serviettes when he was growing up in the US, but he’s been in Lebanon for a long time, and his parents’ house is peppered with tissues. He thinks nothing of setting a box of tissues on the table next to the salad, – and actually, the box of premium US tissues is a big step up. Discount tissues come in a big saggy box-shaped plastic bag in Lebanon, which makes me like the idea of them sitting on the table even less.

Of course, I know that tissues, paper towels, and napkins all perform the same function. I.e., I know just how neurotic I am being when I insist that colored, printed paper napkins are dinner-table appropriate, while kleenexes are not.

That must be why I found myself doing the unthinkable yesterday afternoon. I had brought lunch from home – a collection of leftovers that harmonized surprisingly well together. The shared kitchen here has forks, but when I sat back down at my desk, I realized that I was napkinless.

I watched in horror as my right arm stretched out toward the box of designer Kleenex semi-hidden behind my computer screen. It pulled not one but two tissues out, which my equally rebellious left arm helped arrange, napkin-style, on my lap.

Oh, the humiliation! Or at least: Oh, the lesson in humility🙂🙂 :)!

3 Responses to “family culture wars: napkins vs. kleenex”

  1. intlxpatr said

    LLLOOOLLLL! I know what you are getting for Christmas! Who does the ironing?

  2. nicolien said

    There’s always the environment argument…🙂 (which never seems to work in Lebanon but you can make it part of the ‘do as the New Yorkers do! hehe)

  3. ajnabiya said

    Hahaha, this was one thing that I found odd when I first visited my in-laws years ago….now I just say, a3teeny kleeneKUS…heheheh, and I don’t even think about napkins until I get back home to the US.

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