My friend Rachel is getting married. She wants to put white napkins on her wedding registry. Practicality and a mother’s loving opinion say get colored ones instead. And she’s worried about her own messiness.
She writes, “I can picture myself with a Tide Stain Stick in hand as I pour wine for a guest and then standing at attention ready to Tide-away all the spills and splashes. Now that you have a baby who will likely start eating foods that are not so conveniently white as breast milk, I imagine that you’ve thought about this and I wanted to hear your advice.”
I say practicality be damned. If you have the space for just one set of napkins, get the ones you love.
Because nothing lasts forever. To clarify: nothing that gets used lasts forever. A set of napkins tucked into a drawer with a sweetly scented sachet and no intention of seeing the light of day? Those will last. They’ll last and last until the silverfish or the moths get to them and then they will get tiny holes, but they’ll still be kicking around a hundred years from now—a little yellower, a little stiffer, a little thinner—but still here. Trust me on this one.
But napkins that get used? These will last for awhile and then one of two things will happen: they will get replaced or they will go on being used, stains and tears, and rumply seams to show the years.
White napkins will definitely get stained. Turmeric and tomatoes and those few precious strands of saffron will leave their mark. But the rust colored napkins? The ones that seem more practical? They’ll get stained too. They’ll fade in the wash upon wash that all of your raucous dinner parties will require. You’ll make a big bowl of popcorn to watch with your favorite movie and the grease will leave oily amoeba-shaped spots. Your brand new husband will grab a napkin instead of a rag and use it to fix a squeaky bicycle chain and you’ll be one man down (maybe two). One of you will wipe your one-day-baby’s spit up with a light blue napkin and realize with a start that breast milk does stain. Who knew? These are the things that happen in tiny apartments and big ones. And thank goodness. Because drawers full of unused napkins are a sadder sight to behold than stained ones.
Sentimentality for messy dinner parties aside, I will share what we love for everyday: a set of ten striped linen napkins in grey and white. They were wedding gifts and they hide dribbles and wine dots beautifully. Because napkins and weddings go together, I also have a set of four white linen napkins from Ireland, a set of four goldenrod yellow napkins from France, a gauzy white and gold set of napkins and placemats from India, and a set of tiny vintage cloth cocktail napkins with embroidered peaches and more. We can only hope they all end up stained and spotted.
PS. If it comes down to it: here’s a swap for that Tide stick.
PPS: As you can see, napkins in our house are a mostly wrinkled item. I don’t lose sleep over it.
Tiny apartment survival tip #1 – 111, right HERE.