The Cultural Anthropology of Tablecloths

Consider the tablecloth. I’m sure you have if you’ve ever been to an Italian restaurant. Tablecloths are essential table coverings, even in the smallest and dimmest of dives.

By contrast, in America tablecloths are used by wives to torment husbands on those special occasions when tablecloths are put to use. “Honey,” you can hear them whine in unison from coast to coast, “do that over a plate. Look what you’ve done to my tablecloth!”

Yes, they own the tablecloth. It is a holy skin upon which all is sacred.

“Look at that spot! It’s ruined forever! Honey, next time go in the bathroom to pour your wine.”

Yeah, yeah.

You see, Italy is liberating for a guy. Say you open the door to a restaurant and find a woman mopping the floor directly in front of you. Your wife will hold you back with her forearm because the floor has just been mopped and she has placed herself in the position of guardian of the moist tile. The Italian woman with the mop looks at you like you’re nuts to not just plow ahead and motions you forward energetically. Heck, she’s gonna mop again in 5 minutes anyway. You slosh through the suds. Liberated.

Then you sit down and order some wine. A carafe is plunked down onto the table. The last drip ends up on the white tablecloth.

Nobody cares.

You look at other tablecloths. There are purple spots, olive oil spots, indeterminate spots and spots on top of spots.

Nobody cares.

People have been having fun. You can tell because the tablecloths are the playing field for fun. Liberated fun.

And you know what? Tomorrow there will be gleaming white tablecloths, devoid of spots.

The sins of the evening? Washed away. Absolution for the mangione.

Thank you God. I love Italy.


The Cultural Anthropology of Tablecloths originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , © .

Categories Experiential Travel, Living in Italy

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