Hand towels have always grossed me out... not at my own house, but the idea of going over to some friends' house for a dinner party, using the bathroom, washing my hands and wiping them on the hand-towel that a dozen other people have wiped their hands on. Why don't we all just get our hands wet and rub them on each other? (#awkward #letsnot)
My mom is disgusted by cloth napkins at restaurants. Same deal. Granted the napkins are washed (we assume), but we're practically touching lips with people that were finishing up there sopapillas just yesterday. This has started me thinking on separation... and conversely on connection.
When couples break up, they often use the word separate, but what does that mean? In what what form, to what degree? There are many ways to create separation.
My wife and I used to live in a cheap apartment complex next to a real nice lady. She was very "friendly" and had her "friends" over quite "frequently" to her "apartment" (I'm not sure why I put "apartment" in quotes). Some nights the only thing separating us from whatever was happening next door were some 2x4s, sheetrock and artwork from Pier 1.
There, in that instance, we had visual separation, but not aural. One of the things that's so odd about apartment living is that proximity-wise you are so close to your neighbors, yet we've retained no significant relationship with any of our former neighbors. The walls were too thin for complete aural privacy, but just thick enough to inhibit obligation to experience community.
Another thing, when couples break up, one might say to the other "I just need some space," or "I don't think we should see each other any more." Which in my experience, the seeing is really the least intimate part of the deal. It's really the touching, and the feeling, or perhaps, the smelling... "I don't think we should smell each other any more."
The public bathroom is a fascinating compendium of separation concerns—some cultural and some hygienic. There is generally a visual blockade, but the aural and aromatic spaces are wild frontiers. We attempt to see and touch as little as possible—karate kicking to flush, opening doors with elbows, and the like—but we are defenseless against the smells and noises of others.
So, the next time you break up with someone, be sure to clarify your terms: "We can still see each other, but aromatically, I feel it's time to part ways."