latex tea towel

When I separated from my first wife, we both moved in with friends and so had a lot of stuff to store. Her sister was the only person in our immediate family with the amount of storage space required, so everything big, and/or that we didn’t need day to day, went into her and my brother-in-law’s garage. At the time, I didn’t think the relationship was over. I assumed we would work things out eventually, and have a new home for all that stuff to fill, so I didn’t realise I was saying goodbye to it all, but it turns out I was.

The point of this story is not to elicit sympathy for the loss of ‘stuff’ though. There were times when I felt cheated, but it had nothing to do with objects and everything to do with subjects (her and me). To be honest, aside from a really long gold velvet lounge, and an odd-looking ottoman, I can’t really recall many of the big ticket items we owned, and I certainly don’t miss any of them. In fact, there is only one thing I really regret losing in the break up, and that was a latex tea towel – the real object (pardon the pun) of the above story, and the reason for telling it.

The tea towel in question was the only work of art that my ex and I ever bought. It was part of an exhibition by our friend, Justine. The exhibition consisted of a huge number of latex kitchen objects (including a bright green kitchen sink). Being reasonably poor at the time, our means didn’t stretch to buying any major latex appliances, so we made do with a tea towel. From memory it was textured, and had a simple white and blue checked pattern. To display it, we bought a tea towel rack that screwed into the wall and had three arms that radiated outwards. I can’t remember where we hung it, I just know it wouldn’t have been in the kitchen.

I loved that tea towel because of what it was, because of what we had done with it, because of who had made it, and most of all because we had bought it together. I grieved its loss for all the same reasons.

I was reminded of all this earlier today when I received an email from Justine. The particular trigger for the memory was her telling me that she was planning another exhibition – prompted, in part, by a friend, and fellow artist, telling her ‘to be kind to her muse’. The filing system in my brain is pretty predictable. If you search my database for ‘Justine’s Art+Muse’, results number one and two are going to be that tea towel and the woman I bought it with.

She was my muse for years – though only really after she dumped me. In fact, she became my muse when she took away my tea towel (there’s a great opening line to a Country and Western number). She is, however, my muse no longer. A few years ago, I decided to try turning the people I actually have into my muses, rather than the ones I have lost. It’s quite a challenge for someone who tends to write melancholy songs almost exclusively, but it’s a beautiful challenge to set yourself, to have muses that make you happy.

I realise that this would be the perfect post to have an accompanying (and appropriately happy) song to go with it, but alas, when I started this post, I didn’t realise I would end up here, and so I didn’t prepare one earlier. I’ll give you one next time…. if it kills me.

Anyway, in the spirit of being kind to your muses, even your ex-muses, I’m going to try not to begrudge her that tea towel. I just hope she still has it on display.

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8 Responses to latex tea towel

  1. Lulu says:

    The subject of that tea towel has entered a few of my conversations in the past few years. I even watched the installation. It has not been forgotten! Have you read the book ‘Freedom’? This post reminded me of Richard Katz’s tone.

    • rodbie says:

      Intrigued to know the substance of the conversations that tea towel has featured in. Flattered to be compared in any way to something written by the wonderful Jonathan Franzen. I loved that book, and was relieved that the ending wasn’t as bleak as ‘The Corrections’.

  2. Lulu says:

    It has been evoked when describing Justine’s work as well as finding quasi-similar creations. Since discussing the muse with J on Friday I realised that I had misunderstood what she was insinuating ie. I thought she meant don’t neglect/forget the muse, whereas apparently it was don’t exhaust/wear out the muse.
    Good luck with yours.

  3. Urchin says:

    Did both Jonathan Franzen and Richard Katz write ‘Freedom’? I can tell you that domestic freedom was indeed the subject of that exhibition. Having only just recently read Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and Virginia Woolf’s essays in ‘Killing the Angel in the House’ for the first time, it remains a subject that ranges my rooms.

    • Lulu says:

      By tone, I meant Richard’s voice/ life view etc. in ‘Freedom’. If you haven’t read it J, do.

  4. 5 years later Rod, how has the fully-present muse (if one is still around) been affecting your life/work?

    • rodbie says:

      Hey Lou,

      It has been an interesting 5 years, muse wise. I was quite prolific in writing songs about Tilly until Kitty was born, and I haven’t done much since. I have one song called ‘Beckett’ from that time that I really love (I need to record a proper version to upload). After Kitty was born I didn’t do much for a few years, but this year have started playing and writing a lot, and revisiting older songs. A lot of them are using lyrics I wrote in the years after Nik (so that muse still persists). It is definitely time for a new source of lyrics. I was inspired by the interview with Marie Howe on ‘On Being’ to get back to direct observation of life. Perhaps that is the place to start. Do you have a muse at the moment?

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