It happened in 1992.  June to be exact.  June 10.  And yes, I do remember the day.

It was the day that I was sent into the Way-Back machine.  Back to elementary school.  Back to junior high.  Back to when I was unpopular (and of course “popular” was then the goal).  Back to when I didn’t fit in.  Back to when I wanted to fit in with folks I didn’t necessarily fit in with anyway.

You see, in June of 1992, I was thrown out of an infant’s playgroup.  A group of 5 women and 5 babies.  Yes.  It’s true.  It was my fault, of course.  My then 11-month old son really had not yet offended anyone.

In March 1992, I was a lonely stay-at-home Mom.  We had adopted Jacob in November, and I was trying to find free things to do with him, because we had no money.  Plus I was a new mom and didn’t yet realize that well, you paid for everything.  So there I was at the library baby hour one day, chatting with a couple of women.  It turned out they had a playgroup.  I politely asked if I could join.  They said yes.

I was delighted.  You see I am fairly social.  Before being a mom, I was a professional friend-maker.  I was a lobbyist.  A low-low-low level one, but yes, I made friends with folks for money.  Great work if you can get it.  But, well, I was really lonely, because my kid just didn’t talk to me.  He didn’t read.  At that point the kid was crawling, but aside from a happy “slap, slap” as the Happy Crawler smacked his hands down on the wood floor, well, my house was pretty darn quiet.

So I enjoyed the playgroup.  Ellen, one of the women was a bit odd.  But the others, Katy in particular, were really pleasant.

About two months after I joined, my dog died.  He wasn’t just any dog, he was the dog who had helped me through a long, serious illness.  I was devastated.  I was not cheerful.  I was, in fact, quite sad.  He had had leukemia and we did, well, what we had to do to end his suffering.

Weird Ellen kept suggesting that the dog could be cured. The first time she said that, I told her that the dog was in fact, dead.  As in “doorknob.”  Two successive weeks, Weird Ellen told me that the dog could be cured.  I assured her that no, in fact he couldn’t be.  After over a month, I finally told her my dog had not only died but he had been cremated, so even if there had once been a chance of curing him, that the fact that we had reduced him to ashes probably made that possibility much less likely.

Katy was my favorite in the group.  She was sweet, her son, Richard, was Jacob’s first friend.  So it was odd, that June day, when Weird Ellen called me up and politely told me that all of the members had decided that the playgroup would be more fun without me.

I was polite.  I was so shocked that I didn’t quite know what to say.  Of course I stopped going.  Wouldn’t you?

But the nicest thing happened later.  Katy called me up and said, “What Weird Ellen did was awful.  If you’ll have me, I’d like to be your friend.”

And we became very good friends indeed.  What she did was kind, and generous and nice.  Pure hearted.  And it was worth far more in good feelings than the bad feelings of being thrown out of the playgroup.

About a month later, I got an oversized envelope in the mail, with Katy’s return address on it.  Inside it was a dishtowel.  A yellow dishtowel with red hearts on it.  It was hideous.

(Google Image)

Also inside of it was a letter.  Handwritten in those days.  Copied by Katy herself.  It was a chain letter, with a twist.  I was supposed to send a dishtowel to the person at the top of the list, send a copy of the letter to 9 more people, and then I’d end up with 10, count ‘em 10 dishtowels.

I didn’t quite know what to do.  I had never been asked to participate in a dishtowel chain letter.  I had, in fact, never dreamed that such a thing could, well, exist.  Or that people would actually do it.  Or that anyone would actually want to join.

But it was from Katy.  The person who repaired my hurt.  Who wanted to be my friend when other people didn’t.

So I bought a pretty dishtowel, sent it to the person on top of the list.  I sent the letter to nine of my friends (only one of whom still speaks to me–thanks Judy!). I did it right away so I wouldn’t weasel out.  It was for Katy.  My friend.   I felt stupid and holy, all at the same time.

Katy came over the day after I sent it out and said, “yeah, my sister stuck me with that.  I knew you wouldn’t bother so I sent it to you and a bunch of other friends who I was pretty sure wouldn’t want to be in a Dishtowel Club. ”



Oh dear.

I try to NOT do this sort of thing, but I do.

In spite of being, well, a bitch, I cannot intentionally hurt someone’s feelings.  And so I am very appreciative of all the folks who have sent Blog Awards my way.

If I am honored with any additional awards I will say thanks and pass awards on to folks who I think don’t have them at the bottom of future posts.  But, as several of my blogging buddies have recently said, far more bravely than me, I am feeling too much guilt to actually get on with writing.  Which is what I want to do.

And by the way, I promise not to send you any dishtowels!

(Google Image)


There is a snarkier ending.

A few months later, after we saw each other repeatedly around town, where I was unfailingly nice to her, Weird Ellen invited me to re-join the playgroup.  I politely declined.  If only I’d known the phrase “Oh, SNAP!” back then.


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66 responses to “Dishtowels

  1. One can never have too many dishtowels … at least in the minds of some folks. Funny that you had got it too!

  2. Too funny! The dishtowel chain letter I got did not come with a towel, but instructed me to send to the ten people listed, take the bottom person off and add my name to the top…then I would get (ok, my math is not what it used to be) but something like 10 billion dishtowels. I was only 12…I didn’t even need one dishtowel!

  3. Rae

    I’m sure it sucked at the time, but I think you’re lucky that you got away from crazy Ellen when you did. Did you ever ask her how you were supposed to “cure” your dog?

  4. No, I will never miss Barbies. EVER. Weird Ellen had many problems. She didn’t like dogs and she didn’t like NEW folks like me. And nope, I didn’t get ANY dishtowels. Until yesterday, when I had lunch with my friend Judy, who sheepishly admitted that she had broken the chain and game me a lovely dishtowel to make up for it.

  5. I want to know what Weird Ellen’s problem was. How could the playgroup be more fun without you? Damn her.

    Dishtowels? Did you get a collection of 10 after you sent them out or what? And….amen to the awards things. I still have a post to get out on four more I received, which is nice, but it’s so much busy work. I promise no Barbies this time. Although…I think you are missing out.

  6. What a peculiar group of friends. Poor thing to be so desperate. I do know that feeling of isolation of being a stay-at-home mom. You put up with people you wouldn’t normally because everybody you’d prefer hanging out with are at work.

    • It was a peculiar place, actually. Most people, including Weird Ellen, had been born there, grown up there, went to college there and will likely die there. No need for new folks. Move along… I was lucky enough to find a group of folks I dubbed “people nobody else liked either” — smart, educated FUN FUN FUN women who are still friends.

      It just took a giant leap in thinking because I can’t imagine NOT wanting to know new and different folks. Isn’t that part of the wonder of growing?

      Thanks Tots!

  7. Chain letters are bad enough but chain dish towels. Crikey. Thanks for another entertaining read! What a weird play group that was! What is wrong with those people??? Do they not recognize quality when they meet it? I do :) :) :)

  8. It may be mommyhood that brings this up in some mommies…I’ve seen it before…middle school all over again, some people procreate before growing their brains…or their spines.
    Dishtowel chain…:) That’s hilarious!

  9. Hehe I love the way you ended this. What a wonderful story you have shared, I found myself immersed in your adventures at the play-group and relationship with Weird Ellen. I can’t wait to read what you post next!

  10. Thanks Frank.

    And, um, sadly, I lost touch with Clueless Ellen long ago. I’m not quite sure HOW, but yes, I did!

  11. Love the analogy of the dishtowel and blog awards.

    … and Weird Ellen probably still doesn’t get it … thus it’s Clueless Ellen … better yet. Send her a Clue (the game) because she obviously doesn’t have one.

  12. Okay, first off, I love your writing style. The way you tell a story is captivating. You are one of my favorite bloggers and this story just makes me love you more. The part about your dog, while incredibly sad, made me laugh several times. That is a gift you have! I laugh, I cry…I smirk at Weird Ellen. So many emotions…

    Second, I have never received a dish-towel chain letter. You are too sweet for participating in it anyway.

    Third, did anyone ever tell her to her face that you call her Weird Ellen? Maybe she’d get the hint then? Probably not though, huh.

    • Thanks, Darla, I feel the same way about you and your writing.

      I actually had way more in it about the dog. Weird Ellen kept bringing him up — she wouldn’t shut up about him, and how he was going to get better “before you know it.” I often find it difficult to tell people that they’re wrong, but when I did so repeatedly — I mean, dead is not fungible — she couldn’t catch on. An odd woman, for sure.

      I think I was probably the only person who called her “weird” — but then I didn’t socialize with her friends. Several of the ones I did make shortly thereafter are still friends today.

  13. Elyse, you have a wonderful way with words. I am always amazed at the ‘balls’ of some women. I often don’t understand women, even though I should, since I am one. But sometimes when I am standing with a group of women they seem to be speaking in a foreign language.

    • Thanks, PW! I understand women like us, and this whole wonderful group of bloggers. It is women (and some men, too) who are just plain hurtful that I don’t get. What do THEY get out of it?

    • I’m with PW … something that jumped out at me while reading both your story and all the responses – is that the snarkiMcsnarks of the world are largely — women! Augh! We’re supposed to uplift each other and blah blah blah .. the reality is that many I’ve met are competitive snakes. ~sigh~


  14. I wouldn’t have believed I could get a little misty eyed over a tale about a DISH TOWEL, but I’l have to say that all the different bits and pieces came together so perfectly … it had me wondering where it was going, even while I was enjoying the journey, and then SNAP, there it was, a perfectly placed ending. Yummy.

    • So glad you liked it, Tex. And you can use one of those dishtowels to dry your eyes. This is a multi-functional blog.

      • iI you don’t mind, I believe I’ll have to go with one of the prettier versions, because that dish towel in the photo is … well … not the shiniest penny in the ocean, if you catch my drift. Still, I suppose for wiping away tears, all one needs is something absorbent. My eyes will be closed anyway, right? Oh heck, bring on the ugly!

  15. GOF

    That’s a beautifully told story Elyse. I’ve never met anyone like Weird Ellen in my life, but I can understand how hurtful her behavior must have been to you at the time.

    Thank goodness there are more ‘Katys’ in the world than “Weird Ellens”.

    Oh, and How do you use a dishtowel? ;-)

    • Thanks GOF. You’ve never met a Weird Ellen? Never met anyone who was mean and hurtful? You are one lucky guy. I’m not sure that there are more Katys than Weird Ellens, but I have learned to spot them and avoid them. I was also living in a place at that time where people were still playing with the folks they went to kindergarten with and they didn’t really welcome new folk. I was new folk.

      I think the first thing you should do with a dishtowel is blindfold yourself. Because if you have never used one you must be living in a vile place. I don’t want you looking at that!

      • GOF

        I’ve never let many people get into my life. ‘Weird Allens’ don’t get past first base, but the downside is that I’ve probably missed out on knowing a lot of good people as well.

        Don’t worry, I’ve done my share of dishtowel work. :-)

      • GOF

        Proofread GOF…..apologies….. ‘Weird Ellens”.

        • Well, I am glad to hear that you know what to do with a dishtowel. Especially since I had lunch today with my old friend Judy, who after reading this post, realized that way back in 1992, she had broken the dishtowel chain. So she gave me one. Let me know if you need to borrow it!

  16. I love that simple weird story!
    And I did get a dishtowel chain letter once. I went out and bought a pretty dishtowel (like you, because it was a sweet friend who sent it to me) and then about six months later I found the towel still in the bag. I used it.
    And that’s what has happened to all the sweet and thoughtful and flattering blogger awards. I just haven’t gotten around to them, although, like the dishtowel, my intentions are good.

    • OK, we now have FOUR Dishtowel Club Alumnae. What are the chances of that among the small number of people who read this blog. It turns out that being an unwilling member of this Club happens more often than anyone thinks. Maybe I just turned over a rock. But that’s ok, I can use one of those dishtowels to clean up the mess!

      As for the awards, I recall you did a funny post on getting them. Me I just tried to pass them on. But it is hard to decide, you worry about hurting feelings, forgetting people. Etc. So I am all for making it easier — but I feel too guilty to ignore them!

  17. You will NOT believe this: In 1992 I was a member of that dish towel chain letter thing. And I actually SENT dish towels. Never did get any in return though.

    • Susan — I can’t believe it. You, me and Barb! Hilarious. And here we are all together again. Somehow I think this is a better outlet for our creativity than dishtowels! I am chuckling…

      I have never gotten anything back from any of these stupid chain letters. At Christmas time, another close friend sent me a recipe chain letter. I sent off my world famous homemade Irish Cream Liqueur recipe. And got nothing in return. I should have known!

      I think exchanging wonderful writing as we do now is MUCH BETTER than dishtowels!

  18. You are a very loyal friend. Don’t you wish you could discover who started the dish towel chain letter idea? What a concept. I could see a good bottle of wine chain letter, but dish towels? Very nice story.

    • Thanks, YS!

      Dishtowels was pretty weird. I HATE chain letters. I find many in my inbox with prayers in them, which makes me kinda crazy. If you send this to 250 folks the world will be wonderful; if you don’t everyone you have ever loved will die a horrible death before your eyes. Who thinks up these things????? And why do they inflict them on the more normal folks.

  19. Weird Ellen, women behaving like junior high and an ugly dish towel…somehow these fit together perfectly.

    I admit I’ve only “accepted” one of several of those blog awards given to me which probably makes me seem super ungrateful to those giving them :(

    • Well, Angie, now that you mention it, I did give you a couple of those awards myself. You’re welcome.

      Actually, I think you are just smarter than I am. I love the recognition, but it is hard work trying to read and see what others have done. Oy vey!

      As for Weird Ellen and the dishtowel, yeah. I wish I could have buried her in them. Stacks and stacks of them.

  20. No doubt about it, “WeirdEllen” earned the monicker!

    And a the dishtowel chain letter was one great story – bravo!

  21. I have never heard before anything called dishtowel chain letter. I am not sure if it’s interesting. :) But you this piece very nicely. I specially liked the part how interlink the concept of dishtowel chain letter with blog awards.

    • I don’t think there is any woman, any one on earth who would try to get a man to become part of a Dishtowel Chain. Perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt it! For one thing, instructions on HOW TO USE A DISHTOWEL would be necessary for many men (but likely not you, Arindam, because I am betting you help out a whole lot).

      But the AWARDS have always seemed to me very much like a chain letter. Except when I do participate in a chain letter, I get nothing in return. When I get/give awards, well, I feel kind of good. Until I realize I can’t write anything until I pass them on …

  22. You say it so well. Excellent post. Keep on keepin on with the writing. We enjoy reading it :-)

  23. Sorry you didn’t use the dishtowel to rat-tail Weird Ellen in the ass…
    Great tale!

    • Thanks Guapo — actually I think I would prefer to rat-tail her in the face, but the butt would be pretty good too. But it is SO MUCH FUN to see how people who know they have been nasty to you squirm when you are nice to them. Oh, it is a wonderful feeling.

  24. RVingGirl

    Elyse, you and I may have been in the same group once upon a time, your story sounds so familiar. But alas my “group therapy” thing happened here in Bermuda. I was accused and convicted without a word allowed from me. It was devastating because it was as though they held a mock trial. They also told me that I could NOT quit the group! I was trapped because one of the girls was my ride home. It was 100% unjust and terribly unfair and a part of my heart broke that day. The only reason I cannot ever blog about it on MY blog is the people are still around me, though obviously not close. This island is too small
    I learned much that day and I have come a long way. I have also forgiven them but one day I want to set the record straight!

    • People can really be ugly sometimes, can’t they? Maybe that’s why I move so much. But seriously, Word Press is free, so you can always vent separately — and reblog! Gee–this post really hits home with me … change the settings and the names. I find that jerks NEVER recognize themselves!

  25. Thanks for sharing this story. And so eloquently, too!

    I’m pretty sure that, in my house, “Weird Ellen” would be called “Bitchy Ellen” or “That Bitch, Ellen”. You’re far nicer than I am.

    I really enjoy your blog!

    • Thanks D&O — I like yours a lot too.

      But I’m not really nice. I just know that when someone is mean to me that it makes them feel like SHIT that I am nice anyway. It is the best revenge.

      It’s people I like that I’m snarky to!

  26. jonesingafter40

    Unfailing niceness gets them every time (almost). I hope Ellen learned something from you about how to treat people.

    • I agree — it’s usually the best way to deal with assholes. It disarms them.

      But I don’t think that Ellen thought she was being unkind. I think she was socially inept.

  27. The great thing about these weird people and event that happen in life is that, if you’re a really good writer (and you are), you can turn them around and make people chuckle. I sure did.

    I don’t like “chain anythings.” I understand why some people do them–most are well-intended and don’t mean to make you crazy, but they really should consider the “friend” they are involving and be more selective. I’ve never heard of a dishtowel chain and I hope I never get involved.

    Absolutely great story–especially about Weird Ellen insisting on the cure of your cremated dog. That part was told perfectly! :)

    • Thanks, Lorna! I would really have no stories to tell if I didn’t get myself into odd situations so often —
      Ellen was clearly not a dog person. Neither live, nor dead nor ashen. Perhaps she liked stuffed ones though.

  28. Great post, Elsye! I like your style.

  29. So Weird Ellen grew up yet STILL didn’t know how to play nice in the school yard? Sheesh, some people…..

    Hey, you could start that chain letter up again, only send out all 9 of the letters to Weird Ellen – anonymously, of course!

  30. Yes, I got the dishtowel chain letter and like you wanted to honor my friend who’d sent it to me, so I sent it out. An older and stronger woman than I sent me a dishtowel and one to my friend and told me that was all she was going to do.
    From there I grew another chink in my spine and learned I don’t have to go to Tupperware, Candle parties or lunches with people I can’t stand.

    Wouldn’t you have something to say to Weird Ellen if you knew then what you know now?

    • I never knew anyone else who got the dishtowel chain. We are clearly soulmates!

      Actually, I had the last laugh on Weird Ellen: I was incredibly, delightfully, overly nice to her forever afterwards. So she felt like total crap whenever she saw me. And as I told Mags above, Weird Ellen invited me back into the group. I politely declined. The best revenge!

  31. Hi,
    I could only laugh about the dishtowels, I also have never heard of such a thing, It seems a very odd type of chain letter. :D

    Even though you were told not to go back to the baby group, it sounds like you met a very nice person, so in the end it was worth it.

    • I should add an epilogue. After occasional times when we were in functions together at the library and such, Weird Ellen INVITED ME TO RE-JOIN THE PLAYGROUP. I politely declined.

  32. The thing is… if it were to happen once in a lifetime, I could handle sending out 9 dishtowels, but what happens is an onslaught of dish towel giving until we have no more drawers to put them in!

  33. I hate those chain letters: but dishtowels?! Yikes! I can relate to your getting ‘thrown out’ of the baby group. One of my good friends started a book group and then got mad at me about something and told me she did not want me to participate in the book group anymore! It was so ridiculous and I told her so. Wish I could say we’re still friends. Oh well!

Play nice, please.

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