I Pay My Taxes and I Want a Bib

Why must cleanliness be reserved for the baby class?

Man with napkin tucked into collar.
Vincent Besnault/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Innovative Thinking

For all that dining culture has transformed over the past couple of decades — Instagram, delivery, ordering a bunch of small plates and making the entire group split them, what have you — there’s a final frontier that we have yet to break ground on. It’s one that would remake the world of dining out as we know it, that would protect the untainted and free entire populations from the tyranny of having to constantly guard against threats whose marks may never be erased.

That’s right, I’m talking about bibs for adults.

Why must bibs be only for the baby class? We grant this powerful aegis to infants and tots, who are incapable of sitting down for a proper meal by themselves, so why deny those same protections to grown-ups, who are generally held to a much higher standard of cleanliness than soiled toddlers?

Bibs are wonderful. The benefits of them are obvious: they prevent stray droplets, drips, dribbles, and drizzles from getting on one’s Everlane separates and staining them forever, or at least until the next time one can acquire a Tide To Go pen. That utility alone is worth it, eliminating the obligation to contort one’s chest away from the table in an uncomfortable dance to avoid spillage, or to take tiny sips that are in opposition to the primal human impulse to slurp big. Plus, bibs can double as napkins to wipe one’s disgusting sauce-sullied hands on, which means one (or more!) fewer paper napkins squandered when we’re all trying to be a little more eco friendly, you know?

In this country, only a few types of food — crab, lobster, sometimes Nashville hot chicken — are granted the privilege of being served with a side of adult bib. But are not all cuisines created equal, endowed with unalienable rights to be consumed without fear of fleck and splot? I certainly could have used a bib that time several years ago when I stained my favorite white Uniqlo blouse with chili oil-saturated ramen broth, which I tried to get rid of with a Tide pen, but I rubbed too hard and tore a large hole in the cloth, at which point I had to just call it in and say goodbye to a beloved shirt that in hindsight probably didn’t have a lot of structural integrity. There’s a direct line between that tragedy and what I’ve started doing whenever I go to Xi’an Famous Foods, which is bring a few extra paper towels so that I can surreptitiously tuck them into my shirt collar as I hunch over my exceedingly delicious, devastatingly splash-prone oil-seared hand-ripped noodles.

To be fair, adult bibs do exist, but they are largely marketed toward the elderly and people who have difficulty eating. I have yet to see one of these products, which I am considering purchasing, out and about in public. There is still some stigma attached to bibs for adults outside of the aforementioned acceptable culinary contexts, some sheen of childish degradation. Just look at how this European online retailer or whatever markets a bib scarf as a “dignified solution” and “fashionable alternative” to conventional adult bibs. “Wearing a grown-up bib is depressing and humiliating for many of our loved ones,” the product description continues. “[P]rotect both your shirt and your dignity.” Needless to say, the bib market is ripe for disruption and I hope Marc Andreesen is reading this.

We must not let them (the anti-adult bib lobby) win. Wearing a bib doesn’t have to be depressing and/or humiliating. Babies and seniors have been far ahead of the curve when it comes to sensible spill-preventative technology. For the rest of us, it’s time to normalize adult bibs. Go on now — strap on one of those washable, Velcroed bad boys and experience the true liberation of a stain-proof awakening.