Rage Against The Minivan posted about toilet paper today.
She brought up the old under-versus-over debate. Then she asked her readers to share their preferences. I was going to add mine at the foot of her page, but I got distracted by the other responses. I read every one. And when I finished, I realized I had more to say than could politely fit in that comment section.
So yeah, this is a post about toilet paper. Sort of.
Or maybe it’s about incredulity, defiance, misbehaving cats and a really memorable spider.
When I was a teenager, mom and I stayed a night with some friends in another town. On our first morning as guests in their home, one of them quite loudly informed everyone at the breakfast table that my mother had replaced the toilet paper roll the “wrong” way in their bathroom. She went on to imply that this insane act, placing the paper’s end under the roll instead of over it, had caused her some barely survivable inconvenience in the middle of the night! Poor dear.
My mother politely explained that she didn’t know there was a preference. I didn’t know that either, but I formed one right then. And it was just the opposite of theirs. I couldn’t believe this was an issue worth pointing out to a temporary guest in her home. Why couldn’t she have done the polite thing and simply reversed the roll herself, without trying to embarrass or educate my mom? Incredible.
My rolls went under from that day on. And truly, when I saw one pointed over, and I could change it without much trouble, I changed it. Because no one could tell me not to. I did it in defiance of social norms and the dictate of that friend.
Years later, when husband and I bought our house, my defiance waned. There were other things to think about. Friends and relatives – people I liked – were pointing the paper over, so I just started to comply.
Then I got pregnant. And I couldn’t have cared less about the direction of the roll. Instead, I was obsessed with germs that might be on it.
Who had changed the roll? When did they do it? Were their hands clean? Was the lid down when they flushed? Did the paper get misted with bio-hazardous germs because the lid was up? Was the paper still wrapped until the point of going on the roller?
If someone else did change the paper, did they put their hands inside the tube or did they touch the entire outside edge of the paper to keep from dropping it? Or did they drop it and then wind the paper back onto the roll, complete with whatever germs were on the bathroom floor?
If the paper wasn’t on the roller, was it sitting on the toilet itself or, God forbid, on top of the sanitary napkin disposal bin, contaminating every piece?
Think about all of that. I sure did. And really, I still do.
Despite all of these heebeejeebee factors, I guess I was still largely compliant with the over-the-roll philosophy.
However, when I was five or six months along in my pregnancy, we got two new cats. Boy cats. Brothers. Mischievous partners in crime.
The fur boys made sport of kneading the toilet paper. And because the paper pointed forward, the kitties shredded the hell out of it, piling it playfully it a claw torn heap on the floor below the roller. It was aggravating and so wasteful. And gross. Really, really gross.
For a while, we turned the rolls around to point the paper under. That way, the kitties wouldn’t unroll it to the floor when they reached up to spin it. But think about it. Would you use paper from a roll with claw marks in it? You know all the places those claws go. You may as well just dip the paper in the litter box before you use it. We stopped putting it on the roller.
For years it sat up high on the towel rack above the toilet. Friends mentioned it. We tried to explain. I don’t think our home was anybody’s preferred place to relieve themselves.
When our son reached toilet training age, the roll went back. The cats had lost interest, but our son was a spinner like they had been, so the paper had to point under until he grew out of his toddler toy attitude toward the bathroom.
I suppose there was a very literal turning point, because now we are all again in the habit of pointing the paper forward, over the roll. Well, except in our son’s bathroom, because he has a different kind of toilet paper holder and it works better to point the paper under. But whatever.
I guess the point of my post is to dispel the myth that there is a right or wrong answer to this debate. There just really isn’t. There is just preference and circumstance.
Oh, and here’s that spider I mentioned.
P.S. The boy and I met Grammy at the Zoo last week. We stopped by to see the polar bears.
What are you up to?