When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally bring up the subject of toilet paper conservation at the dinner table:
"We use WAY too much toilet paper in this house! There's a reason that the paper is partitioned... one square per incident!"
If General Patton, Mother Teresa, and Adam Corolla had a child together (ew, but hang in there with me), my dad would be the product of their union. A veteran naval officer, owner of a potato and onion packaging plant (hard core breed), and gifted without care of the opinion of anyone else but his Maker, Dad was never inclined to choose his words carefully to avoid offense.
When I look back, I’m touched that he took such care to not single me out as the lone offender of TP squander by speaking to the lot of us at the table. But who else could he have been postulating to? I grew up with 3 older brothers - they mostly shook-dry; and my mother was a veteran-wiper and like-minded TP conservationist.
Lord knows I did my best to shake-and-save, determined as I was to participate in pre-dinner-pee-fun with my brothers as they delighted in colliding streams, and writing their initials in the bowl. I’d often stand next to them, arch my back dramatically, and ultimately have any pee-like-a-boy hopes shattered as the stream ran down my thigh. Gravity works, and the girl-thing points down after all...
I did my best, but I still think Dad was a bit unrealistic about the single-square expectation. If I'd kept that up, we'd have spent as much in hand soap as we did in toilet paper.
As a parent of 3 little girls, I'm totally feelin' that sense of urgency for TP conservation – there’s a whole lot of wipin' going on. Nothing is worse than reaching for the roll, only to find a few shards still glued to the cardboard (except, like, war and cancer and wanting a glass of wine at 10pm when the stores are closed. Those are probably worse).
The bald TP roll – a taunting testament to the to the once full spool of fluffy, rump-wiping goodness that was there when the sun came up. And in our house we don’t fuck around – we use the Mercedes of Charmin: Ultra Strong.
When faced with a bald roll situation, a number of thoughts go through your mind:
"Seriously?! Did they think that theirs would be the last wipe in here EVER?!
"No one has mistaken me for a boy for at least 30 years."
"We’re Costco members! How the F is there no toilet paper in this bathroom?!"
“I’m a horrible mother. They’ll never survive on their own…hopefully they marry someone who can change a roll…and fix plumbing…and grow food.”
"Nobody appreciates me..."
And these are your options:
• Drip dry into freshly clean undies.
• Shake. Although for those with girl-bits, this looks and feels like you're whisking eggs with your hips (and you can never quite shake it all given the number of places that drips can linger.)
• Hope that the remaining TP shards still glued to the cardboard roll can soak something up (this feels a bit like wiping with a paper bag wrapped around a rolling pin).
• Yell for supplies (This never works. They know they're in trouble, and run for the farthest room so they can play it off like they didn't hear the distress call.)
Tonight I tried something different. My husband and I got home from 'date night,' sent the sitter home (obviously SHE didn’t have to wipe while she was there…or did she?), and went upstairs to change into our jams for a movie.
I went into the bathroom to take care of business: pee, and brush my teeth to scrape off dinner in preparation for potential kissing on the couch (and of course, more wine) - and there it was... the shards on the roll. Laughing at me like a cardboard bully with wet napkin bits hanging from it's teeth.
Inspiration came over me to try a new tactic - since reasoning, guilt, and fear hadn't worked thus far. “I know,” I thought, “Maybe they’re just visual learners. I'll demonstrate!”
"Everybody! C’mere and watch me wipe!"
My call to action was answered by hysterical laughter (as in maniacal,) echoed by the sound of small feet running for cover in a poorly constructed town home (are they really running up the walls?) Followed by bedroom doors slamming, and more muffled laughter.
"Seriously!" I doubled-down, "You all need to come here and watch this so we're not going through an entire roll of toilet paper from dawn 'till dusk!"
A 7-year old eye-ball appeared in the crack of the partially-open bathroom door and briefly surveyed its naked mother holding a fresh roll of toilet paper that had been mined from under the sink. The eye-ball squinted then disappeared in cloud of frenzied vocal feedback for my latest instructional method in TP conservation: "EwwwWW-AH! MOMMM-AH!"
She didn’t even give it a chance.
I set aside momentary disappointment that my visual demonstration was not going to work, and appropriately utilized my maximum allowed 3-squares, pulled up my pajamas, and took the roll with me into the hall where all would be able to watch the finale.
I purposely unrolled and tore 3 squares, held it before me like a holy portion of dead-sea scroll, and pronounced:
"You all are single-handedly causing global warming and preventing more family vacations by you're over-usage of toilet paper! 3 squares is the limit for pee! We can't blame dad because he doesn't use it...and I'm pretty sure he doesn't poop!"
More laughter and screaming. They’re not getting this.
Defeated, deflated and frustrated, I joined my husband on the couch. He patted my knee and gave what support he could: "Your parenting is always entertaining... if only there was a manual for toilet paper usage."
"A MANUAL! There isn't a manual!" I said like a box car of wet toilet paper had suddenly been lifted off my shoulders. The brilliant man pointed out the whole cause of my distress.
There isn't an instruction manual for TP usage. How can I possibly know how much anyone is supposed to use? I mean, it is kind of a personal thing. Just because my dad said the partitions meant you were only supposed to use one, doesn't mean it's true - he didn't have a manual either. And whose to say that they won't, over time, get more pleasure out of the amount of TP they're using as opposed to all of the vacations we won't be able to take because we spent too much on TP?
"You're not going to write about this, are you?" My husband asked with a hint of fear.
"Hell no. Who spends that much time thinking about toilet paper?"
My dad would so back me on that.