Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Coming Clean

If you have spent nearly your whole life paying people to grind trees into lint, roll it up, and pack it into an eternal shroud made of refined crude oil, just so you can wipe your butt, it's hard to come clean.

There are just some luxuries you'd miss more than others.

I don't have to have the fancy toilet paper. I don't even want the fancy toilet paper. I once tried someone's Charmin, which is made of baby fontanels stacked four-ply with cherub breath quilted inside, and it's so soft you feel like you're stripping the wings off a fairy with each wipe. It's disconcerting. Not only is it more comfort than anyone should have on the toilet, but it supports at least forty years of the worst advertising campaigns the world has ever known, wherein we finally ditched Mr. Whipple only to replace him with fat technicolor bears and the stupidest tag line in history: "We all have to Go--why not enjoy the Go?" In other news, it is not possible to break a television screen with a bag of Cheetos.

The Charmin bears, if you ask me, are awfully fussy about something they're supposed to be doing in the woods.

Animals don't use toilet paper. Our cat Tater, for example, does not wipe herself, and we can monitor the condition of her nethers, because unlike the previous cat (Saint) Larry, she is a tail-up kind of gal. She never looks smeary or anything. It makes you wonder why people need so much clean-up. I believe this has something to do with our notable buns. That's a lot of real estate for a turd to get through. Cats don't have buns. The fattest cat you know is still just a bunch of scaffolding with a pucker-button on one end.

Anyway, humans have not always had toilet paper at all, although it does go back a long way. Toilet paper was first manufactured in China in the sixth century A.D., where it was considered a stout improvement over stone tablets. All sorts of other botanicals have been used, as well as wool, stones, snow, and (famously) corn cobs, which is the item I have the most trouble imagining. I mean, if you're itchy, sure. And, of course, the Persians would just scoot on their carpets.

With the advent of the printing press, newsprint and books became an excellent vehicle for personal tidiness and enlightenment. In a story attributed to Lord Chesterfield, a gentleman picked up a cheap copy of Horace, read a page or two, and--speaking of fancy--"sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina." Cloacina was the goddess who presided over the Cloaca Maxima, which refers not to Catherine the Great but to the main drain of the Roman sewer system. She'd rather have been the ambassador to the Cook Islands like anyone else but sometimes you've got to work your way up.

It wasn't until 1857 that modern toilet paper was invented, although some brands were advertised as "splinter-free" as late as the Depression. Colored TP was introduced during the 'Sixties, when white people used it without a trace of irony. And of course many brands were and are perfumed. I don't know why. Maybe to throw off the dog.

So, back to our original plaint. 27,000 trees are sacrificed every day for toilet paper. The softest fanciest brands, such as Charmin, are indeed made of virgin old-growth trees and its purchasers should really consider getting over themselves. Especially since you can now purchase toilet tissue fashioned from bamboo or hemp. Hemp, of course, according to its fervent yet relaxed proponents, can be made into virtually anything, from rope to paper to clothing to beer to soap. Notable hemp activist James "Jim Jim" "Spiffo" "Soo-wheet!" Spackleworth was even reported to have designed a working constructivist paradigm transmogrifier out of hemp and popsicle sticks, although his notes didn't make sense in the morning.

Whether one opts for the more environmentally friendly versions of toilet paper or not, it's no doubt inarguable that most of us use more than we need to. In olden times people were probably a lot more conservative with it than they are now. I know the arrival of the Sears & Roebuck catalog was a much anticipated event on the farm my mom grew up on, and had a bigger impact on the whole region than internet advertising could ever hope to.

At any rate, let's get some perspective on the famous "over-under" toilet roll controversy. Don't be precious. If it really bugs you that much, you can fix it yourself. You're just sitting there.

41 comments:

  1. Since you brought this up, I can admit this now. I've always wondered how animals, specifically my parrots -- who have white down surrounding their cloacas -- stay so clean when they poop so dang much. Humans need help cleaning up, and sometimes even that isn't enough. It makes me wonder how people must have smelled in the days before toilet paper, daily showers, and deodorant. I guess if everyone reeks, no one does.

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    1. I often suspect I smell as bad by ten in the morning as humans used to smell all the time. I'm not proud of this. As you can imagine. Meanwhile Dave can return from a fifteen-mile walk in the sun and just smell like sunshine.

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    2. Yes, but during that walk he will get bitten by many mosquitoes, since they love him so much. So it all even out, I guess.

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  2. My Laurie told me (and he was born in 1926, so he should know) that when he was a lad, men (at least the ones he knew) didn't wear underpants, but they had long shirt tails, always tucked in. And they always had skid marks.

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  3. Since I have a septic system my TP is the cheapest and thinnest made. Of course, my visiting relatives just think I am cheap.

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    1. My sister always used Scott or something for the same reason. I don't know about her, but it just made me use more squares.

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  4. According to our building engineer the ultra-soft toilet paper is wreacking havoc with the buildings plumbing system. We are blameless because we now buy our toilet paper from "Who Gives A Crap" - it's made from recycled paper (not recycled toilet paper of course, that would be a trick now wouldn't it?). The name of the company is plastered all over the shipping box, so along with being a tiny bit eco-friendly, it gives the shipping people a little giggle (I hope).

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    1. Their ads have been all over my social media pages. Once you start to look into your own wasteful practices, you see all sorts of things. I wonder if the transportation of the TP to individual houses knocks out some of the virtue value? I might get that too. Do you like it?

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    2. I like it just fine - we are still working on the box of 48 double rolls I bought at least 5 months ago. My husband wasn't crazy about it at first, he likes the super soft stuff, but he got used to it and since we have been using it there haven't been any toilet blockages or back-ups no matter how much tp he uses. So, yeah - all good. (Plus, we don't have a car so I try to get all the big, heavy, bulky household items delivered. Another plus for me.)

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    3. We started buying Caboo a few years ago and it alleviates some of my guilt. I still wonder what land they're growing all that cane and bamboo on though. Thanks for tackling this issue, Murr.

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    4. We're one big earthquake away from the five-gallon bucket in the back yard. I'll let you know what we come up with for TP.

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  5. Several years ago a friend who was visiting NYC came across an "Enjoy the Go" building where there were toilets and stalls set up for each state. She thought, "Why not?" but the GA stall was in use, so they sent her to Arizona. The stall had posters of things to do in Arizona. An attendant cleaned each stall after use. What a weird thing.

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  6. Sigh.
    And then we flush the results of our endeavours using drinking water.

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    1. It's hard to get around how wasteful we all are.

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  7. I'm still not comfortable doing my business indoors where I live and eat.
    Big leaf Aster works good instead of paper products and I remember a whole lot of crying when Sears stopped printing their catalogs.

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    1. Maybe keep a basket of large leaves by the toilet in lieu pf TP? I wonder how leaves would affect the plumbing? And would leaves that are velvety do a better job than smooth leaves?

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    2. A basket of leaves wouldn't work as they would dry out and become scratchy, so you might as well instead, tear up yesterday's newspaper and use that, which is what we had when I was very young, as well as any of Mum's old dressmaking patterns that had become too tattered to be useful.

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    3. Around here I hear thimbleberry leaves are the way to go, or to enjoy go, but then I'd REALLY have to go in the woods.

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  8. You can pry my soft TP from my cold dead hands, the ones attached to my IBS body!! Some of us really appreciate that stuff.

    If you really want to help reduce the use of trees, you could go the cloth wipe route. It would only increase your laundry a little . . .

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    1. I wonder if manual cheek-spreading would help...I don't intend to find out just yet.

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  9. The years we lived in sunnier climes in our RV we used cloth wipes. I bought three dozen cheap facecloths from Walmart, cut them into four squares each and zig-zag hemmed them. They sat in a basket on the vanity beside the toilet. I kept a stainless steel step can filled half full of water/bleach on the other side of the toilet. When it was full the water went down the loo, the wipes went into the washer/drier on the sanitize cycle. Cloth wipes are a darn sight easier on the bum than TP and clean you better. With TP now costing $15 for 24 rolls I may start doing that again. Saved a heck of a lot of money and was much better for the environment. Shoot, we used to wash all the kid's (and incontinent granny's) diapers and no one was grossed out by that.

    And about cats. We have a big Persian who has a magnificent set of silken bloomers. He often gets poo on said bloomers and he doesn't like it. He herds me to the bathroom, where he jumps up on the bath bench, assumes the position, (head down-hiney up) sticks his tail up and waits for a shampoo, rinse and dry. If I'm not quick enough with this mandatory service I get nipped about the ankles until I do the doody-wash duty.

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  10. I'm not too fussed about fancy toilet paper, I just buy what's cheap and reasonably comfortable to use. I'm not wasting my money on "4-ply (brand), so soft it's like a cloud" when the cheaper stuff does the same job and gets flushed away. With the cost of some of the fancier ones you might as well wipe with a $10 or two. I've thought about the cloth wipes idea, but I'd need to buy a nappy (diaper) pail with a lid for the soaking part and then hope the cat doesn't tip it over, then I'd still have to keep some TP on hand for visitors. It wouldn't be any harder than when I washed the babies nappies all those years ago.

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    1. Some of us old folks have got some tricks up our sleeves, I'm guessing!

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  11. Check out this website to see how your favorite TP rates on an A-F grading scale. My favorite, Kirkland, gets an F. I'll switch brands after I run out!
    https://www.greenmatters.com/p/sustainable-toilet-paper

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    1. Me too! Cheap as all get-out, but jeez. I hate how they pack everything in plastic.

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    2. Ooh! My Seventh Generation gets an A! And I've switched to buying individual paper wrapped rolls instead of a gaggle wrapped in plastic.

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    3. I notice Trader Joe's gets an A too. Lots of choices.

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  12. I took a tour of Israel a while back and one of the things I BEST remember is the huge ancient Public Toilet Facility at Bet Shean. Apparently the users would settle themselves with one butt cheek on one sticking-out stone, and one on another, and just "let go" while staring into their own laps, or at each other, or at the entertainer performing on stage. (In our society today, we focus on the intake. We socialize by eating and drinking with others. It seems maybe in Roman society the focus was more on the output?) https://www.dreamstime.com/roman-public-toilet-ancient-city-bet-shean-view-view-roman-public-toilet-ancient-city-bet-shean-image110603210

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    1. And then there was King Louis assembling all the dignitaries to attend his morning dump. Plus I know I've seen outhouses with double or triple holes for companionship.

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  13. re: sustainable toilet paper:
    You have to go into the appendix of the original source article to see how they arrived at the scorecard ratings. It's more complex than you might think. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/issue-tissue-how-americans-are-flushing-forests-down-toilet-report.pdf

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  14. My recently remodeled hotel in Singapore featured an update on the hose and nozzle devices used in much of Asia ((where Canadian old growth forests are not so handy). The toilet's back rim has a flush-mounted(!) hose built in, right at the top in the middle, with a handy adjustable-pressure lever on the right side. It hits the spot perfectly, whereas the hose deal is clumsy and might shoot anywhere if you aren't careful. Clean up uses very little water. Probably could double as a bidet. A splash of genius!

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    1. I came back from Japan last summer convinced I would get a Toto Washlet better-than-a-bidet toilet, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I totally agree with you -- great experience! And available on Amazon!

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  15. I would love to try that. My bidet is right next to the toilet but I don't use it for this purpose. Why?

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  16. Let us know if it works. The principle's the same, only the angle is different.

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  17. Took me awhile to figure out that the itching I had "down there" at night was due to the nicer TP I was using. Now I get the recycled, non-perfumed stuff and get great sleep. Who knew you could have a reaction like that? It was, apparently, the only allergy I've ever had.

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    1. I would love to go into the doctor's office and answer "Toilet paper" when she asks if I have any allergies.

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