Le TP, c’est nous

“Hi? I’m raising money for my school? Would you like to buy some…?”

Some what? Chocolate? Nobody needs chocolate, not really. Scented candles? Nobody needs scented candles either. Nobody wants scented candles for that matter.

“…toilet paper?”

Ahh, now there’s an ingenious fundraiser. Absolutely everybody needs toilet paper. No matter what your religion, diet, class, politics or personal style, you’re going to use TP. Toilet paper? Why, of course we’ll buy some!

Same old same roll.  Image from http://blog.toiletpaperworld.com. Really!

Same old same roll.
Image from http://blog.toiletpaperworld.com. Really!

And yet, this particular fundraiser passed my door about seven years ago and has never come round again. Just the one time. No number two. Why? Because I imagine this poor girl and her peers were so mortified selling toilet paper to strangers that they issued an ultimatum: “We take issue with the tissue. Never again. We hereby wipe this fundraiser from future consideration. It was, ultimately, a bummer.”

We’re strangely conflicted about toilet paper. It’s the great open secret of society, stacked right there in the grocery store aisles, kidding no one about what it’s for and yet marketed with images of puffy clouds and adorable kittens. The last time I had shrimp vindaloo, there were no kittens willing to come within a 20-foot radius, trust me. There was a cloud, yes, but I wouldn’t describe it as “puffy.”

It’s as though we’re ashamed of toilet paper. We’re even more open about lady stuff than toilet paper, although we do euphemistically refer to them as “feminine hygiene products,” like they’re some kind of replacement part you’d pick up at the hardware. Television ads for these products are quite explicit in referring to absorbency and one’s ability to continue doing yoga at all times, though I’m not quite clear on the concept of “wings.” I’m on a need-to-know basis in this regard and I don’t really need to know.

When I was a kid, though, I wanted to know. I remember pulling a big box of pads out of a grocery bag and asking my mother, “What’s this?” I can’t remember her exact answer but it was along the lines of “For me to know and you to find out,” which pretty much summarizes my sex education as well, by the way.

Researchers have made tremendous improvements in these products since then, or so I gather; I understand there were once belts involved, a fact I know only because I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Toilet paper, on the other hand, is pretty much what it was 40 years ago. In terms of product development, it seems to be stuck, blocked even, no movement whatsoever – with one exception: toilet paper keeps getting softer and softer.

Perhaps this is where our shame lies. Toilet paper has transformed from the practical to an indulgence. As our TP becomes softer, so do we. As a society, we are our toilet paper.

When you think back to our pioneer ancestors, they made do with handfuls of straw and the occasional small rodent. They were rugged and strong and walked funny but they could sure endure hardship. If you could handle corncobs, you could withstand anything. Smallpox might even be a blessing by comparison.

Oh for goodness sake...!

Oh for goodness sake…!

Compare this to the Charmin bathroom tissue I purchased last week. The packaging promised both toughness and softness. It was essentially the Barrack Obama of toilet papers. The packaging furthermore encouraged me to accompany my daily usage with new Charmin Freshmates flushable wipes – “a routine for a cleaner clean” – because we live in a society where just plain clean apparently isn’t clean enough. And when you get to the point where you’re marketing baby wipes for adults, you’ve essentially become the end of the Roman Empire.

Buying the puffy stuff was a momentary lapse in judgement. Normally, we go for whatever’s cheap, making sure the kids truly appreciate that whole second ply. If we can buy the recycled brand, all the better, especially if it still has bits of corrugated cardboard in it. I believe that a life of austerity will teach my children toughness and self-reliance. I feel that deprivation in their digestive end-processes will help them maintain a healthy, shame-free attitude. But mostly I know from experience that they are incapable of using the thick stuff without clogging the damn toilet.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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49 Responses to Le TP, c’est nous

  1. Katie says:

    I grew up in a Scott household–no quilts, plys (plies?), or dancing bears. It made me stronger as an individual. Builds character.

  2. El Guapo says:

    I would think the electric water-pick (is there an electronic one yet?) would also be a sign of the end of civilization.

  3. Cristina says:

    What do you mean “nobody needs chocolate”? You are make no sense! None at all! 😛

  4. Charmin commercials involving smearing (blue) toothpaste on a hand and then wiping it off, first with Brand X and then with trusty Charmin, almost put me off TP for life. I still can’t see those bears without shuddering.

  5. Ned's Blog says:

    I’m with you. The thinner the better. No toilet clogs. In fact, if we do happen to purchase two-ply, we sit down as a family and separate it onto some empty cardboard rolls specifically saved for that purpose. It’s our family boding time. Just like group needle point. Two-ply on sale? Excellent! Multiply that by two? Even better! Sheryl Crow would be proud.

  6. List of X says:

    Japan has pretty much moved on from the toilet paper. They use bidets with water wash and air dry. But here in the US – and probably in Canada, too, we’ll keep holding on to the toilet paper for long time. They can take it away from us when they take it from our cold, dead hands – and after we use it.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’m keen to try a bidet, actually. But I would likely live in constant doubt of the thoroughness of water pressure. We North Americans stand by the power of manual labour.

      • List of X says:

        I’m sure that the Japanese with their engineering genius have already figured out the proper water pressure.
        We North Americans aren’t really big fans of manual labor, actually, but it could be that the Constitution or the Bible only allow the paper and manual labor.

  7. Running1 says:

    having no money in college, my roommates and I stole tp from the library and prayed security wouldn’t search our backpacks when leaving…and there was nothing soft and charminy about stolen college tp.

  8. byebyebeer says:

    What is it with kids using so much toilet paper? Maybe if they had to tote it all home for their school fundraiser order, they’d see why a little less is best. My favorite is the tube-free kind. No more impromptu spyglasses, though, and suddenly it occurs to me that I am not a very fun mom. Also, I just had to google “magnifying thing pirates use”.

  9. ksbeth says:

    now if they just sold the bad chocolates with the toilet paper, there is a marketing hit waiting to happen.

  10. Elyse says:

    I am a toilet paper connoisseur. Seriously, I have Crohn’s and I can identify the brand as soon as it touches my tender tush. Except for the stuff they just started putting into the rest room at my office — I’d never experienced exfoliating TP before.

  11. Tez says:

    It seems Thailand has discovered the joys of a clean bum. Check out the Bum Gun:


    I think their water closets runneth over!

  12. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I dread buying TP. There are far too many choices and I want to be environmentally conscious, so I try not to buy the fluffiest product, knowing that it will end up cushioning a tossed bedframe in a landfill somewhere. And I still feel embarrassed when I stand at the cashier with the jumbo economy pack. Why? It’s natural, we all do it, yet, I will sometimes wait until I find a female cashier with no other customers so that I can take care of the transaction in private. I dread the day I have to buy laxatives and TP. Oh, dear Gawd. I’ll have to wear a disguise.

  13. pinklightsabre says:

    My friend was scarred by his dad telling him how many squares he could use, and not to waste it.

  14. Why use toilet paper when you can buy an expensive toilet that shoots water up there and cleans for you. Who cares if you come out a little more on the wet side; you’re clean right? hah

  15. Letizia says:

    A door to door toilet paper sales girl – how original!

    When I moved to the US from France, I was surprised by how much bigger the TP rolls were (although everything is bigger here so I shouldn’t have been too surprised). They are like pillows in comparison!

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