Posted by: dougery | April 6, 2011

A Treatise on Toilet Paper

(This article was inspired by a friend’s blog post which is much punchier and funnier than what follows)

The other day I drove up to the pump and saw that the previous petrol patron had dropped a whopping $8.01 for what amounts to a little over 2 gallons of gasoline. There is no proper way to explain the peculiar sadness this made me feel. Yes I am aware of portable gas jugs and the like, but in my mind I was picturing some blue-collar worker pinching pennies and filling up their battered Civic with as much as it would take for the $8.01 they had in their wallet. How far can one drive on a little over 2 gallons? Would they even be able to make it to work and back to the pump?

Looking at my own bank account I am always stupefied by the amount of cash that goes to food and gas. In Chicago L and I preferred to go food shopping more or less every day. That way you could choose a dinner that you were in the mood for and not just something you needed to settle on because they were the only raw materials remaining in the fridge. This was in direct opposition to my grocery shopping as a bachelor where I had a set list of items that I bought every two weeks. Pretty much unchanged from the list my college friend Harry memorably transposed into the ‘quitting heroin’ shopping list Rentboy recites in Trainspotting (Beefaroni: two tins of, Chicken patties: one box of, Macaroni & Cheese… etc).

And once every month or so I would buy a package of toilet paper. Whatever was on sale. No matter how infrequently this purchase was made I always felt a little odd walking around the store with the offending article in my basket. As if the content of my cart boldly declared to the rest of the customers: “Yes, I defecate! Behold the sordid sanitary options at my disposal!” We’re talking the pseudo-embarrassment more properly reserved for the nonchalant acquisition of say, condoms or pornography. To say nothing of the physical awkwardness of the packaging that shoulders all of your other smaller sundries aside.

The point is I dislike buying toilet paper.

Which is why it was so frustrating grocery shopping in Chicago after I moved in with L because we were buying it like every goddam day. The reasons for this are fairly simple and yet increasingly mysterious:

a) There were now two people utilizing the toilet (with guests on occasion).
b) One of these users being female and the attendant additional requirements of the fair sex.

What I mean by this is that having no real idea of what women use the bathroom for (since I already know they certainly don’t expel waste or anything ‘earthy’ like that) I just figured L was blowing her nose a lot. I’m kidding, but seriously we were going through the stuff like candy. More than a roll a day, close to two. I half expected to stumble sleepily into the john late some evening and find my wife crouched in the corner gobbling the damn stuff like some sort of Gollum with an eating disorder.

The ‘problem’ traveled with us. When home with her family I was always baffled by the number of rolls we used and then had to ask for more of. I even went so far as to point this out to the patriarch who just sort of shrugged and said something about what it was like to live for so many years as the only man in a house full of women with a special kind a world weariness in his voice that I guess comes about when you’ve been forced to buy billions of rolls of toilet paper.

Part of the ‘problem,’ to be sure, was L’s preference in ply. I swear some of the stuff we used in Chicago she must have obtained on some top secret TP black market. Like 40-ply with embroidering or something. May as well use pieces of chopped up Egyptian linen. Give a fresh roll a healthy spin and it would run out almost immediately.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. Whenever I was the one doing the shopping I would purposely locate the slightest ply I could find. One time CVS had a special on a ginormo-pack of ‘Earth Friendly’ stuff made from partially recycled material (which, okay, in retrospect kind of sounds suspect but whatever, it was like 6 bucks for 20 rolls or something). I bought two. They lasted an entire month but I was lectured in a very polite and round-about way by my wife on my decision to purchase such coarse product.

Again, I did feel sorry as I do not fully understand a woman’s bathroom tissue needs and can imagine that rough paper might in fact be somewhat unpleasant to use in a femininely way. I mean, I had no problems. The stuff was practically goose down compared to what they had in my college dorm. But it was not very kind on L who I guess is a bit more sensitive.

Fast forward to the Berkshires. I’m in Target and I’m getting stuff for our farm house. It’s not like it took all day to drive here but still, I’d rather make the trips few and far between. So I buy the largest package of TP I can find. 1-ply. A million sheets. Something preposterous like 48 rolls or maybe even 96. A month later I went back to Target for cat food and got another package even though we did not put so much as a dent on our supply. I’ve only needed to go back one other time in the SIX months we’ve been living here. And either L has gotten used to it or she begrudgingly accepted the lower tissue quality. Ladies, I know. Talk about domestic bliss. Yet for this noble concession I will always love her.

Because I fucking hate buying toilet paper.

Watching: Mad Men S3



  1. I’m thrilled I’m not the only one who despises purchasig TP. There should be some kind of mail order system set for us squeamish TP hunters.

  2. Um. You know, I’m happy to be the toilet-paper-buyer in this relationship. Especially since you never use any at all. Which is somewhat more disturbing than my use of too much…

  3. @ Abby. GENIUS. I’ll be the VP of your mail-order TP gazillion dollar empire.

    @ Wife. Since we are the New England Fort Knox of TP, this is no longer a concern. And just because I do not eat TP, Gollum, does not mean I don’t use the appropriate amount.

  4. “Yes, I defecate! Behold the sordid sanitary options at my disposal!”

    I think if you shouted this at the cashier at the Target every time you bought it, you’d a.) feel better about buying TP, and b.) become a local legend.

  5. HA!

  6. My strategy has been to just stop buying it, because my boyfriend has such stringent requirements that I know I cannot possibly comply. His advice is: “Just buy the most expensive one.” But I’m simply not going to spend $19 on 12 rolls.

  7. i second sensei’s suggestion. and YAY mad men!

  8. disc 3 arrives today via Most Honorable Netlfix. (and disc 4 on Friday).

  9. To this cleanliness add more cleanliness, Doug,
    because you have an anus more pure than a saltcellar,
    nor in the entire year do you defecate ten times,
    and even then it is more solid than a bean or pebble –
    if you rubbed it with your hands,
    you wouldn’t even be able to make your hands dirty.
    These advantages are so beautiful, Doug,
    don’t spurn them or think them worthless,
    and stop begging the hundred sesterces as you are accustomed to:
    for you are blessed enough.

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