Monthly Archives: February 2013

Toilet King

The argument about whether the toilet seat should be left up or down has probably been around ever since the invention of the toilet. (Or, more accurately, since about twelve hours after the invention of the toilet, since I’m guessing that the first toilet was probably installed in the daytime, and that the first conflict probably occurred when most toilet seat conflicts seem to occur—in the dark). Anyway, regardless of exactly when the first toilet seat argument happened, I have finally, after years of dedicating myself to the problem, come up with a solution. Are you ready? Here goes.

The toilet seat should be left… whichever way the person who last cleaned the toilet likes it.

There. That’s it. The toilet seat solution, in its entirety. It doesn’t matter what the ratio of males to females in the house is, nor does it matter who is most “deserving” of special privileges. The bathroom is neither a democracy nor a meritocracy: it is a monarchy, and as such, he (or she) who last cleans it is the King (or Queen) of the bathroom. Long Live the King (or Queen).

Such are the perks of monarchy that the Ruler of the Loo also gets to decide on other contentious subjects as well, subjects such as whether fuzzy toilet seat covers are to be allowed, whether the extra rolls of toilet paper should be visible (as opposed to hidden underneath the skirts of some cutesy fake Colonial doll), and even whether or not bright pink toilet paper (the kind that gives most people an embarrassing rash) should ever be allowed to replace the normal, “boring” TP. The Ruler of the Loo is also the final authority on if, when, and how much “floral scented” spray should be dispensed. In fact, the person who last cleans the toilet gets to decide everything about the bathroom, with the exception of whether the toilet paper should come from over the top or underneath the bottom of the toilet paper roll. That decision gets to be made by the last person who actually replaced the toilet paper on the spindle, hereafter known as the Paper Prince/cess.

Brilliant, eh? Just think: no more arguing about having the toilet seat up or down. If you feel that strongly about the subject, then you get down on your hands and knees and scrub your way to bathroom domination. And I’m not just talking about giving the inside of the bowl a little swish with the brush—no, I mean all of the toilet, including that spot right in front that’s always a little bit sticky and oh my god I just felt it with my bare foot what is it what is it what is it don’t think about it. Yeah: that spot.

Actually, I think that this method could be applied to lots of different household disputes, especially those involving children. Don’t like your sheets being tucked in too tight? Then you make the bed. Unhappy that your ipod went through the washer? Do the laundry yourself. Don’t like 2% milk? Get a job, hippie, and buy your own damn milk. Okay, maybe that last one was a little off topic, but it is, after all, the natural progression of things.

The right to complain is a perk. And it is a perk that should only be enjoyed by the people who actually do the work. It’s okay if that’s the only reason you’re doing the work in the first place—in fact, that’s understandable. After all, that’s the only reason some people vote.
Of course, there’s always the danger that once we start showing them the benefit of doing some things for themselves they might eventually just decide they’re better off getting their own place and start doing everything on their own.

Oh wait: that’s not a danger. That’s a benefit, too.

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Sometimes it seems that no matter where you go in the world you’ll find the tradition of offering up libations: giving a portion of food or drink (usually liquor) to those who are with us only in spirit. It is a custom that is as old as Greeks pouring out a bit of wine “for Zeus,” and as new as rappers tipping a sip of malt liquor onto the ground “for the Homies.” It is also quite varied: in South America they spill out a drink called chicha before making an offering to Pachamama, in Cuba they pour out a bit of rum por los Santos (for the Saints), while in the Philippines they still use rum, but say para sa yawa (for the devil). In Russia, of course, they use vodka.

In other words, this is a custom that has seemed to have evolved organically in almost all cultures around the world. So I guess I can’t really complain about the fact that along with Papua New Guinea, Moldavia and Uruguay, it has also arisen in the culture of my house. Or about the fact that, in my house, the libation always seems to be noodles.

I suppose that if I were to really think about it I shouldn’t find that to to be too surprising; after all, a libation is supposed be about offering the best of what you have. And, in my house, as far as Clementine is concerned, there is nothing better than a nice undercooked bowl of noodles. Her preferred method of offering this libation is to put the noodles in a bowl that is way too small and then add way too much parmesan, so that when the dish is eaten both noodles and parmesan end up littering the floor all around her, creating a sort of food outline on the ground. In fact, there is usually so much food on the floor that it is as if Clementine were not simply making an offering to the memory of those who have gone before her, but rather as if she were a chief priestess in the cult of Chef Boyardee. (I wouldn’t be surprised to catch her actually tipping the bowl at the beginning of the meal and murmuring “to Chef Boy” as the parmesan spilled.)

Which would be fine, except for the fact that her “altar” is located suspiciously close to my kitchen floor. Actually, most people would probably say that her altar is my kitchen floor. Personally, I would like to think that Chef Boy, like so many deities before him, would prefer his services to be held outside, where he can gaze down (or, in the Filipino tradition, gaze up) and see his loot. But then again, what do I really know about the cult of noodle worship?

Sure, I know that they prefer to be called Pastafarians. I know that they precede every meal with a devout “ra-men.” And I know that their deity is technically known as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But as far as the offering up of pasta libations? On this, I must admit, I am completely in the dark.

But then again, maybe we all are; maybe Clementine is spearheading a new era in Pastafarianism. Maybe, like Martin Luther nailing his manifesto to the church door, Clementine is tipping her over-filled bowl out onto the kitchen floor in defiance of the current Pastafarian doctrine of “every noodle is sacred.” Yeah, and when she “accidentally” drops her bowl (again), maybe this is her Moses-like moment of destruction through righteous anger. Or something like that.

Who can say? I probably should just be grateful that it is still food that she uses in her sacrificial offerings, and not the more traditional liquor. Of course, at least with vodka, there’s some sort of cleaning involved.

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Please Blow

I recently saw a post on Facebook that went something like this: “I just blew my nose, and it felt great!” Now, some people might have read that post and immediately thought, “Thanks for (over)sharing,” some people might have thought, “Ew, gross,” and some people might have even thought, “Ten thousand years of technological advancement so we could have this?”

But not me. No, I took one look at that post and thought, “Preach it, brother. Preach it.” And then I went away, happier because I knew that there was at least one other person out there who had made the same discovery I had.

You see, I’m a member of the Pro-Nose-Blowing Society, a small but dedicated group of parents, teachers and doctors whose primary goal is to get children to join us in discovering just how wonderful it is to simply blow your nose. And not just children, either, but young adults: people with driver’s licenses, jobs and girlfriends. It is frightening beyond belief to think about the fact that people who are mere months away from being able to vote have not yet figured out one of the most basic rules of human physiology: if your nose runs, blow it.

This, it would seem to me, is something on the order of, “If it itches, scratch it,” but apparently not. Apparently an action that is so basic that amoebas would perform it (if amoebas had hands, noses and tissues) is still too advanced for the majority of the children and young adults I know. Apparently walking around snuffling, coughing, dripping and gasping for weeks on end is preferable to simply blowing your nose once in a while.

A friend of mine had a teacher in grade school who tried to convey the beauty of nose-blowing to her students by telling them the story of how when she was a little girl she had wondered what caveman had done when they had a runny nose—because obviously Kleenex were thousands of years away from being invented—and so, as an experiment, hadn’t blown her nose at all this one time when she had a cold. Eventually, that cold turned into pneumonia. The moral of her story (I think) was that her students should count themselves lucky to have born into a world that has discovered Kleenex, and celebrate their good fortune by blowing their noses every chance they got.

I’m not sure about her logic (I’m pretty sure people were blowing their noses before the invention of Kleenex), but I can’t help but agree with her conclusion. “If your nose runs, blow it.”

This has been a point I have been trying to make to my children since they were infants, back when they couldn’t blow their noses, and had to have it done for them with the “snot sucker.” (I think the medical term for this device is actually “bulb aspirator,” but I’m pretty sure that everyone—doctors included—secretly refers to it as the “snot sucker.”)

Man, I loved that little blue thing; I practically carried one in a holster on my hip. One baby sniffle and I was on it, sucking the mucus out of their noses before it even had a chance to crust over. Which is how I know, without a doubt, that they really should be blowing their noses now: these people can produce a lot of mucus.

Sometimes I’m tempted to unearth my trusty blue friend and sneak into their rooms at night and treat them like I did when they were babies, but the truth is I’m afraid of what I might find; from the amount of sniffling going on, there might be a Lost River of Snot up in there. And I really don’t think I’m ready to take credit for that discovery. Not quite yet.

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The Defiant Ones

When my daughter, Clementine, was younger, my husband and I had a nickname for her: “The Defiant One.” I remember watching her sit through a three hour “time out,” (in two minute increments), all because she refused to apologize to someone. (The person we wanted her to apologize to wasn’t even there—it wasn’t the apology we wanted as much as the promise to apologize sometime in the future.) A less honest person (such as myself) would have simply agreed to apologize, and then, when the time came, denied they had ever made any such agreement. Not Clementine, though; she had made up her mind, and little things like time outs and loss of privileges weren’t going to sway her in the least.

While we were still standing in front of Clementine my husband and I had to pretend to be strongly disapproving of her choice not to apologize; in private, however, we marveled at it. “She is so delightfully disobedient,” my husband said to me, using his best Gomez Addams voice, and I had to agree. Her powers of resistance were impressive, and if it wasn’t for the fact that she really had done something for which she needed to apologize I probably would have been thrilled at her principled stance.

In the end, the only way we got her to apologize was to explain, patiently and slowly, how she did, in fact, have something to apologize for—once she understood that she was completely biddable; in other words, reason succeeded where threats had failed, and when the time came to deliver she was as sincere and untroubled by the apology as she had been resistant to it earlier, and for the rest of her life we never had the slightest bit of trouble with her again.

Okay, I made that last part up: yes, she did apologize freely, but no, that wasn’t our last incident with “The Defiant One.” And to tell you the truth, I hope that I never do see the last one.

That’s a funny thing for a parent to wish for, I know: rebellion. But I believe that the ability to stand up for your beliefs, even when they are challenged—especially when they are challenged—is a far more valuable personality trait than agreeableness. It is a trait that will see you through the darkest times, and one that, in the end, will serve you when all others have failed. And so it is the one that I want most to foster in my children.

This might explain a little bit why I had such a nerdgasm when I heard that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was coming to town. Sandra Day O’Connor! From the moment she graduated at the top of her class from Stanford Law school (only to be offered a job as a lowly legal secretary) to when she resigned from the Supreme Court so that she could spend time with her ailing husband, she has been a shining example of someone who has remained true to her principles, even as social mores have changed around her.

Have I always agreed with her politics? Hell, no: she was a Reagan appointee. But I have always respected and admired her ability to unswervingly stay true to her own visions. Even when that meant disappointing the women who saw her appointment as a chance to move the Court to the left. And even when that meant disappointing the Republicans who saw her appointment as a chance to move it to the right. (Okay, especially when it meant disappointing the Republicans.)

Somehow, I have a feeling that she didn’t suddenly come by those traits as an adult: I think that they were probably fostered in her right from the start. Who knows? Maybe, in her family, she, too, was known as “The Defiant One.”

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