We are in the throes of an international crisis due to a pandemic caused by a heretofore unknown virus. Currently referred to as the Corona virus or it’s technical name, COVID-19. As well as the problems from the illness itself, this virus has caused myriad social problems. These include government ordered shelter in place orders, the closing of many places where groups would gather, such as bars, movie theatres, restaurants. There are shortages of all kinds of products as well. One notable product that disappeared early in the course of the virus pandemic was toilet paper. People were buying it in bulk, stores were running out of it and it was the hottest commodity since the iphone came out. This made me laugh.
That’s because I have never been without toilet paper in my entire adult life. I have always treated paper products with the respect they deserve. Especially bathroom tissue. At this point in time, there are only two or three brands that I will purchase for my personal use. If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I will only purchase them when they are on sale. At such time of the sale, I typically buy two packages, and bring them home for storage. I don’t buy more because I don’t want to be greedy. A part of me wants to be a little greedy, but strict Catholic upbringing really hampers those urges. That’s probably what the nuns intended.
Several years ago, I moved in with the fellow I was dating. This was before we got married, but were spending so much time together, it was inevitable. Doubtless you’ve been there yourself. So happy, so in love, so let’s move in. Carloads of necessities went to his house: clothes, shoes, dog food, the dog, hand bags, make up and piece de resistance: toilet paper. This was a carload unto itself. My car had fold down seats and the car was crammed with unopened packages of toilet paper and paper towels. My then boyfriend laughed as he opened the hatchback, asking, “Where are we going to put all this?” “Not to worry, I will find a good place for storage and then we will have this stuff when we need it.” Using a very sarcastic tone he replied, “How much do you think we need!” I ignored him and began the first of several trips into the house with my paper treasures.
Perhaps you are shaking your head wondering what on earth would possess someone to behave in such a way, absent a national emergency. Let me explain. Remember the strict Catholic upbringing mentioned earlier? No, the nuns didn’t make us buy toilet paper. Growing up in our house, many things were in short supply. I had a single mother who did her best to raise us on a limited budget. She also did her best to raise her daughter without discussing anything of a personal nature. This made for a very tricky adolescence and one that often had just a one word answer: DON’T. Whatever it was that needed to be asked, whatever you were thinking about doing, whatever your body is thinking about doing, just don’t.
Adolescence is confusing for child and parent alike. I recall spending hours in the bathroom, using it as a sanctuary. There was one bathroom in the house and this habit wasn’t acceptable to anyone else. I recall that I had a high use of paper products and, as our facial tissue supply was kept in the living room, I used toilet paper. Aside from the obvious personal uses, I used it for putting make up on and taking it off. One day I noticed that my mother had placed pieces of newspaper next to the toilet. Of course she didn’t explain anything, she just put them there. Being forbidden to ask anything approaching a personal question, I continued unaware until one day my mother, red-faced and sputtering, asked why I wasn’t using the newspaper for those kinds of things. When I asked what she was talking about, she gave her standard reply for personal questions: “Oh, you know. Just use those instead of toilet paper during the time of the month for wrapping and throwing away.” I was in shock. This was as close as we had come to a personal discussion in my life. Now I knew what the newspaper pieces on the floor were for. For a few months, I complied with my mother’s plan. I was still finding sanctuary in the bathroom with various ablutions and using toilet paper for them. Then one day the newspapers were no longer there. I don’t know if my mother gave up the plan out of futility, or if she became disinterested. It’s easy to reach futility when dealing with a teenager. Nothing was said about the project ever again. I didn’t question it, because I dared not. But that was a pivotal moment in my life as a consumer.
I made a decision during those early teen years that I would never risk out of toilet paper again. Other than the abject poverty of graduate school, I have never had a short supply of toilet paper.
What I have learned from the Corona virus is that others do not approach this subject in the same way I do.