First of all, pardon the silly title, but have you ever read “Tristram Shandy” by Lawrence Sterne? It’s one of the funniest and most charming books I’ve ever read. It was, by the way, published in numerous parts (Volumes I-IX) from 1759 to 1767. I was thinking about it today because I was considering a blog about toilet paper, and I kept putting off writing it. I must say, though, I found some most interesting lore via Google. Who would have thought it could be such a major topic? Though just consider life without it.
To get back to “Tristram Shandy”, throughout the book Sterne keeps promising a chapter on buttons, but he never writes it. One can only wonder. Anyway, I am now going to produce my chapter on toilet paper, or “bathroom tissue” as the marketers prefer to call it, distancing as far as possible from its actual use. Indeed, the marketing of the product is a marvel of circumlocution and sanitized imagery. We can now visualize butterflies, fluffy chicks, and pretty flowers, not to mention “pillowy softness” in association with what is, in common parlance, ass-wipe.
But I digress. Have you noticed that the rolls of toilet paper are becoming narrower and shorter than they used to be? Or is this just my imagination? Think of how much extra profit Purex or Kimberley-Clark can make by shaving a mere one millimetre off the width of the roll. The package of Royale (how’s that for ass-wipe?) claims the product to be “Soft & Thick” (“Doux et épais”). Ha! There is something called “finger puncture” that the manufacturers must be careful to safeguard against. The word “thick” offers comforting reassurance.
Then, there are the various scented and aloe impregnated varieties, promising, what?, additional “comfort”–anything to distance us from the actual use of the product.
The reality is, though, that good ol’ toilet paper has become a necessity of life. Think, if you dare, how much of it enters our sewage systems everyday. There are millions of dollars to be made. Even more millions if you shave off a millimetre or two and shorten the roll by a few sheets, while, naturally, raising the price.
When I visit my daughter in the States, I am filled with envy at the wide and thick toilet paper they always seem to have in plentiful supply. Maybe Americans are just more into these things. I mean, have you ever tried Italian carta igienica? Might as well use sandpaper–still, Italians seem pretty happy as a general rule.
I’m taking my cue for digressions here from Lawrence Sterne. Read “Tristram Shandy”. You’ll love it! Even without the chapter on buttons.