Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hold me.

According to one article I found recently, the subjects couples argue about most are, in order: money, sex, work, children and housework.

The thing Consort and I have argued about for the longest is a toilet-paper holder, and I think we might be the only people in America having this argument.

Please note: I am not saying we disagree as to whether it should unroll “over or under”. That would be a dispute other people would recognize. No, we’re arguing about the holder itself.

When I first moved into the house things were a bit chaotic. [Three words: Undiscovered Termite Damage.] [Wait. Three more words: Twenty Years’ Worth.] It says something about the hideous state of the infrastructure that it took a while to notice the strangeness of the toilet paper holder in the original bathroom. I was replacing paper for the umpteenth time before I finally realized it was missing the usual “Oh, this is a toilet paper holder” signifier -- the plastic axle/pipe thingamajig that runs horizontally to support the cardboard tube.

Instead, there was a half-circle niche carved into the wall with a narrow lip protruding out about half an inch. This formed a cradle into which the paper roll rested comfortably but loosely. Nothing held it in place. It just sat there, napping until summoned. Of course, this also meant even the slightest tug caused the roll to leap towards the bathroom door like an ejecting test pilot.

But when you’ve got a contractor drawling relentless bad news, [“…Yah see there are termites that eat from the top down. They’re pretty bad. There are this other kind, see, and they eat from bottom up. They’re really bad. You have both…”] you don’t have the luxury of puzzling over your toilet-paper holder. I rationed my distaste for the entire bathroom. Where to begin…?

The room had been redone somewhere in the seventies by someone whose creative inspiration was access to a lot of cheap, shiny black tile. Also, a shiny black sink, a shiny black toilet, and a large looming black soffit which gave one the sense of having Death from the Ingmar Bergman movies hovering over you while you flossed.

The water in Los Angeles is hard, which meant the instant anyone washed his hands, every inch of porcelain was covered in a misty grayish film and no matter how frantically you might scrub the bathroom, it stuck. The floor tile, which was original to the house, had been a lovely shade of pink until some previous owner decided to clean it with either lye or bleach. It was now the colors of a Big Stick. There was a sizeable crack in the Big Stick mosaic which some genius had carefully filled in with chewed-gum–looking putty. I described the room as “…a place you imagine has seen more than one stabbing”.

After a year or so, we were finally in the position to redo the bathroom. My goal was to create a bathroom which looked chronologically appropriate to the house. Basically, what I was hoping was to spend large amounts of money to create an effect which would never draw any attention to itself whatsoever, because that’s how I roll: discreetly.

I found a designer, Mark, who has renovated many bungalows from the same era and could give us some advice. He showed us places to find the right hexagonal floor tiles, the right faucet and handle, a good replacement medicine chest. Finally, having gazed upon the toilet and talked about where we could get something to substitute for the Black Hole, I remember the toilet-paper un-holder.

I pointed at it and said, “I don’t know if you’ve seen anything like this, but…” I flailed for a second. I finally said, “…was there a point to not having any way of keeping the paper in place?”

“Oh, I’ve seen these,” Mark said confidently. “This is a pretty common sort of toilet-paper holder from the time”.

He removed the toilet paper and pointed to the underside of the jutting lip. There, flush with the wall, was a narrow slot which ran the length of the lip about a quarter inch from the wall. He put the paper back in, fed it through the slot and…

“Voila!” he said matter-of-factly. “Now, are you replacing the shower fixtures as well, because I’ve got a catalogue…”

I could barely wait for Consort to get home that night. Taking his hand, I dragged him into the bathroom and pointed joyously to the paper hanging down.

“Look!” I said, barely containing my glee. “You just tear off the paper and it doesn’t fall out and it doesn’t go bouncing across the room and it’s the only thing they didn’t screw up in this Godforsaken room and isn’t it just the most clever thing!”

Consort thought for a second.

“A spindle going through the middle would work better. As long as we’re redoing the bathroom, let’s just put one in.”

I shielded it with my body and stared at Consort fiercely.

“It’s original to the house. We’re not ‘let's-tear-things-out’ people; we’re ‘hire a designer to re-create original bathroom’ people.”

“It’s not a Batchelder fireplace. It’s a toilet-paper holder. There’s a reason we’ve never seen it in another house; everyone else gave up on it. And let’s not over-romanticize the architecture of this house. Have you seen the kitchen? Face it; the toilet-paper holder was a stupid design.”

The conversation didn’t get more refined from there. And in the seven years since, the only part which has changed is the speed at which we can have this conversation.

Consort enters bathroom, shuts door. From across the house, Quinn hears Consort sigh, very softly. Quinn yells, “It’s original to the house and we’re not replacing it!”

Consort gets his revenge, fear not. His claim has always been that tearing off the paper causes the roll to leap up and waltz around the room. Being as I seem to be able to tear off toilet paper without launching the roll airborne, I refuse to believe this. Consort proves how easily it comes out of the holder at least once a day by removing it from the holder and placing it on the bathroom cabinet out of arm’s reach from the toilet. He swears this is unconscious. What comes next is what politicians refer to as a “free and frank exchange of ideas”.

So, to all of you arguing about money, sex, work, children or housework but not getting the same satisfaction out of such combat, I say this: Somewhere out there is an old house which needs your love and care and somewhere within that house is an irritating grain of sand which will, over time, become a glowing pearl of everlasting spousal disagreement.

You’re welcome.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

BUT! Is Quinn an over or under kinda gal??

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes. i also have a weakness for the Classics in Arguments: Toilet Seat - Up or Down?

Fight the good fight, Quinn.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Great post, as always, Quinn! You are such a wonderful writer, truly able to take the everyday and find the humor inside. I love your blog.

I hope I don't offend when I say that your use of the phrase "being as" makesme squirm a little every time you use it--it seems so un-you! It disrupts your tone! What's wrong with good old "given that"?

:)

Sarah

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I have been, on the rare occasion, a person who goes through the archives and reads Every! Single! Old! Post!, I mostly did that when the company for which I was working was going out of business and I had lots of time. What I'm finding with your blog is that I follow your links to previous posts, and maybe root around in that area for a couple of minutes. What I'm also finding is that I almost invariably stumble across a post that makes me laugh so hard I have tears running down my face (in this case, it was the lost nouns post). Which is a roundabout way of saying I love your writing, and thank you.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous John Famous in Siberia said...

Two words for a happy relationship..."yes dear". Quinn is right, it should stay. And any guy who leaves the seat up needs more training.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous skerrib said...

Fair enough, we've never argued about the TP holder...but there are plenty of other stupid things, like whether or not it's OK for me to put my eggs right on top of my pancakes and dump syrup over the whole thing before I eat it. Hmmm, I should blog about that. Thanks, Quinn!

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband repaints rooms. Rooms that look fine. Rooms that will soon shrink to a size we will no longer be able to enter because they have been repainted so many times.

He once tried to paint a vinyl floor.

I kid you not.

Where other people have food in their freezers, I have frozen paint rollers. DOZENS of frozen paint rollers.

Such a great post. I HAVE actually seen a toilet paper thingy such as you describe.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Maybe I am naive but being a gay man and in the N.Y.C. design industry and having a consort of my own who has his own design "tastes" but not the formal design education and career. I have to read this with an air of at least your consort doesn’t "collect" tchotchkes and try and display them in your cozy weekend craftsman bungalow...you know the one where you despise "collections"

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Always, your post is GREAT! You are a WONDERFUL writer, I am going through all the older posts even though I have already read them. You are so talented. I love your blog. You should write a book, it would be a best-seller.
:)
Diana

10:20 AM  
Blogger OHN said...

We have been married for 25 years and I would be happy if he even thought about replacing the empty roll, you know, ACTUALLY PUTTING IT ON THE LITTLE ROLLER THINGY instead of a) not replacing it at all or, b)not even taking a roll out of the cupboard for me to put on the roller thingy.

At least you are communicating...they say that is 1/2 of the battle.

5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A valiant fight, Quinn! However I have been there (we restored a 100 yr old home during out engagement) and I could not fight these fights again!

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you could solve the problem buy purchasing a free standing bathroom tissue holder and letting the man use that one. Also keep the original to the house holder filled with paper. that way he won't place it someplace out of reach. I can't believe you have to share a bathroom with your husband. That must be difficult.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Drea said...

Quinn, I can so relate. When my husband and I completely renovated our bathroom last year, we never did agree on what kind of toilet paper holder to get, so we still don't have one!

Today hubby keeps a roll tucked in the medicine cabinet - completely out of MY arm's reach of the toilet; and I have a roll stashed in the cabinet under the sink, where I can reach it.

Ridiculous, I know... but we have no arguments. (Except for where to put a roll for guests to find when we have visitors.) ~grin~

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh.My.Goodness. For nearly 8 years I have valiantly tried to get my husband to actually put the toilet paper on the roll-thingy when he replaces it. He has stubbornly insisted on simply placing it on a nearby counter or on the back of the toilet. Now that our youngest son is mobile and has developed that ever-popular fascination with toilet paper, I leave it off the roll-thingy and on the counter. NOW my husband decides to put the stuff on the roll-thingy! Every time I remove it, he puts it back. What IS it with men and toilet paper?!

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you're so lucky. You only have one thing like that. My wife and I? We have whole zones of our old house. I suspect that the more you renovate, the more the tensions of a perpetually unfinished house and the steady flow of cash into renos seeps into the joints of your relationship, stressing the whole contraption.

Yes, you're right. You can hear the other's "sighhh" from across the house, through closed doors. And yes, the response is always swift and defensive.

It sounds like you're living in a house somewhat like ours; old but beautiful under the years of abuse the previous owners and tenants put it through. I mean, who removes windows and covers over the patches with cheezy panelling? Who paints their bedroom -- the whole bedroom, including the ceiling and all of the trim -- a high-gloss purple?

I'm glad to hear you're trying to restore the house to its original glory. Good luck with your future renos!

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

This was great....I'm still chuckling.
Your writing reminds me of a modern day Erma Bombeck.
I'm very glad I found your blog!

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that the ads are on the top of the blog, there's even more humor than you were supplying before.

Today, the first ad is headlined "Urinary Incontinence."

from Penny

12:20 PM  

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