Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pap de Q

If there's one thing I hate to shop for, it's definitely toilet paper. I tend to avoid it, but this past weekend was so proud of myself that I managed to buy more *before* we ran out, something which probably doesn't seem like it should rank as any kind of achievement when you're nearing 50 years of age, but in my case, unfortunately, does. There's just something about standing in that row in the supermarket, all those shelves stocked with variations on thickness, softness, ply, scent, that I strongly dislike.

It has nothing to do with any kind of prudery re bodily functions. Raised in a family of 5 with one bathroom, through which my parents regularly paraded and hung out at the double-sinks naked and in which the very desire for privacy was considered an act of insubordination, I don't think I ever developed any kind of squeamishness about these matters. I'm an animal that way, I suppose.

No, the thing that gets me every time I'm facing those plastic wrapped packages of ass-wipe, is how much I feel I SHOULD buy the recycled paper and yet how much I DESPISE the recycled paper. Seriously, I realize it's made with post-consumer waste-paper, but does it have to universally just suck?

There was the one day, such a giant relief, when I couldn't put off the ass-paper purchase any longer, went to the store and found the shelves mysteriously empty of the crappy recycled crap-paper. I was delightfully off the hook and free to buy whatever was on sale or struck my fancy.

This was after the time when I used to order recycled toilet paper, before it was available at places like Safeway, direct from a catalog. Huge cardboard boxes would show up on our porch, containing nothing more exciting than individually-wrapped rolls of that grayish, miserable, fall-apart paper. In those days, I was more hell-bent, and also the mail-order saved me from even entering that aisle, from having to imagine what it might be like to get a satisfying, absorbent wipe out of a handful of the "real," not recycled ass paper. I was also strongly influenced -- and indeed still think about -- an article I read in some eco-warrior 'zine in the early 90s, about how grotesque it is that we cut down trees in order to have something with which to clean our bottoms. I will say that I never did, never would, go as far as the author, who advocated the use and re-use of cloth for this purpose. That is truly vile.

A note on ass paper: in my family we always refer to toilet paper as "papier cul," which translates as ass paper, paper for the ass, what-have-you. Joe translates this phonetically, in his form of French, as Pap de Q, hence the title of our elevating post today.

So, standing in the toilet paper aisle always brings me back to this essential conundrum of my middle-aged being: how much I care about the environment and yet how much I enjoy simple things like the satisfaction of an effective wipe. There's a part of me that can get really wound up about this, pissed even, like god damn it, I've been doing my part for so long, can someone take over being all self-righteous and shit, so I can just sit down and have some comfort in my old age? I know: kind of ridiculous.

But there it is. I do really feel this way, like we've carried this torch for so long, have been so committed for such long stretches of time, like being vegan (yes, seriously) for about 7 years from 1988 to 1997-ish when there was nothing out there, the eating landscape a wasteland (going to Disneyland with The Kid and ordering hamburgers without the meat, subsisting on what was available, french fries and bread with lettuce and tomato). We were eco-warriors for ages, riding our bikes, pulling said-Kid in the trailer to school, Joe once even banishing someone in his band from eating his dinner of hot dog in our house. Oh, crazy, ridiculous, eco-fascist days of youth. Still, to this day, so many practices are integrated into our life, things I love like composting, things that are total reflex like avoiding plastic whenever possible.

I used to imagine it like shark-teeth. You know how they say that sharks have these rows and rows of teeth in their cartilaginous jaws -- one falls out and another moves up to take its place. I'd like to be that shark-tooth that delicately steps aside, letting other sharper teeth come take my place, please. Sometimes I'm just too tired and small to carry the whole burden of whether the polar bears live or die. Sometimes I just want to take a ride in a fan-boat and really, truly enjoy it without stressing about the consequences.

Not so long ago, I declared an end to my recycled ass-paper buying ways. The first time, the good stuff was on super-sale and we were on a tight budget, or so I rationalized the purchase. But now I just buy what I want, and know that I do what I can where I can and try to banish the Should. I'm a whole lot happier that way. I still feel the struggle in the toilet paper aisle, but now I reach for what I want and try to let go of the rest. So much happier that way.

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