Oh Google, my secret Lover. Ye who steals me away from the children tending, the novel writing, the toilet scrubbing. You whisper sweet nothings in my eyes, you talk dirty to me with your throaty pleas of Just Surf Meeeeee. And so I do. I surf, riding the waves of the inane, typing search terms like “Cat Pee on Leather Purse” and “Do fish drink? and “Signs and symptoms of Brain Cancer.” Perhaps I could have completed my novel three years earlier without such distraction.
Yet the other day, my sweet Lover gave me much more than an uninformed medical diagnosis or cat pee assistance. My ethereal meanderings actually gave me something helpful to discuss, something that relates to a topic with which I struggle as of late. Softness.
It went down like this: I needed the name of a famous toilet paper brand for my novel, so instead of hopping in the car and zipping to Safeway, scanning the t.p. aisle and picking a name brand, THEN realizing I should probably get some milk and some of that $1.69/loaf Safeway bread and maybe a carton or three of Tillamook ice cream and a bottle of Riesling and yes, while I’m there in the wine aisle, I should probably get a bottle of Syrah . . . maybe two because Husbandio’s traveling a lot, and right, I should pick up my Zoloft, oh, and one of those fruity-juicy Pink Poetry drinks husbandio loves (ah, the irony!) THEN getting to the check-out counter to realize that I’ve spent over $100 just to get the name of a recognizable brand of toilet paper, I spent just a moment with my Lover (about 699,000 results in 0.18 seconds), and determined that “Charmin” is the most recognizable brand.
It was then, during this brief tryst, that my eye caught the title of a fascinating article. About toilet paper. The article, from the UK-born Guardian, went on to explain that Americans’ love for the soft, 17-ply, bleached-to-snowy-whiteness, quilted piece of fleece with which to wipe their arse, does more damage to the environment than driving a Hummer.
Now, in case you, lovely reader, happen to be a happy Hummer owner, I will not share the feeling I feel when I see someone driving a Hummer in Seattle. No I won’t. I will just sally forth, as my dear pal Janna likes to say, because lately I have gotten into the bad habit of ticking people off by being just a wee bit too outspoken. And the Ticked Off folks then shoot me dirty looks in the hallways of my kids’ elementary school, and frankly that wears me out because we’re all just doing the best we can, right? Right. So no, I won’t criticize happy Hummer owners.
I will, however, share with you something my Lover found for me (281,000 results in .40 seconds):
Back to toilet paper. After learning that our love for the softest, snowiest, multiple-est-ply toilet paper does more damage to the environment than unnecessary gas guzzlers, my Lover nudged me to click on a (vaguely reliable) site that detailed The History of Toilet Paper. And you know what? I learned that Americans have not always been so finicky about our bum-wipes. In the wild, wild west, for example, long before Charmin was invented, people used CORNCOBS to wipe their bums.
Also interesting: people in the wild, wild west (when a corn cob was not available) apparently used pages from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, to the point where it developed the nickname, “Rears and Sorebutt.” And, it wasn’t until 1935 that Northern Tissue advertised “splinter free” toilet paper. See? For quite a few years, we cheerfully multi-purposed corn cobs. We didn’t whine about the lack of absorption of the Tuffskins page of the Sears catalog. We didn’t even grumble about tush-splinters.
So what has happened to us? My friends, I submit to you my most recent fear: we Americans have gone soft.
There are examples of Softness everywhere, but the scariest lies in how we are raising our kids. Last year, my dear Chicago-living friend found herself in the middle of a baseball maelstrom of sorts. My friend, whom I will call Kate (because that’s her name) told me that some parents were irate because the coach of her kid’s team (six-year-old boys) apparently was being a little too rough on the boys. This coach (whom I will call Coach) asked the boys to look him in the eye when he was talking to them. Coach asked them to play the positions he assigned without any whining. Coach expected the boys to work on skills during practice and during the games.
The horror! A coach who wants his team to learn SKILLS? A coach who requests that his team listen RESPECTFULLY? It’s terrifying, really. I’m shocked that Coach has not been banned from coaching ever again in the state of Illinois!
I also hear so much about how so-and-so hated fifth grade because his teacher was too mean (“mean” meaning this teacher made the kids stay inside at recess when kids were disrespectful or rude or talked too much in class). That so-and-so’s self esteem was destroyed in 7th grade math. Yikes. Really? So now one’s entire self esteem, one’s whole sense of self worth can be pillaged during 3rd period? Amid discussions of the Pythagorean Theorem? That teacher’s doing some impressive multi-tasking.
At this point, I am tempted to spiral into the topic of Trophies and self esteem, but when I crossed that bridge (I admit, by sending two rather incendiary and one-sided articles about why giving trophies to a bunch of kids for every sport they play, every activity they do, is actually NOT healthy), I created a big-arse problem for more than just myself. And got shot dirty looks at the hallways of my kids’ school. So no, I will not go there. I will just share with you this image, and you can interpret it however you wish (thank you, Sweetheart, you found about 3,290,000 results in 0.11 seconds):
I, however, am also guilty of raising kids with a Charmin mentality, as opposed to using strategies employed in the harsh world of Corncob Parenting. I, too, worry about my kids’ self esteem far more than I should.
Last year Sweetie played indoor Nerf soccer, co-ed. Her team, The Mighty Mermaids, however, was made entirely of female mermaids. During one game, the Mermaids played an all-boy team (most of whom were larger and a full year older than any of the Mermaids). Because I don’t recall their team name, I’ll assume they were called The Mighty Jerkwads, because I’m telling you, they were jerkwads. They taunted my Sweetie, calling her “Little Girl, Little Girl!” The jerkwads pushed her much harder than they should have, crowded her when she was playing goalie, kicked way too high, so high they could have seriously injured Sweetie’s cute little face.
And you know what? The sad-sack college-age ref did nothing. NOTHING! Well. If you are a parent, you know there is this weird, blinding rage that takes over when someone, especially a whole team of jerkwad boys, is intimidating your daughter. It was this very rage that made me start yelling things at the ref: “Hey Ref! How ’bout making some calls!” I kept on with my yelling until half-time, at which point I stormed over to the Ref and asked why he was letting the boys be so rough.
This guy, who was probably a Mighty Jerkwad himself in his younger days, just shrugged. “Your daughter didn’t seem to mind.”
“She didn’t seem to mind???!?! My daughter didn’t seem to mind nearly getting kicked in the face and crowded by a herd of jerkwads and taunted profusely? She didn’t seem to MIND?”
“Right,” he said. “She didn’t seem to mind.”
Well right then and there, I let him have it. About how NO ONE gets to tell me what MY daughter feels. That if he’s reffing, then he might want to consider reffing. That I will not sit by and let a group of pre-K girls be intimidated by a group of first grade boys.
I imagine the scene looked a little like this:
(About 2,800 results in 0.33 seconds. Hubba hubba.)
This nineteen-year-old ref let me spin out for a while, and then he blew his whistle, and halftime was over.
The truth is, Sweetie is a toughie. She didn’t like when the boy pointed out that she was a “little girl,” but other than that, I think she actually had fun getting crowded by the jerkwads. I was the one who wanted to protect her.
This all goes back to softness, of course. We all want to guard our kids against pain and discomfort and sadness. We want them to feel safe and secure in the world. But, as I try to remind myself almost daily, it’s good for Buddy and Sweetie to experience some bumps along the way. It’s good for them to have coaches and teachers and other adults who demand that kids use good manners and don’t whine. And yes, it’s good for girls to learn how to hold their own on the soccer field.
There will be jerkwads around every corner of every aspect of their life. Yet rarely will there be a ref, even a crappy, do-nothing ref, to blow a whistle.
I guess my point is this: do we want to raise a generation of over-protected kids who need this kind of outfit simply to ensure they don’t get bumped or bruised by the world?
(Thank you, Lover, that was about 86,000 results in 0.54 seconds. Sexy.)
No. Because this would be silly. And it would look silly. And as someone who lives in Seattle, I will say that a Charmin-protected child would be a soggy hot mess in a rainstorm.
Nor can a Mighty Mermaid play a good game of soccer in a get-up such as this.
Plus, wouldn’t so much Charmin hide her lovely mermaid-ness, her shimmering scales, the strength of her tail beating the water as she curves through salty waves?
Yes, I do believe it would.