The United States is late to the party. The nation’s top leadership is unreliable, and we’re spoiled. We’ve been force-fed a superiority complex for years, meaningless against an unknown, fast moving virus for which we have no immunity. I could stay away from social media and news sources and live in a cloud of denial. Or, I could question the ramifications of the privileged way of life I live.

At the beginning of the pandemic I laughed about the toilet paper rush. The Covid-19 virus attacks lungs, not intestines. Why are people panicking over a lack of toilet paper? But as days go by and the threat of isolation looms long, I’ve started questioning my own dependence on toilet paper. For one thing, I now pay attention to how much I use. Do I really need a handful? Am I that afraid of touching my own bodily waste, created from the food I eat for nourishment?

Then I read an article written by someone outside of the U.S. who said that Americans don’t use toilet paper correctly. He listed the toilet habits of other countries, and their use of water for a thorough rinsing. He even suggested one could use soap and water…with their own hands. You’re washing your hands anyway, he said. Americans walk around with “stinky butts,” he claimed. No amount of scraping with dry toilet paper was going to help with that.

A good friend shared a personal story on social media about her upbringing in the Ozarks of rural Missouri. Her family of thirteen siblings had no inside bathroom or running water. She grew up using an outhouse and drinking water from a stream. Her main point was that she and her family survived that, and we can survive this. An incredulous reader asked what they used for toilet paper? Her answer is just what you’d expect…the siblings all vied for the index pages from the Sears catalog because they were the softest, she explained. Her post was directed at those hoarding supplies. But the overall message is that for the most part, we’re strong, resilient and adaptable.

Another friend emailed a group I’m part of and mentioned she had stocked up on facial tissue which she could use for TP if necessary. Except, I once read an article about the things we should not flush down the toilet, and the most surprising item was facial tissue. It’s made using a stronger weave of fibers that’s not meant to dissolve like toilet paper and clogs up sewer pipes. Who among us has flushed facial tissues down the toilet? I don’t now but I didn’t know any better the previous 60+ years of my life.

When I heard that schools were closing for the rest of the semester, my thoughts went to a friend, a retired teacher, who lives 70 miles outside of Kansas City. She is also a minister, and volunteers at the local food pantry serving meals and interacting with the people who utilize this service. She once told me that that over 70% of school children in that community rely on subsidized food. There are many, many issues more important than toilet paper, which is way down the list of things we can live without. As we spend more time in social isolation, watching the number of deaths rise and the financial world break down, our priorities will surely change.

In the meantime, stay home and stay safe. Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Create home projects, read books, write your memoir, make phone calls to friends and family. Ration your use of toilet paper — and everything else — while we figure this out. Peace.



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