You see these kinds of stories in the advice columns all the time; I read one recently where a wife’s entire world was turned upside down when her husband of ten years came out to her as a trans woman. Partners who have built a life together, a cooperative existence consisting of mutual interests, shared desires and responsibilities, common bonds strengthened by an inviolate level of trust — all of a sudden there is a reveal by one member that blindsides the other and leads to an implosion within the relationship.
We experienced such a moment yesterday. Out of the blue, out of nowhere, without any prior hint of concern or something being amiss — Carol told me she wanted to use a different kind of toilet paper. At that moment… I had no words. I now understand how bedrock feels after being fracked.
We are creatures of habit. Oh, sure — sometimes we’re lured by a sale, or make use of a competitor’s coupon — but minus these rare exceptions we have been buying the same brand of toilet paper for the entire time we’ve been together. You’ve seen the ad where they compare lengths of various rolls? In our case the roll reaches back well into the last century.
When Carol was pregnant we talked about potential baby names. One of the names I floated for consideration was “Scott”. Carol gave me a puzzled look: “Where did you come up with that? We don’t have any ‘Scott’s on either side of the family tree.” I held up both palms while saying, “Let me finish. If it’s a boy, his first name will be ‘Scott’ — and his middle name will be ‘Tissue.’ Just think about it — all we have to do is let the company know how dedicated we are to their product and his college education will be paid for!” To this day I still flinch at the thought of the withering look Carol shot my way.
I think the genesis of this usurpation may be a comment a family member made when he was here for a visit a few months ago. He came out from the bathroom and declared, “I see you’re still buying the kind of toilet paper where I have to use the entire roll to clean myself.” I felt his dilemma was more attributable to a long-standing addiction to Metamucil than how we chose to stock our bathroom, but Carol may have processed his observation differently.
This brings us to the new world I am facing today. We stock up on our brand, purchasing in bulk at the warehouse store and taking up half the linen closet for storage. It will take some time to deplete our current inventory so I’m going to suggest we implement a phased transition plan, alternating between units of old and new so certain sensitive parts of the anatomy are not chafed by an abrupt change and can ease into the new regimen.
And I’ve skipped right over the biggest issue here: how are we going to screen potential replacements? What are our acceptance criteria and test plan? Will we use some sort of weighted measure, an assemblage of factors including price, comfort, absorption and — I’m not sure if this is industry jargon — “product residual”? This brings back distressing memories of a performance review I suffered through at work years ago, where a capricious manager arbitrarily altered the balance among my evaluation metrics at year’s end, resulting in a less than satisfactory effectiveness rating and precluding any salary increase. Sitting through that review was a lengthy and unexpectedly painful episode from which there was no escape. Similar to our relative’s complaint regarding his time in our bathroom.
That work experience really rubbed me the wrong way. I hope to avoid a similar sensation when selecting our new brand of TP.