World Toilet Day seems like an appropriate time to share my own personal solution to a problem that has troubled households since the time that Queen Victoria sat on her own special throne.
For the uninitiated World Toilet Day is a campaign to motivate and mobilize millions around the world on issues of sanitation. Issues like the fact that approximately one third of the world’s population lack access to improved sanitation facilities.
It may seem like a pathetically petty problem to ponder when a billion people in the world still defecate in the open but I guess it’s human nature to always find something to moan about and for many of us lucky enough to have one, the resting position of our toilet seat may be the epitome of a first world problem.
There’s a popular misconception that Thomas Crapper invented the modern flush toilet, he didn’t but his company was the first to market it with a hinged toilet seat and, regrettably for us all, didn’t have the foresight to include instructions.
Consequently, men leaving the loo seat up has become the most common cause of petty arguments between couples, especially during particular times of the month and, lets face it, tiny acorns can sometimes grow into admissible grounds for divorce.
So given that the United Nation’s annual celebration of sewage and sanitation shares it’s #bigday with International Men’s Day, I thought it was the perfect time to share my thoughts on the most harmonious way for man to express himself as nature intended.
As a point of order I should acknowledge that it’s not unheard of for the humble bloke to leave unwelcome puddles in our wake even if we do remember to lift the seat. So let me first share some sympathy, solidarity and shame with the sisterhood and clarify that this essay is intended to establish a solution to one specific issue regrading toilet etiquette only, albeit the big one: should the toilet seat be left up or down after use?
The most common answer you’ll likely hear from anyone who cares enough to have a firm an opinion on the matter is that, without exception, the correct resting position for the toilet seat is down.
Men may have muddled or mixed thoughts on the matter but, possibly more than any other subject, women seem united in their universal understanding about the way things should be.
I like to call this the toilet tyranny of the majority option because clearly to maintain this position you have to ignore one fundamental factor essential to the function of the modern toilet. Given that today is the one day in the year where women are invited to reflect on the possibility that not every day is International Men’s Day (when it’s only actually today), I will now attempt to mansplain what that is…
The reason that it is the responsibility of the man to both lift and lower the seat is, succinctly, because that’s just the way it is.
If you must push for a more coherent logic then some will argue that, if the seat is left up, the lady of the house is in danger of experiencing a mild sensation of cold or possibly even wetness, especially if it’s dark or there is a mirror in the general vicinity.
Fair enough as far as it’s fair enough but a cold clinical counter challenge to this non negotiable decree nisi is that every adult has a personal responsibility in life to look where they’re going.
The essential ergonomics establishing the toilet seat as a design classic is, necessarily, the indisputable fact that it swings both ways. Therefore it seems a little unfair to fully push the blame onto someone else for the consequence of a person’s own lack of mindfulness or superior sense of privilege when it comes to the seating arrangements in shared safe spaces.
Of course when it comes to aiming archie at the armitage in polite society, the state has managed to largely stay out of the debate by advocating armageddon avoiding apartheid when it comes to public urination facilities.
However the ever increasing fracturing in the identity politics of the person means that it’s not exclusively pale, stale, straight white males who are being told to check their privilege these days.
Which means that as we trickle towards a brave new world where workplaces, universities and even primary schools are making the shift towards gender neutral bathrooms, it may only a matter of time before we need a European Directive to clarify the rules of engagement.
While gender neutral bathrooms protect members of the LGBTTQQIAAP+ community from stigmatization, as well as providing them with critical peer to peer peeing experiences, not everyone in the cis section of the sisterhood is delighted with prospect of having to police their preferred peeing privilege policy outside the privacy of their own home.
One perspective from a blogger called Mumlogic is that ‘control struggles like these damage self-esteem, and it’s women who consistently take in the most emotional damage as they try to adjust and change themselves to become “acceptable.”
I respect everyone’s right to experience their own unique reality but from my perspective it seems a bit rich to be claiming victim status when it comes to who it is laying down the law in the lavatory.
Besides if Big Brother ever sticks his nose into our bathrooms then it may well be sammy the snake’s trainer who’ll be most at risk of experiencing self-esteem issues because, from Sweden to Taiwan, men are increasingly finding themselves having to take a stand against being told to sit down.
Thankfully the totalitarian tip toe towards toilet tyranny tide may have turned for now after a European court recently accepted that to stand and splash is a basic natural right.
One obvious alternative solution would be to adopt the always leave it up option. To be frank, unless you’re a co-habiting in a happily homosexual household then if you’re seriously considering this approach then you may want to ask yourself if you’re really with the right woman.
Granted that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really any more selfish than option one but basically shame on you and have some self respect.
At least advocates for the ‘always down rule’ can argue that science backs up their preferred position. As Ammanda Mannen from cracked.com reports, some clever mathematician called Jay Pil Choi from Michigan State University has come up with a formula that proves that the toilet seat should always stay down.
I’m not convinced Amanda’s got her sums right mind you because Josh Gardiner from the Daily Mail reports that the exact same clever mathematican has come up with the exact same formula to prove that the fairest thing to do is actually for guys to leave it up.
Having read Professor Choi’s thesis, I have to say that I agree with Josh Gardiner’s interpretation but, as Amanda Mannen (ironically not a man) would probably point out, Josh Gardiner, Professor Choi’s and EYEis all Blokes so we would we would think that wouldn’t we.
Jonathan Wells from the Daily Telegraph calls this scientifically approved solution the ‘one touch rule’ which, you would assume, should be prove popular with anyone who champions equal rights over special treatment or emasculation.
Brilliant in it’s simplicity and balanced in outcome of effort expended, the one touch rule proposes that when someone needs to spend a penny they should raise or lower the seat to their preferred position, therefore (at most) requiring one short motion, per person, per visit.
The advantages of this approach is that it ensures equity for everyone and, for the sentimental, there is even an element of chivalry built into the deal because the guy still does all the heavy lifting.
For couples who just can’t seem to settle on any of the above then there is always the Nuclear Hygiene Option.
This scenario assumes the existence of a toilet lid and proposes the presumption that the lid (and consequently the seat) should be returned to the horizontal position before flushing.
The double damming down side of this solution is that it involves mutually assured distraction for all parties with two touches required per visit. Still if you’d prefer the toilet bowl half full perspective then happily it also happens to be the most hygienic option as it contains any spray of microscopic messy matter to within the bowl.
MrsBloke favours the lid down option in our household, although this is largely based on the equally scientific thesis that apparently your wealth disappears down the toilet if you leave the lid open.
I happen to believe that a few microscopic microbes are good for the soul (not to mention the immune system) and in the era of 24 hour banking I do consider the two touch requirement a tad inconvenient.
So in the spirit of compromise I offered to purchase, instal and operate the genius invention that is the toilet seat pedal, after all, as it’s inventor puts it, ‘why grope for the seat when you can use your feet’….
Sadly, after a very brief discussion MrsBloke vetoed this generous offer on the basis that it ‘looks a bit ugly’.
Which leads me to the patent pending mindfulness method…
Now some of you may notice that this option looks emasculating similar to MrsBloke’s choice but there is one significant difference that makes all the difference and I reckon that Thomas Crapper would approve.
Part-time politician and full-time comedian Sandi Toksvig is convinced that the calendar was invented by a woman and it’s hard to argue with her logic. Given her sex’s emotional attachment to a comfortable camode it’s difficult not to conclude that it was likely also a woman who invented the toilet seat as well, or at the very least inspired it.
Despite this bit of bathroom banter for World Toilet Day, I just can’t get that excited about who wears the trousers in the smallest room in the house and I don’t feel especially inconvenienced by a touch or two in the toilet.
All I really need is a pot to piss in and I happen to be blessed to live in a country where I get to do so in relative comfort. I’m also incredibly blessed to share my throne with a brilliant, beautiful, complex and sensitive soul who, lets face, got the raw end of the deal when nature was handing out bodily functions.
If it matters that much to the women who inspire me then then the very least I can do is respect their wishes, not because I have to but because I want to.
Relationships are about compromise and I try to reflect on that fact every time I visit our throne room. My Queen looks out for me in so many ways, puts up with many of my own quirks and I’m thankful that the last time we had a proper argument it was about something that we both felt strongly enough about to spend some of our precious time together arguing about.
Don’t misunderstand me, if you need to spend a penny in a gender neutral cubical at a student union which openly supports feminist graffiti like #killallwhitemen or #male tears, then I wholeheartedly understand why you might decide to shrug your shoulders and exercise your right to just leave the seat in it’s ‘correct’ position and simply and piss all over it. Ditto if you’re growing up in a household with a matriarch who keeps insisting that every day is International Men’s Day.
But if you love the one you’re with, my advice is lift the seat and close the lid. Oh and don’t forget to clean up, after all there are much worse things you could be doing with the toilet brush…