Two-Ply

I’ve been doing that hiding thing again. I need to take some time off from blogging and podcasting because Ghost Train to New Orleans is due this month. [Insert HERE all clever remarks about how I have to hold off on I Should Be Writing, because I should be writing. Go ahead. I'll wait.] And then lots of stuff happens in SF and I feel I should write/podcast about it. But the SHOULD takes a lot of mental weight and I just get tired and say nothing. Damn.

Included here because of awesome.

Included here because of awesome.

Anyway. In short: I’m writing a book. I got nominated for the Campbell award. The Hugo Award nominees were also announced, and people got real mad. Nightshade Books is in trouble and people are freaking out about it. Roger Ebert died. Iain Banks is dying. Leviathan Chronicles Season 2 was released with a lot of my content. The Torment Kickstarter ended, setting a record. The Shambling Guide to NYC started getting mainstream reviews. Last week it sleeted in NC, and now highs are in the 80′s. But what’s the stupidest thing in the world is the fact that what got me blogging again after a hiatus was toilet paper.

Baby, you should know I am really quite a sweet guy
When I buy you bathroom tissue, I always get the 2-ply
~Weird Al Yankovic

In a frugal attempt to save money, and I also think I was in a hurry, I grabbed some cheap toilet paper at the store. I didn’t think much about it, or how thin it was when I put it on the roll. Then when it came time to use the tool for which I purchased it, I was astonished that I could see through it, and then realized I’d need more than I had originally thought. (Hence the money saved is wasted on having to use more to do the job.) Then there was the texture. THE TEXTURE ON MY TENDER BITS. Seriously, you don’t think about this shit until it HAPPENS TO YOU. 2-ply is important. It’s vital. Without it, civilization can crumble, man. CRUMBLE.

I bought some 2-ply right away, crying to the toilet paper gods that I will never go back. Now the evil 1-ply sits as an emergency, “we’re out of TP” backup. It watches me. It KNOWS.

I was at someone else’s house when I discovered that they, too, had 1-ply. I was immediately torn. You don’t complain about your friend’s TP. But I wondered about the etiquette of carrying around your own roll for times like this. I remembered sharing a beach house with a bunch of friends, and when we discussed who was bringing what to stock the house, this friend always wanted to be in charge of the paper products (napkins, paper towels, and TP) because they insisted on “their” brand of TP. I thought it was a bit strange, but the honor of supplying the tribe with recently slaughtered paper products is not something I particularly covet, so they took that duty.

Heh. “Duty.”

Sorry.

But now I understand, and for a brief moment considered traveling with my own TP. The reality here is I can’t remember to pack my daughter a fucking coat, so I would likely fail at remembering the travel TP. And if I remembered the TP and still forgot her coat, then I might as well turn in my Mom badge and my gun. (Yeah, that joke isn’t funny anymore. It’s a metaphorical gun. That shoots guilt. And bees.) Also it seems downright rude or awkward to head to the bathroom carting my own roll.

Oh, it’s not you, it’s me. Polyps. You know.

And hell, it’s really not that important. Just so you know I’m not freaky about this. But it did get me thinking about characterization. This is a tiny bit of my life, the middle class white whine about 1-ply toilet paper. But in fiction, this is the kind of thing that can define characters. Insisting on, eg, 2-ply, or brand name products, or the newest gadget when the old one works fine, can say things about a character without you having to say “Kevin was an upper middle class American.” Instead, maybe, “The first time Kevin felt 2-ply TP, he knew there was no going back. He’d go so far as clean adult book stores for the financial right to wipe his ass in comfort.” Not to mention a character always carrying her own special TP to the bathroom with her can say a lot about her view of the world, and her desperate need to control.

When you’re thinking about “how would your character have reacted to Kennedy being shot?” or “The waiter spills water down your character’s back, how does she react?” you can think, “what kind of TP do they buy? Are they a coffee snob? Generic or brand name? Boy shorts or bikinis? Target, Wal-Mart, or Belk?”

I just wrote 800+ words on middle class whining and toilet paper. I think I should probably stop and get to writing or something…

Also, I do realize what I am saying about MYSELF that I thought this much about toilet paper, and I blame book stress.

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5 Responses to Two-Ply

  1. Hold the phone. I’m totally with you. I completely understand wanting or needing to save money. We’ve been there many times. If I have my choice, though, I get name brand cotton-y goodness. I’m also a snob and use baby wipes. (Hey, I have a temperamental GI system. Wait. That sounded gross… What I meant was hemorrhoids—which sounds even more gross. I’m not at all neurotic. *shifty eyes*)

    I like playing with characters’ little quirks. It requires me to examine my own, but hey, I’m human (and so are you). I’ll gladly slay 1-ply TP monsters with you.

  2. Nojh says:

    I was highly amused by this article, as well as informed, and advised. Bravo! Good luck on your deadline!

  3. Jason says:

    Hey, way to gloss over the fact that that “mainstream review” you mentioned happens to be at a little magazine named Kirkus and it has a star next to it!! Congratulations!

  4. DrMcCoy says:

    2-ply? How barbaric! I always get 4-ply. :P

  5. HI-larious.

    I actually have a 1-ply in the house for that very same purpose. If only money grew on trees, but then we would find something else to trade back and forth for our TP.

    1-Ply vs 2-Ply-I know the “feeling”. I really need to think about better ways to save money, but we (me and my family) have switched to only natural and organic foods, so paper products is the main item currently on the chopping block.

    Great idea on how to better define your character with more show and less tell.

    Thanks Mur!

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