The Toilet Paper War

A wonderful, soft, much beloved roll of toilet paper. Photo by Trisha Thomas. June 2015

A wonderful, soft, much beloved roll of toilet paper. Photo by Trisha Thomas. June 2015

It all started on a Tuesday morning at 7am a few weeks ago when I went into the bathroom and discovered there was no toilet paper. I sleepily shuffled over to the other bathroom where my Italian husband was shaving and knocked on the door and said:

“Hey, can you hand me out some toilet paper, there isn’t any in the other bathroom.”

Pause for a sleepy second and then explosion”

“WHAT, there is no toilet paper!!!???!! I bought 4 rolls last Saturday and you 3 (my 2 daughters and I) have used four rolls in 4 days. This has go to STOP! We are not buying any more toilet paper until next Saturday!!!”

“What the hell are you talking about!” I yelled back, suddenly wide awake (we are in Italy –I’ve learned to be vociferous when I argue even at 7am). “WE CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT TOILET PAPER!!”

“USE THE BIDET!!!!” came the response from the other side of the bathroom door.

Well, as much as I appreciate the qualities of the omnipresent bidets in Italy (see blog post: The Fabulous Bidet), it is not a replacement for toilet paper. By that time I was getting really worked up, so I shouted:

“I don’t get it, you buy plastic little clean-up-the-poop bags for the dog, and you don’t want us to have toilet paper!!!???!!!”

Silence for a moment from the other side of the bathroom door, then:

“Yes!! That’s right – and don’t you dare write a blog post on this!!”

“Great Idea!!” I grumbled and shuffled off to the kitchen to look for dinner napkins.

Let me just add here that despite what you have just read, my husband and I are not completely ignorant, boorish individuals. We are relatively well educated and well informed and know that there are terrible events happening in the world–wars in Syria and Ukraine, a massacre at a church in the US, migrants fleeing Libya—clearly issues that we should be more concerned about, but somehow we could not resist the temptation to launch our own personal TP war. What is it about marriage??

(If you are a regular follower of this blog, you will know that marital bickering is not new. See blog post: Romantic Ravello and Lacing Wars)

Well that Tuesday happened to be an insanely busy day and I didn’t get around to buying toilet paper (made do with Kleenexes and dinner napkins) and I ended up finding myself at a pizzeria for dinner with a group of Mamma friends who were all telling stories about things that husbands do that drive us crazy. So I spilled my toilet paper war beans. My friends were shocked. They immediately began plotting their revenge—they said they would roll me up in toilet paper like an Egyptian TP Mamma-Mummy and deliver me to the door of our home, ring the doorbell and escape. Another suggestion was that they all hide in the courtyard area outside my building with rolls of toilet paper and when my husband left to go to work the next morning they would bombard him with rolls of TP. Gotta love the Mamma-Mafia at work, they made me laugh and the TP war seemed a little less dramatic.

But as things were, I didn’t manage to buy any TP on Wednesday or Thursday and of course my daughters took their aggravation out on me. Then on Friday at work I got a call from my husband sounding very sheepish. He said:

“Guess what, I just found the four rolls of toilet paper on the floor in the back of my car, they must have slipped out of the shopping bag when I was coming home from the supermarket last Saturday.”

AAARRGGHHH!! I can’t believe it, all that TP abstinence for nothing.

Saturday morning I headed to the supermarket to end the battle once and for all.

Forty rolls of wonderful, soft, dearly beloved, much appreciated toilet paper.  Photo by Trisha Thomas, June 2015

Forty rolls of wonderful, soft, dearly beloved, much appreciated toilet paper. Photo by Trisha Thomas, June 2015

Forty rolls should last us for a while.

And yes, since he gave me the idea, I cannot resist the temptation to write a blog post—my final salvo in the TP war.

Moral of this story: Don’t mess with TT and her TP

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Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

34 Comments

  1. Ciao Chow Linda
    2015/06/25

    You had me laughing hysterically at the breakfast table with this one. I have resorted to tissues and napkins too at times and wish I had room in my tiny bathrooms for a bidet. I don’t think I’d want to live back in Colonial times when they had to use leaves. Ouch. I have to say, the quality of tp in Italty has certainly improved since my first visit there in 1970 when it was rough as sandpaper. That supply you bought should last for a while, I suspect. Fun post.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Thank you Linda — I am so glad you got a laugh. No, leaves would not be a good thing, and I wouldn’t like to use pages of the Sears catalogue either (didn’t people use that once in the US?). I didn’t know that Italy had rough sand-papery tp in the 1970s. I guess I should consider myself lucky.

      Reply
  2. John
    2015/06/25

    Lessons: Don’t mess with Mamma particularly before the morning coffee, all that goes wrong in the house is Mamma’s fault (or at least taken out on her) It takes a strong man to admit he has caused a TP crisis. Reminds me of the days when I worked in Bangladesh in the big secretariat building. An essential part of preparing for work was to be sure you had a TP supply in your pocket, there wasn’t a sheet in the whole 7 story building. (MM take note)

    And I can’t help asking what those hundreds of thousands of refugees do? (I’d rather not think) And MM must travel prepared on those long days covering celebrities!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Yikes — you are raising a lot of sensitive issues. First, you are absolutely right about not messing with me before my morning coffee. Second, remind me not to look for a job in Bangladesh. Finally, I have often joked with other women journalists that I could write a book on horrific toilet moments covering news stories — a tin pan at a back of a tiny shack restaurant filled with curious people while covering communist rebels in a remote area of the Philippines, a journalist friend flying on a military flight with all-male soldiers from the UK to Afghanistan with only a hole in the side of the military plane for peeing into (no place for women) etc., masses with tens of thousands of people with Pope John Paul II in Poland and only over-flowing porta-potties, challenges in India, Albania etc etc etc. But I promise I will never write that book — too gross.

      Reply
  3. Lin Celoni
    2015/06/25

    Trisha,
    I loved your TP wars. sometimes there is just no accounting for the giant divide between men and women! But…I had some time today and followed up with your Espresso, Corruption, Bella Figura. you wrote this before I discovered you. So funny. I have found one ZEN DVD and one book at my library. Been looking for some hot Italian entertainment this summer ;)
    peace

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      I am so glad you liked the Espresso, Corruption and Bella Figura post. It was fellow blogger Adri Barr Crocetti who put me on to Aurelio Zen– good stuff. Hope you enjoy the books and DVD. I certainly did.

      Reply
  4. Nancy Rockwell
    2015/06/25

    Hilarious! And quite delightful. I remember having two house guests in a cabin one summer and one roll went in two days and I was appalled. The nearest store was miles away, and I was angry with my house guests.for extravagant TP use. Of course, my own poor planning never came into my head. Small things, at moments when we feel stressed, tired and burdened, become last straws, often. After all, how can we express personal despair about the Charleston church shooting, when it seems horrible to think about yourself in the face of their suffering?
    Last night I was part of an interfaith service about the Charleston church shootings, and an AME bishop spoke about his despair and rage about white people, and our massive insensitivity about race, the constant put downs he is subjected to, the fact that in NYC, where his office is, he found a reporter covering the story in front of an AME Zion church, which is a different denomination, and his disgust was palpable that the reporter didn’t know, and didn’t even Google to check his assumption. Of course, he dumped all this on us, the people who were there and do care, but of course, there is a great deal most of us do not know about black culture, history, and life, a great deal we replace with assumptions, all negative. Which is exactly what happens at home, too. Weary, too stressed, hurting, leads to easily angered.
    The great part was when your husband called you to confess the truth. That’s when love triumphs. And it did. And in your post, laughing about it all.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      You are right Nancy — Our stress about other more serious events in our life often explodes over stupid things like toilet paper. And I suppose my husband’s confession that the four rolls were on the car floor was a case of “love triumphs” — but it didn’t really feel like it at the moment. Still, at least we had a laugh over it.

      Reply
  5. Tish Walker
    2015/06/25

    Hi Trisha,

    Thanks a lot for the laugh this morning!

    Love, Tish

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      I am glad you got a laugh Auntie Tish!

      Reply
  6. Nam
    2015/06/25

    Love it! I am beginning to see how blogging can be used as a secret weapon to resolve marital arguments.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Not so sure this is blogging used to resolve marital arguments or it is me upping the ante!

      Reply
  7. caryl
    2015/06/25

    ” I bought 4 rolls last Saturday and you 3 (my 2 daughters and me) have used four rolls in 4 days.”

    It is “my two daughters and I used” – would you say “me have used four rolls” ?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Ouch, Caryl — you are absolutely– bad English — I will go in and correct that now. Hope my mother has not seen that error, she will be horrified.

      Reply
  8. susan
    2015/06/25

    Trisha, this is such a funny post. My dad was Italian and very generous but now and then he would announce these ridiculous edicts. Once he told us we were too wasteful and we had to wash out the paper placemats. My sister and I put them in the washing machine. What a mess!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Oh no! Paper placemats in the washing machine– yikes!! Let’s hope my husband doesn’t get any ideas like that!

      Reply
  9. Adri
    2015/06/25

    Ha! Thank you for starting my day off with a smile. I bet we can all relate to this one. At least when you asked Gustavo for toilet paper he did not intone his most famous line, one that my own spouse Bart has taken up and now uses ad libitum “I don’t know how.” I believe Gustavo laid that one on you when you asked him why he had not run the dishwasher.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Adri — You have a fantastic memory — Yes, that was one of Gustavo’s best lines — when I asked simply “can you turn on the dishwasher?” he answered, “I don’t know how.” For Goodness sakes, it is just a button to push.

      Reply
  10. Alan
    2015/06/25

    . . come on Trisha – you really must try and keep this sort of stuff in some sort of perspective. (As I am a fairly vindictive bastard and could never follow my own advice I suggest a dispenser with a slot for euros in ‘his’ toilet and a ‘Lysistrata’ type non-aggression treaty to curb his Italianesque excesses.)

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Well, he being an economist he would definitely love the euro-slot tp dispenser, and yes I might just try a Lysistrata strategy.

      Reply
  11. Joan Schmelzle
    2015/06/25

    Wonderful!!! What I have missed by staying single! Fun to read for sure. I liked the toilet paper mummy idea best. I have one TP story from long ago, probably from my first trip to Europe and it must have been in England because written in English on every single toilet paper square was the admonition: “Now wash your hands.”
    A presto

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Ha! Now wash your Hands! I love it! I think that sounds like a good idea.

      Reply
  12. Heather
    2015/06/25

    Due to biology, women use up more TP than men do. Unfortunately most do not bother to figure this out!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      I actually did try to explain that to my husband — but he didn’t want to hear it. Sigh.

      Reply
  13. Kathy
    2015/06/26

    Oh Trisha – as usual – I am nodding in agreement. I have this debate in my three person household – and that is me with two sons and the second toilet is down the stairs and across some very cold tiles to the laundry room. Don’t know how we manage to run out but we do.

    Just love your photo of the Italian toilet paper – but why is some of it in English? ‘Tenderly Triple Soft’ must have a bella lingua translation?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      I am glad you like my photos — I worked hard on those. Especially the toilet paper on the black table. Had to get it just right. And it is funny about the English on my 40-pack — I didn’t even notice. And yes, I am also glad you have the same problem in your household, makes me feel less alone in my TP war. Sigh.

      Reply
  14. Laney (Ortensia Blu)
    2015/06/26

    As a person who has FOROOTP (Fear of running of out toilet paper), I always have a minimum of two 4 pack rolls in the house. My family understands this phobia (maybe it’s hereditary:) and TP is always at the top of the weekly shopping list. Thanks for the laugh!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/26

      Ah….now I understand what my problem is — I have FOROOTP!!! I think I need to develop your strategy — a secret stash of 2 rolls.

      Reply
  15. Sally Smith
    2015/06/27

    Super Offerta…Super Mamma! Universal problem. Hang tough, Trisha!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/28

      I am doing my best, but some days I feel like I am hanging by a piece of toilet paper!!

      Reply
  16. Silvia
    2015/06/28

    Hi Trisha. I am Italian and I am not working for them, but you should really buy the “rotoloni” done by Regina. I buy them at my local Ipercoop when there is a promotion ( 25% of discount ). Believe me, my father and I have en entire wall in our garage covered by packages of toilet papers. Relatives make fun of us ( you can imagine what they can say about us in Italian behind our back..!! Our language can sometime be more colorful than the English one) but we never have your kind of problem. Sometime a bidet can be a very pleasant experience, that you can enjoy only in Italy. Italian life style and all… Ciao ;) ;)

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/06/28

      Thank you Silvia!! I will definitely look for the Rotoloni made by Regina– and I can totally understand you with your garage wall full of toilet paper– better safe than sorry!!

      Reply
  17. Barbara Landi
    2015/06/30

    You ARE aware that during wartime and before there was no paper/disposables for ANYTHING in Europe, including feminine monthly issues.

    Europeans are much more environmentally conservative than Americans going WAY back. If you were out of TP, it’s because you and the girls are WAY too wasteful! And that includes use of water (showers.)

    When I visited Italy for the first time in 1969 with my Italian mother,, several homes where we stayed had newspaper nailed a piece of plywood next to the toilet. I was horrified as a young American girl at the time, but that’s how it was in Europe. Most of the places we stayed had little more than a trickle of water coming from a hand-held faucet in a tub in the bathroom. It was summer time and I was appalled. They’ve come along since then, but those roots are still there. Of course your husband didn’t think it was a big deal! Your mother-in-law probably has stories.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2015/07/01

      Barbara, that is so interesting. Yes, I suppose in the post-war period, Italy was so poor and struggling TP would have been a luxury. I will ask around with some older people to see what they can tell me about the newspaper nailed to the walls. Can’t imagine it would be very cleanly, with all the newsprint everyone must have had black bottoms!

      Reply

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