Sunday, May 24, 2009

Americans and Toilet Paper

It’s true!  Americans do wipe their bottoms with paper after they poop!  This probably seems really gross to Indians.  Want to hear something really disgusting?  They also frequently use their right hands to do it.  Ha! 

This is just another fascinating example of how cultures do things differently.  Since I’ve been in India, a lot of people have expressed their disgust that Americans do not clean with water afterwards to remove all the poop.  I’m going to try to explain it here.

First off, an American diet usually has more meat, and American poop is usually more solid and hard.  This is one of the reasons why Americans have more problems with hemorrhoids.  But the reason I mention it is that it is easier to clean yourself when your poop is very solid because less is left behind. 

Second, Americans wipe several times.  I don’t know if people who do not use toilet paper realize this.  The way it works is you wipe with paper, glance at the paper, throw the paper in the toilet.  If there was shit on the paper, then you wipe again.  You repeat this process several times until the paper is clean after you wipe.  That is how you know you got it all.

Third, some Americans do use water or wipes sometimes.  I wouldn’t say the majority of Americans do this, but many do.  Here is how it works.  If you wipe a few times and yet there is still shit on the toilet paper (or if you have an upset stomach or ate something that gave you runny poop), then many times Americans will put a little water on the toilet paper to finish the job.  Also, many Americans keep wet wipes on the back of their toilets in their homes so that you can wipe a few times with dry paper and then finish with a wet wipe.  Like I said, though, this is not something the majority of Americans do.

Fourth, most Americans shower after using the bathroom.  I’ve noticed that people who think it is gross to use paper usually do not think about this.  Most of the time, Americans shit in the morning at home, wipe, then have a shower.  (Sometimes you have a stomach problem or you eat something strange or you are keeping a weird schedule and you are forced to shit in a public bathroom, but this is certainly not preferred nor is it the norm.)  In the morning, Americans say they are going to do the “three s’s”: shit, shower and shave.  So it might be true that it is cleaner to wash with water, but Americans do that right after they shit anyway.  Even if you have to use the bathroom in public, you will still have a shower soon as it is the cultural norm to shower at least once a day, if not twice.  It’s not like Americans are walking around with weeks’ worth of poop between their butt cheeks!  Ha!

Fifth, toilet paper is not painful to use.  Indians frequently say that using toilet paper is the cause of hemorrhoids, but this is not true.  It might be true that this happens in India where the toilet paper is abrasive, but in the United States, the toilet paper is very soft and smooth.  Also, people wipe repeatedly but gently.  There is some discussion that using a sit-down toilet rather than a squat toilet contributes to hemorrhoids, but toilet paper has nothing to do with it.

Finally, yes sometimes there is a little poop leftover.  I’ll be honest and admit it.  It is gross, but it does happen every now and then.  Americans crack jokes about it frequently.  If you shit and wipe but don’t get it all, it can leave a little mark on your underwear.  Americans call these “skid marks” and if a family member sees that you have a skid mark on your undies, you will be ridiculed!  It’s considered very bad hygiene, but it does happen sometimes.  What can I say?  Shit happens!

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