Monday, March 24, 2014

Lessons from the Toilet Seat

I have a bone to pick with you, ladies. If you share your home with a man and demand that he put the toilet seat down after he pees, you are a fascist.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing...

Don't mistake my view on toilet seat etiquette as sexism. I think that women have been horribly mistreated throughout most of civilized history and though things have improved greatly in the last century or so, there is still much work to be done. The fact that women make significantly less money than their male counterparts in the workforce is inexcusable. I think it's ridiculous that, in some parts of the world, old men are attempting to dictate whether women ought to have personal sovereignty over their own bodies. I also think that unfair double-standards and shaming women for their lifestyle decisions is deplorable.

It's precisely because I believe men and women should be treated equally that I rebel against the tyrannical view that men are the custodians of the toilet seat. If a household contains one man and one woman, the toilet seat duties should be divided equally. Guys need the seat up and women need the seat down; why should men be obligated to cater to the "fairer" sex?  Doesn't sound fair to me! Is it because women run the risk of falling into the toilet?

Come on. That doesn't actually happen, does it? And if it does, it serves you right for expecting deferential treatment. Equality goes both ways, ladies.

Gentlemen, I implore you to fight for your rights. There may come a time when the balance shifts and the equality argument loses its validity. Use it while you can!

During the first six years of my relationship with my lovely wife I adamantly refused to put the seat down. "There's two of us living in the house," I would tell her whenever the issue came up. "You need the seat down. I need the seat up. Why should I have to put it up before I pee and then down after I'm done? When do you move the toilet seat in this grossly unfair arrangement? 'Cause from here, it looks like the seat is always in the right position whenever you need to use the toilet whereas I have to perform a freakin' surgical procedure just to take a leak!"

Then my wife gave birth to our daughter and on that very evening I saw a hard glint in her eye. I knew immediately what she was thinking. He's outnumbered now. Soon he will have to put the seat down!

I fought it right up until my daughter fell into the toilet one night.

Just kidding. That never happened because as soon as she ditched the Dora training-seat and started sitting on the toilet like a big girl I began the long and arduous process of reprogramming myself. I always said it was an issue of equality and the moment I was outnumbered two-to-one I was obligated by my own personal code of honor to amend my behavior accordingly.

Putting the toilet seat down is a perfect example of a micro-transaction--a tiny change in behavior or thought-pattern that, if focused on by itself, is easily achievable. At first I had to think about putting the seat down as often as possible. Even when I wasn't going to the bathroom I would remind myself about that damned toilet seat. New habits are like unfamiliar plants; in order to successfully grown them, you gotta plant a whole lot of seeds.

In the beginning I probably put the seat down 10% of the time but every success reinforced the new habit. In a few months it became second-nature to put the seat down.

I never told my wife about any of this. I wanted to see if she'd notice this radical change in my behavior and I'm proud to say that, after a year or so, she made an offhand comment about how I was getting "pretty good" at putting the seat down.

I know what you fellas are thinking right now.

I admit I've been making a lot of changes for my wife lately. Like I said on Valentine's Day, a good relationship requires balance and a fair division of labor. If I can program myself to put the toilet seat down and do some other stuff to make her happy, why shouldn't I?

And if I'm being honest, pleasing my wife isn't the only reason I started reprogramming the old meat-computer. The principles behind breaking bad habits and forming good ones are the same across the board. Teaching myself to put the seat down was a practice run. Since then I've trained myself to cultivate positive thought, master my emotions, dissolve my ego, stop misplacing (losing) my keys and wallet, improve my posture, and the list goes on. It's a work-in-progress--I stumble and relapse on a regular basis--but the improvements have been measurable.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you, toilet seat, for showing me I have the ability to change myself, one habit at a time.