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Etiquette and the Toilet Seat


totoHave you ever sat down on the toilet and found yourself nearly falling in because someone (ahem) did not put the seat down?

For the most part, I live amongst the civilized, which is saying something because I have a husband and four kids, three of them boys and two of the boys, teenagers. Plenty of frustrating things happen when you live with other people, such as stumbling upon wet towels heaped on the bathroom floor or following a blazing trail of lights first thing in the morning. Those are just my personal pet peeves. I’m equally guilty of annoyance (according to my teenagers, sometimes, my existence counts as an annoying habit).

The seat up problem is something I abhor enough to have enforced a put-the-seat-down mandate for my husband and my sons. I began seat down behavior modification long before my husband and I got married, when we were dating and he still wanted to make a good impression upon me. I started to train my boys as soon as they began to stand up to pee. They are pretty good about the seat but they still forget, and I tend to hold grudges about this every single time it happens. It’s not even that I nearly fall in (generally, I see the seat aloft before I try to sit), but when I dip, especially first thing in the morning—and therefore begin my day with a startled reflexive narrow escape from unwanted wet tushiness, I get grumpy. My ability to shake early morning disgruntlement is lacking. There’s nothing like family life to encourage a person to work on forgiveness. Trust me—I’m trying.

I do imagine this particular form of considerateness is one that people who live with other people should demonstrate. When someone (presumably male) forgets to put the seat down, my sense of injustice flares. I’m not content to leave this negligence alone. I rail against such poor etiquette. However, I think my standards may be high, because whenever I go into a unisex public bathroom, inevitably, I find the toilet seat up. It’s possible that men do not value women’s comfort. Note: this is an unscientific study.

I’m not a sociologist so I took to the Internet to see whether there were any guidelines to proper bathroom protocol or if the Wild West reigns supreme. I found Modern Manners Guy with an answer: “When it comes to the perennial debate between men and women about the toilet seat, the answer (for everyone) is to leave both the toilet seat and cover down. It’s just polite.”

Male-humans who use unisex public bathrooms, please take note.

The good news is that technology may help us all. Newer toilet seat designs lower very quietly—no big, loud slam. I think (or hope, or pretend) that this feature means seats lower so much more seamlessly that people (male people) can ease the seat into the polite position. We have two newfangled toilets in our house, because two years ago, two older toilets broke at the very same time. These seats tend to be in the correct position whenever I walk into the bathroom. Although I admit it’s possible I’ve just trained my family very well.

Of course, the person who finds the toilet seat up and the ensuing predicament most amusing is my five-year-old daughter. A slapstick plunge into the toilet—if it’s not at her bum’s expense—is as hilarious as life gets. Although I want her to be incensed about a raised toilet seat (her turn will come), I also think she has a point: laugh more, even at yourself and you’ll be happier—and find the bathroom a funnier place to boot.

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This entry was written by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

About the author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain, Child Magazine, and Salon, amongst others. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

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