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On Toilets and Masculinity

In a triumphant moment of manliness, I recently replaced a toilet in my house. If you have not had the pleasure, please bear in mind that replacing a toilet is surprisingly simple. The real struggle is in familiarizing yourself with the field of toiletry. You can’t just run to the store all catawampus (this word being used slightly incorrectly, unless you intend to walk diagonally or askew in the store or enter in a particularly fierce or savage manner) and hope to buy a toilet. You’ve got to educate yourself or you’ll walk away with a throne unbefitting the bottoms that shall grace it. 

Before I relate my experience with the process of toilet procurement, I’d like to commiserate with my fellow DIY plumbers about the wax ring seal connecting the toilet to the depths below. I understand that there’s probably a variety of colors available for said ring. Sadly, my ring was brown (please, take a moment to call a friend or family member into the room and then read that sentence out loud). I’m sure the used ring I was replacing was once a gentle tan not unlike the new seal I had purchased. However, given enough time and use, the gentle tan color of the ring becomes somewhat…dubious. With my face closer to areas of plumbing than I ever wanted it to be, I suppressed thoughts of my sons using the restroom and lamentations of neglected target training. 

I digress. Before I purchased a new toilet, I decided to do some research on the science of defecation. Having lived in the Philippines, I knew squatting had it’s merits, and after seeing a commercial for Squatty Potty (not a sponsor…yet?), I knew I wanted as much squat-like leverage as possible. So I headed to my local toilet outlet to pick up a children’s-sized throne. 

Apparently, There’s a Correct Way to Buy a Toilet

Here’s the deal, there are too many toilet options. There’s low-flow, double-flush, tall, short, push-button flush, automatic flush—it’s overwhelming. I stood in the toilet aisle walking back and forth for a solid 15 minutes. At some point, I was noticed by Barry the Toilet Specialist. Barry was a good dude—follically-challenged, rotund, but committed to toilets and his pony tail. 

Bankrupt in the front, party in the back. Deal with it.

I let Barry know my dilemma: “I need a new toilet.” 

Barry: “I hear that. I hear that. What kind of toilet did you have in mind.”

Me: “…um…the kind that…toilets?”

Barry: “There’s a lot of really good toilets out lately. Kohler is really changing the game with some of their flush technology. You could always go with American Standard, but that’s bush league.”

Me: Thoughtfully nodding in agreement at what everyone, including me, obviously already knows, “So…what’s the difference between this obviously superior toilet and this other obviously superior-er toilet?” 

Barry: Sizing me up, “Look guy. You’re a dude. So you obviously want the oval bowl over the circle bowl. For sure. You’re a dude.”

A recent study by researchers at NorthSouthwestern State University demonstrated a significant bi-directional correlation between oval-shaped toilets and being a dude. Bi-directional. Look it up. 

Barry: “And you’re a tall dude, so you want a tall throne. I mean, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on this bad-boy. So you want the Kohler Kingly. This other one’s short and circular. You don’t want that. You’re tall…and (with eyebrowed emphasis) a dude.” 

Ideally, your toilet should be of such stature as to meet your own mental and emotional stature, allowing both you and the bowl to come together as one seamless marvel. 

Me: Thankful he noticed my dudehood and apparently obvious gastrointestinal struggles, “Yah. For sure. For sure. Oval and tall. Got it.”

Barry: “I mean, this is your throne, man. The kids can’t get you in there. The wife can’t ask you for stuff in there. This is your place to-“

Me: Noticing this might go south pretty fast, “Right on. Cool. Cool. Alright I think this top-of-the-line Kohler Kingly looks pretty good. I’m just gonna grab a couple more things before I pull the trigger on this porcelain prize.”

Grab Your Lady and Run

To be clear, there was nothing else to grab. I found the toilet I wanted, and it was NOT the Kohler Kingly. I knew from the start I wanted maximum squat for more power. That means a shorter bowl. And oval bowls always feel dangerous to me. When I was a kid, I felt like it was so big I could just climb in there. And If I could, what else could? Nope. Circle bowl for me. I had my eyes set on an American Standard (I mean, come on. It’s literally the AMERICAN STANDARD) short, circle bowl called, “Pretty Lady.” Gloriously masculine movements, here I come. 

Confident in my choice and possessed of my masculinity, I dawdled around the aisle for a minute or two intensely examining plungers until Barry was just out of eye sight. At which point I quickly and not-so-gracefully grabbed the Pretty Lady, chucked it in my cart and speed walked to the register. The last thing I wanted was Barry stopping me. “Hey guy! I think you grabbed the wrong one. You know, cause you’re a DUDE!” 

Secrets of Life

A few key points to consider, first, I want to remind everyone that I can do manly, DIY things (it is possible that my need to prove that to people likely means I need to become a little more confident in that area). Second, going to my local hardware store, like going to my local bike shop, always feels a little like I’m being sized up. Men like to compete with each other. It feels good to know where you stand and we often compare ourselves to each other to come to that knowledge. Unfortunately, more often than not, that leads to feelings of inadequacy. We’re better off seeing and acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, even for those of us how have a less-than-masculine toilet preference. 

As for my circular, stout toilet? Not an ounce of regret. Unlike Barry, I understand that true masculinity is in the capacity to know yourself, the confidence to align with your own integrity, and the ability to power squat during potty time. Could I have handled the interaction with Barry differently? Sure. Should I have been willing to tell Barry what I was looking for and let the chips plop where they may? Probably. Should I not have compared myself to Barry at the beginning of this paragraph and toilet journey? unquestionably. But sometimes being a dude with integrity is harder than it should be. 

It’s been a couple years with my new toilet. It still works—no leaks. And my squatting power is impressive. I do have moments of regret when I think of other dudes using my toilet. Thankfully, my regret is not worrying that they might judge my throne choice. Rather, I worry they may be uncomfortable when in need of comfort. My interaction with Barry taught me that what I like may not be for everybody…even if it is STANDARD, Barry. It also reminded me that there’s not one standard for men. We are not built the same. We have different desires and purposes, focuses and directions. I am still confident in my manhood, even while using my less-than-manly toilet. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, the Pretty Lady awaits. 

Rob Porter, Ph.D., LMFT-S, Couple Therapist, Power Squatter
Owner and Directer, Relate Therapy Austin

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