As we traveled to our friends and family this holiday season we counted our blessings, renewed relationships, and took stock of commonalities and differences. Many of us reached across generational, spiritual, or political divides to enjoy good food and the company of loved ones and acquaintances. While conversational differences may have been easy to sidestep, private encounters with the the way toilet paper was rolled in your host's home may have created an unshakeable impression impossible to avoid! Seriously, 50% of the population have strong feelings about paper orientation and almost none of us see it as a starting place to understanding...
What can we learn from the way toilet paper is rolled? A surprising number of people have asked that question. For starters we know that a modest paper roll can create major disagreements in marriages. It's "misdirection" will be an annoyance to one in five household guests. In fact, 20% will change the orientation of toilet paper to accommodate their own preference! Rolling direction is a controversy that forces many retailers, hotels and public buildings to include it in policy. The Canadian hotel group, Sandman, tries to head off potential disgruntlement with education about their "over" orientation policy. Their position is the industry standard, they say, and one of many things Sandman does to create a "squeaky clean" appearance.
Most studies say we're an "over" dominated world. Somewhere between 60% and 80% of householders orient toilet paper to roll from the top or "over." Toilet paper. A round roll with no up or down arrows. How did we become "over" ruling? What does "over" or "under" say about us--- anything?
Would it surprise you to learn that how we orient bathroom tissue may reveal personality traits? According to Wikipedia (yes they have an article about the controversy) a therapist contracting with Cottonelle, the toilet paper manufacturer, analyzed rolling preferences for personality traits. "Over"s, she said, are take charge people. Medical Astrologer Eileen Nauman takes it a step further contending that they're type A's. "Over"s are competitive, Big Bang thinkers, risk taking entrepreneurs at heart who are good in a crisis and bear the burden of stress.
"Under"s are group and family-oriented diplomats. They're laid back in life. They're dependable and co-operative. They like involvement in their neighborhood and community and probably enjoy reading. They choose to hang "under" because they're concerned with projecting a neat appearance and realize it's less likely to be unrolled by a child or pet when oriented that way.
Confronting the opposite orientation may be surprising or annoying but in that moment consider the value of difference. Dear "Under"s, that "over" friend of yours has the capacity to be there for you in a disaster or minor crisis or as the first to offer advice and encouragement in starting a new business. Your "over" friend could benefit from your easy energy. Invite him/her to a competitive sporting event, dance or bridge game to relax because "over" rollers carry a lot of stress.
Dear "Over"s, Your "Under" friend may be in the minority and may even seem to you to lack ambition at times but nowhere is there a better source of thoughtful parenting/grandparenting advice or good conversation about books. Wondering who is on your neighborhood council or how to get a community group organized? Your "under" friend will show his/her skill with groups and thoughtful brilliance if you're willing to provide the motivation and leadership. It's a perfect match!
There's no "right" or "wrong" way to orient toilet paper. As "over"s or "under"s we may be revealing to our friends and guests, in an unconscious, subtle way, who we are and what we value. So, during this season of charity and convivial spirit consider pausing the next time you encounter tissue feeding in the opposite direction of your nature. Perhaps something as simple as this, something based on our common experience in life, can be an opportunity to consider the value of differing perspectives.