Last month I wrote a post about parenting blogs. A couple of years ago at work my boss, co-workers, and I were talking about the "Life on the Home Front" column in the Stars and Stripes. My boss had the same sentiment about that column that I did. It was like an accident on the Autobahn. You know that you shouldn't look, but end up doing so anyway.
When I first came to Germany in 1992, I had no clue about military life. One of the other civilian contractor wives, who was a friend of mine, was equally clueless. Both of us arrived in Germany at the same time and we learned together how to fit into the overseas Army culture. We had our impression of what the perfect wife was supposed to be. Neither of us fit the bill. As a joke, my friend bought me The Air Force Officers' Wives Survival Guide, which was last updated around 1953. According to friends of mine who are Army officers' wives, most of the things in that book aren't done anymore (e.g. leaving a calling card after a social function). The following is a piece that I wrote about two or three years ago, just after the discussion with my boss and co-workers. It's a parody of "Life on the Home Front" (and more recent parenting blogs that are similar to "Life...") and those guides on how to be the perfect military spouse.
A Guide For Military Officers' Wives:
Part 1: How To Choose the Right Toilet Paper
One of the duties of an officer's wife is to be a good hostess. The most important item that will reflect your skills as a hostess is toilet paper. You will never want to be scandalized by the other wives complaining about how your toilet paper feels like newspaper. Nothing stops an officer's career like being called into his commander's office because the toilet paper in his home had the feel of old corncobs.
Buying toilet paper in the Commissary can be one of the most complex tasks you'll perform as a military officer's wife. First of all, there are so many different brands to choose from. Plus, each brand comes in so many different colors. It's enough to make your head spin!
Whenever I buy toilet paper, I make it a family affair. But can you imagine...each member of the family has his or her own preferences. They actually have knock-down-drag-out fights in the paper goods aisle trying to figure out who got to pick out the toilet paper the last time we went shopping. Herkie, who likes white Charmin, complains that Junie, who's partial to pink Northern, got to pick out the toilet paper last time. Davy likes light blue Scott because it goes with the blue bathmat. He says that it's his turn to pick the toilet paper. Herkie and Junie disagree, and they get into a real tussle over it.
Meanwhile, Bruno is watching the twins Billy and Bobby wander over to the napkin section. Billy and Bobby tear into packages of dinner napkins before Bruno can stop them. The only one in the family who is well-behaved is Baby Ricky, who sits drooling in the shopping cart. Fortunately, Ricky hasn't figured out his favorite toilet paper yet because he's still in diapers. But I noticed that Ricky doesn't like the Huggies baby wipes that I used with Billy and Bobby because they give him a rash. I use Pampers wipes on Ricky because they don't give him a rash. I also used Pampers wipes on Herkie and Junie. Davy, Billy, and Bobby could use any kind of baby wipe without a reaction.
But back to picking out toilet paper. Two-ply is always best because it's more cushy and absorbent. One-ply tears too easily and you have to use twice as much as the two-ply. Imagine the shame of the colonel announcing to all of your guests that your toilet paper fell apart while he was doing a rear end wipe up!
Now that I've established that two-ply paper is the best, it's time to pick the brand and color. This is where it gets very difficult. The floor of my bathroom is white. The walls have blue trim. Our bathroom towels are blue to match the blue trim on the off-white walls. The curtains in the bathroom are blue with white trim. The shower curtain is also blue and white, but it also has yellow and pink flowers on it. So...the dilemma arises...do I want my toilet paper to match the floor, the towels, the walls, the blue and white in the curtains, or the flowers on the shower curtain while maintaining the right level of softness to prevent complaints from the other wives?
Bruno doesn't really care about toilet paper. He'd use newspapers and old magazines if they were available. Typical man! But the kids are very choosy because the wrong toilet paper could ruin their social standing at school. One time I bought yellow Northern to go with the flowers on the shower curtain and to provide some color and contrast to the bathroom. But Junie complained that the pink flowers were being left out. Davy said that the toilet paper should be blue. But then again, blue is Davy's favorite color. He likes everything blue. I even have to put blue food coloring in all of his food to get him to eat it.
Since I have a hard time deciding which toilet paper to pick, I leave it up to the kids. I always resolve to write down who chose the toilet paper last time so that everyone will remember and things will be fair. But making lists of who did what is such a chore! But I guess I'll have to start doing that when Bobby, Billy, and Ricky get old enough to express their toilet paper preferences. What a family milestone that will be! I just can''t wait to find out which brands and colors they'll prefer.
Next week: You think that buying toilet paper in the Commissary is a chore? Wait until we learn about buying aspirin in the PX. You'll need that aspirin for the headache that you got from buying toilet paper.