Up and Down like a toilet seat.”
How many times have you heard that said about someone who can’t sit still.
But why is the good name of the toilet seat taken in vain?
Why is a toilet seat usually lifted by a man and left down by a woman?
In the steam train era, a message was printed on each toilet. “Gentleman lift the seat”.
It was difficult to decide what that meant.
Was it offered as a social comment? Gentlemen lift the seat. If you don’t lift the seat, then you’re no damn gentleman. Or was it some sort of loyal toast. Gentlemen! Lift the seat! Thank you, you may
Research though you might, there is nothing down the ages to suggest anything other than men are incapable of accurately controlling their ‘Jimmy Riddle’ (who thought that one up) and manage to sportingly spray their pee across a much wider lateral range than is accounted for by the design of the toilet’s bowl.
This lack of design thought seems to be a solely Anglo-Saxon blind spot.
In most other parts of the world, toilets are manufactured with a wide porcelain base containing a hole and two wall handles, requiring either sex to straddle the facility, legs apart no matter what the gender.
In fact, so little attention was paid to sit down toilets in France that every public convenience in major cities had a female attendant at their entrance jealously guarding single sheets of utilitarian toilet paper which demanded the purchase price of one franc. The unwary visitor or cheating native would be sadly embarrassed by hearing the stentorian voice of Madame calling after them.
Monsieur, Madame, le papier, le papier. And of course, village versions as represented in the novel Clochemerle were even less sensitive to privacy of any sort, the loo looking more like a bus stop with a sheet of metal around it.
Much more interesting is when flush toilets were invented. The common story of course is that the crude word for adult dislikes entered the language through its inventor Sir Thomas Crapper.
Wrong. The original flush loo came on the scene in the 16th century, created by a godson of Queen Elizabeth I Sir John Harrington in 1592.
There were other patents after that, but flush toilets are not a modern phenomenon after all but have been designed for the villas of the wealthy from Tudor Times.
The Romans recognised the virtue of flowing water in a loo by building stone seating over streams and rivers. At the height of the Roman Empire, there were more than 140 public toilets in Rome. This early acknowledgement of hygiene however was tempered by a lack of sensitivity for modesty. Toilets were built in rows without walls, doors or other features offering privacy.
This form of toiletry lasted through to the Middle Ages as demonstrated by the extant toilet block in Lewes Priory. The ruins of the lavatory still stand, and the Priory Trust’s artist has given an amusing little sketch of the latrines with monks showing a hint of their bottoms firmly planted on a loo with no seat.
But back to the question of the up or down toilet seat.
The seat and especially the cover are relatively new phenomenon.
The medical fraternity over the ages guessed wrongly about the cause of the spread of disease and it was only in the 20th century that serious attention was paid to human waste as the villain.
And so, the really modern toilet was developed.
Up or down? The arguments are numerous. The toilet lid itself though is simply a case of cleanliness and to some extent smell. Unfortunately, the battle of the sexes over the toilet seat itself, seems nowadays to miss the point, as well as the toilet bowl.
But one scholarly article claims it is a form of male versus female conflict.
The female, researchers argue need a reason to yell at their partner and a toilet seat left up is the perfect foil.
The male on the other hand needs a silent method of resistance to the more ordered lives of their loved ones and so leaves the seat up.
Whether modern society will go along with this argument is open to question.
Often men being overly considerate of their female companions, will stumble to the toilets in the dark, fearful of waking the sleeping beauty by switching on the light.
Like many activities undertaken in a blackout, accuracy is the victim.
So, the toilet seat does often seem to be the cause of domestic conflict.
“You left that bloody seat up again.”
“Yes, love of my life, beautiful lady of my dreams, but it was just so I wouldn’t wake you, darling petal”
Gentlemen lift the seat. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo choo………. •