The wonderful thing about the h2g2 Post is that you can air your views on the great issues of our time. You can talk about world hunger, the prospects for global peace, the conflict between industrial development and conservation, the role of religion in the 21st century, the very meaning of life itself. It must be said that there are weeks when columnists can't think of anything to write about. Their minds go blank. It is in moments such as these that they turn to their friends and loved ones for inspiration. Dinner-party conversations can be particularly useful. Invite some intelligent, urbane people around for dinner, fill them up with Spaghetti a la Puttanesca (Prostitute's Pasta - wonderful recipe!) and a glass or five of Chateau Cardboard and wait for the gems of erudition that will form your next twitterings.
Faced with an acute case of writer's block this week, I invited a dozen of New Zealand's literati and glitterati to dinner and, having secreted a tape recorder in a vase of chrysanthemums, plied them with pasta and plonk. I shouldn't have bothered. Within an hour the conversation had degenerated into the battle of the sexes. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus has done more damage to the relationship between blokes and sheilas than the invention of the remote control.
It turns out [yawn] that we men are insensitive, uncaring, unromantic, selfish, never say 'I love you', mistake sex for love, are poor listeners, always want to give advice when all she wants is sympathetic understanding and, for some incomprehensible reason, are utterly unreasonable once a month. 'I can live with all of that,' said one of our accusers, 'but I'm telling you, if he leaves the loo seat up one more time, I am bloody well going to murder the bastard.'
The floodgates were now well and truly open. It became obvious that leaving the loo seat up was not in the same category as squeezing the toothpaste in the middle or leaving a ring of stubble round the sink - this was divorce territory. 'I can't explain it,' one woman said, 'but when I go into the bathroom and find the loo seat up again, I am simply overcome with rage. All of those feelings of grievance and murderous indignation, that normally only go with bad PMT, just wash over me. I could literally kill him.' The women nodded - to a man.
The men looked bewildered. We really can't understand the fuss. We can't understand how being considerate to our partners, not to mention hygienic, can get us into such hot water. A man puts the.seat up because he does not want to pee on the seat. Our mums and dads taught us that. Putting the seat up was simply a matter of good manners. (Later, women would mock us for our supposed inability to hit the target, even with the seat up, but that's another story.) So, we were good boys and did what we were told. We put the seat up.
Catch 22! It turns out that putting the seat up is okay, leaving it up is not. You have to put the seat down again I, invariably the most cumiudgeonly guest at my own dinner parties, had had enough. 'I suppose it would be too much trouble for you women to put the seat down again yourselves,' I snorted. 'After all, we have to lift it up every time you've been.' 'Hold on a minute," said Jane. 'You lot sometimes sit down as well. It's not just us.' 'And you wouldn't be too pleased, either, if you plonked your bum down on ice-cold porcelain in the middle of night!' added the latent spouse-killer. 'Not to mention falling halfway down the bloody thing!' A couple of the more wimpy men, the sort of men who would never carry on playing footy for 20 minutes with a broken arm, conceded that she might be right.
'It really is interesting, though,' said one of the women, 'that so many of us find this seat-up thing so infuriating. I mean, Loony does have a point - all we have to do is put it down again.' 'Perhaps we need to delve a little deeper into the collective subconscious of your sex,' I said, with what was intended to be heavy sarcasm. 'The primitive race memory of the gender, so to speak. Perhaps we should be asking, just what does the image of the raised loo seat convey? What is its symbolic content, its semiotic subtext?'
Sarcasm is wasted on some people. Far from getting their knickers in a twist, the Venusians enthusiastically agreed there could be something in it. 'What it tells you,' said one, "is a bloke has been in there having a pee It conveys a mental image that is offensive and even menacing to many women.' 'Like an estate agent leaving a calling card,' said another, 'an advertisement of presence. Kilroy was here!' 'Like a tom-cat spraying,' said a third, 'arrogantly marking out his territory.' 'Or maybe women just don't like the idea of touching the seat,' said the ever-sensible Jane. 'If men didn't have penises, there wouldn't be a problem,' said the latent spouse killer with an unnervingly Bobbitt-like sneer. 'There wouldn't be anybody,' I said, and for once had the last word.
If you have a theory on why women get so het up about this loo seat business, please comment in the accompaning forum. Damned if I know.