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Nature Conference Calls

WHEN I'M NOT sitting around cross-legged meditating on global warming and world peace, I take on issues that people really care about, like the position of the toilet seat. A few weeks ago, a guy wrote and asked me why women go wacky when men leave the seat up.

My reply:

"Many women are convinced that the natural position of a toilet is with the lid up and the seat down, perhaps because they have observed toilet seats growing that way in the wild, their lids flapping lightly in a spring breeze...next to airline tray tables growing in the upright and locked position.

Such women read into the upended toilet seats in their lives like archeologists decoding hieroglyphics: If he loved me, he'd put it down. A woman thinks this way for one or both of two reasons: She's a control freak who needs to bend her man to her will at every turn, or she approaches the toilet tailgate first, and is terrified of taking an inadvertent butt bath in toilet water that is not Chanel number anything.

Personally, I never take offense at the upended seat...perhaps because the one time I don't want to be on a man's mind is that moment when he's staring deep into the bowl."

It appears that I hit a nerve. The week after this piece ran, my mailman had to rent a backhoe to deliver reader responses. Except for one forlorn envelope which contained only a photo of some male reader, nude from the waist down (me: "That looks like a penis, only smaller!"), the entire mountain range of letters was from people who seemed convinced that they alone preach the toilet seat gospel. The gospel varied as follows:

Men: The seat must be up!
"Well, do women leave it up for us? NO! It was a man who invented the toilet in the first place, so if there is a problem with seat position go out and squat in the grass and quit the complaining or invent your own device." --Jim F.

Clearly, Jim is a chick-magnet.

Women: The seat must be down!
The control freak contingent was strangely silent. This entire pile of mail came from women who invoked the cold, wet consequences of neglecting to look before sitting. I have a hard time relating to this since I never sit down on any toilet seat (including the one in my own home) without first examining it with an electron microscope. Apparently, this keeps me out of hospital emergency rooms:

"I have a friend who fractured her tailbone because the seat was left up in the middle of the night. Granted, she was a big girl. But when she went to sit down, she fell in the bowl, thus fracturing her tailbone. Her roommate didn't answer her yells for help for about two hours. Finally, he investigated and called 911. My friend spent the next eight months out of work and in terrible pain." --Debi Davis

Employees: The seat of confusion
There was no consensus in this department, except mine: Not a lot of business got done last week. Here's a fine example of an engineering degree at work:

"Given the equation of two genders (designated M and F) and two separate but related bodily functions (designated, obviously, 1 and 2), there are four possible combinations (M1, M2, F1, F2). Three of those combinations pretty much require that the seat be down, and only one of them requires that it be up; this being a democratic society, the majority should rule. Of course, the majority in this office is also female, which might have something to do with the outcome of our poll." -A. Harris

Men and Women: Everything Down
For most of the seat down/lid down evangelists, the bathroom is a wild kingdom, filled with children and pets determined to use the toilet as a wading pool or a wet bar. Others in this group were aesthetically motivated. The most interesting story involved a sample-sized can of deodorant that went down the hatch, necessitating the removal of the toilet from its moorings. I found the details that followed to be a powerful emetic, so I'll keep them to myself. Should you swallow floor cleaner, and need to induce vomiting, email me and I'll forward them.

My final answer:
If you spend a lot of time pondering the position of your toilet seat, you should probably stick your head in and flush. Probably twice or three times.

While no animals were flushed in the creation of this column (my neighbor's cat clawed me when I tried), I am pleased to report that my neighbor -- the guy who practices amped electric guitar while belting out Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" for hours every afternoon -- has been missing for days.

Copyright ©2001, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, Ask The Advice Goddess, which appears in 60 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.