JOHN OSTRANDER: My Way Or the Highway
I’m not going to tell you that I’m an expert on marriages and relationships because that would be a gol-durned lie, but one item of contention seems to pop up regularly between men and women who are cohabiting.
Leaving the toilet seat up or down.
It may be an issue in same-sex relationships; I don’t know. I have heard quite a bit of it between male-female cohabitants to the point of it being a cliché’. It was, however, a real debate that I and my late wife, Kim Yale, had. Her argument was that if she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and the toilet set wasn’t down, she would fall in, get wet, and then I was certain to be woken up to hear about it. My response is that if I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and didn’t look down, I’d pee all over the seat. If I had to do check, why not her? Her response was that the seat could get gross and it was the guy’s responsibility. My response – well, my full response would get me a severe talking to by the women on ComicMix. Let’s just say I’d didn’t think she was any more fragile than I was and we both had the responsibility to make sure the seat was where we needed it to be. We never reached agreement on the topic.
These days I keep the seat and the lid down for two separate but very good reasons. One is that I read that, when you flush, a fine spray of toilet water – and any particulate matter in it – rises from the bowl and settles over the area, including toothbrushes. Plus, our cat Windy has a tendency to play full immersion Baptist in the toilet bowls in the lid is up.
The first reason alone would’ve reason enough for me. If Kim had hit me with that one, I would have had to concede the point. At the time, I didn’t feel like conceding the point because her argument didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t fall-in with my way of thinking.
I should mention that Kim and I had a wonderful relationship but, like all couples, we had our “interesting moments.” We used to do couples counseling every so often; what we would call our “tune-up.” At one session, she said I was a “workaholic.” I disagreed and gave my reasons and Kim fumed to the counselor, “You see? You can’t argue with him. He has ‘the facts’ on his side.” I did. Later on, however, I could see why Kim wasn’t entirely wrong.
Kim’s dad, a fine man, could be a bit of a workaholic and she felt him sometimes to be a bit emotionally distant. At that point in our marriage, I was very tied up in my work and, I think, a little emotionally distant as well. The therapist agreed with me that I was not, as the word was defined, an “workaholic” but I realize now that was how it felt to Kim. Her choice of words was wrong but not what she was trying to describe. I was looking at it only from my perspective.
“How else should you look at it?” one might ask. After all, we have only our own senses, right? How do we judge except by our own experiences? What can – what should – have any validity other than that?
We see things, we feel things, we understand things a certain way and we can fall into the trap of thinking that is the only way to see, to feel, to understand. Or that our way of seeing, feeling, thinking, perceiving, understanding is inherently superior to other ways of doing all those things. There is greater approval put on linear thinking than there is on non-linear thinking. The former is supposedly masculine and the latter is feminine although I’ve found that to be nonsense. We all do both. We may favor one more than the other but both are valid.
As a writer, I absolutely need to be able to see from more than one perspective. Every character in a given scene has to have his or her own motivation, their own agenda, their own perspective and act accordingly. I’ve sometimes have been asked if one character or another in a given story or series is me – the truth is they are all me. Right down to the smallest character.
Real life also demands that we see from more than one perspective – from outside of ourselves. Part of our problems as a country comes from a President who essentially says, “It’s my way or the highway.” In my experience, most highways run in two directions. Trying to turn a highway into a one-way street leads to disaster.
We’re told that the terrorists are against us because they hate our freedom. Ooookay. Maybe there’s even some truth to that; in you’re a Fundamentalist, you may not like aspects of the American lifestyle. That’s true of some of the Fundamentalists in our own country, by the way, including ones that get invited to the White House. But maybe there are also other reasons that there are those don’t like us. You live in a refugee camp; your parents have lived in a refugee camp; it’s likely your children will live in a refugee camp. That can breed hopelessness and despair and for that, they may hold us accountable. Whether true or not, if we are seen as the architects of their repression, of their despair, then we will be targets of their anger. If it was me, wouldn’t I react in the same way? Wouldn’t you?
The politics in this country have become toxic because they’ve become divisive and dogmatic. Never concede anything or that the opposition may have a valid point of view. It’s a sign of weakness. It dilutes your effectiveness. And never ever admit a mistake. My way or the highway.
You can see the other’s person point of view without buying it. There are plenty of times that I have to voice, with conviction, views that I only do not hold but that I may abhor because that is that character’s perspective. To write a racist, I have to find the racist within me and look at it; I have to see and understand that point of view if I’m not to write just cliché claptrap. That does not mean I endorse those views but I have to write them honestly.
As another example, on the subject of abortion I believe in a women’s right to choose. To do otherwise limit’s her freedom and says, in effect, that she cannot choose for herself what is her right path. It says another’s judgment and values supercede that of the woman in question. However, I can also understand the view of the opponent of abortion. If you perceive that abortion is the same thing as murder, that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception, then – yes – you are morally obligated to oppose abortion. I don’t happen to agree with the premise but I can understand the viewpoint.
Have my views and beliefs on things changed over my life? Certainly – and I hope they continue to do so. A position or belief that is not challenged isn’t worth having. As my perspective grows wider and my understanding of life, hopefully, deepens, I certainly hope my beliefs will change. This is something that is not just required of me as a writer; I believe it is something we require as a civilization. We don’t have to agree but we do need to hear. I had to learn the truth Kim was trying to articulate. I had to become aware and understand how I use non-linear thinking and it’s validity and importance. The way I or we do something doesn’t make it necessarily right; it’s the way we do it. There are other ways, other perspectives, other civilizations. It’s sure is simpler if you ignore all that but it’s a hell of a lot more dangerous. Nobody’s infallible; not even the guy with a pointy hat who lives in Rome. But that’s a whole ‘nother column.
So I found good reasons to compromise on the whole toilet lid matter. As most couples learn, sometimes you concede the point because it makes living easier. You don’t have to agree; you just don’t need the argument. Regarding toilet paper, however – well, the end should always stick out so you can find it and I’m not prepared to compromise on that issue!
Writer / actor / playwright John Ostrander is man behind the typewriter at such vaunted comics as GrimJack, Suicide Squad, Star Wars: Legacy, Munden’s Bar and Batman. His own personal blog is at http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/ostrander/.