It's often said a man is the ruler of his domain, lord of his castle. And for the single man, that's true. The toilet seat can always stay up, laundry day is based on the underarm sniff test, and eating ravioli directly from the can is simply the most practical way to keep the kitchen clean.
When a man marries, everything changes. His dominion is now shared sovereignty. His ability to respectfully give up portions of his realm is a crucial part of his proverbial knight-in-shining-armor character, a quality called selflessness.
Some of his old domains will now be shared with his wife. And some domains are so sacred to the female world that it's best for a husband to see himself as a visitor rather than as a sovereign.
The bathroom is such a place.
While it's true that men also use the bathroom, that's the extent of it. It's a place to quickly wash, shave, relieve the pressures of six cups of morning coffee, and then get out. There are times that pausing to read a magazine might be in order, but only out of necessity. It's not our domain; we don't want to spend a lot of time there.
A woman, on the other hand, sees the bathroom as a natural place to dwell. It's an inspection station, a refuge for contemplation, a hiding place to weep. Bathrooms in the homes of others are a curiosity to her, a place to learn about the habits of friends and acquaintances. Public restrooms can even be a social hall, a meeting place to reconnoiter and make plans for the evening.
The bathroom is her weigh station, her place to check out what ravages time has wrought, to do what she can to fight age and gravity. When she primps and fusses, she's probably doing it for her man. Yes, she looks just fine without all that fussing, but a loving wife has eyes only for her husband. When she shaves her legs, she thinks about how smooth they'll be against his. When she pulls on a dress and scrutinizes it in the mirror, she pictures how the color will reflect in his eyes. When she scowls at the extra three pounds the scale is obviously lying about, she wonders if he'll notice when he takes her in his arms.
Thus, the sooner we, as men, understand the mystery of Lavatory Land, and the identity of the reigning mistress of that province, the sooner we'll learn how to keep our armor bright and our castle a happy place.
Where to start? Simple: Keep the toilet closed and clean.
The old stereotype is true. Women really do hate it when the toilet seat is left up. And when you think about it, it's not difficult to understand why.
How would you like it if you had to sit down every time you went to the bathroom? Cold porcelain is not a great way to awaken your bottom on a chilly autumn morning. What could be worse? Try sitting on cold porcelain that's been topped with puddles of your stale urine. How's that for stoking the fires of romance?
Were you such an insensitive clod that not only did you forget to lift the lower seat, you didn't bother to clean it when you made your mess? No matter how hard you try, you can't come up with a good excuse for that.
Jesus said, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). I say, "Do you love your wife? Heed the seat." It's so easy to lift the seat. It's even easier to lower it when you're done. And if you do splash, snap off a piece of toilet paper and clean it up. Is that such a hard chore to do for your soul mate?
The tissue issue
Men see toilet paper as a utilitarian device, the use of which is quite obvious. It doesn't matter if it's white, pink, or a floral design; it all gets flushed anyway. Women, however, tend to view TP as a symbol, a sign of the care they put into their domain. Yes, it gets flushed, but everyone has to use it first. So it might as well be pretty, and while you're at it, it might as well smell nice, too. And finally, it must always come off the roll in the proper direction.
What's the proper direction? I've heard a dozen strident arguments for each side, the "over the top" gang and the "from underneath" defenders. After studying the tissue issue in great depth, I've concluded there really is only one correct way against which there is no argument. The correct way is the way your wife wants it to go.
This is the point: In issues that are of trivial importance to men, we should be willing to do the little things that make our women happy—to properly place the lids and paper, to clean the sink after shaving, to wipe down the glass door or vinyl curtain after showering.
Opportunities to shine
If you don't believe miniscule moments of kindness will make your wife rejoice within, put it to the test. Without being asked and without mentioning it after the fact, scrub out the sink or wash the mirror. Don't worry. She will notice. And if she asks you why you did it, don't say, "It looked like it needed it." That will make her think you're upset with her housekeeping. Instead, just shrug your shoulders and say, "Just doing my part."
The bathroom provides many opportunities to shine:
A snappy towel. After you shower, put a clean towel on the rod for her, keeping it neatly creased and looking fresh. That says, "I'm thinking about you," without ever making a sound.
Aim to please. When you target the toilet, make sure your aim is true. It works wonders. If your aim is off one morning, clean up your splashes. She'll notice.
Socks and jocks. Nothing says, "I don't care about your feelings," like spent underwear in the middle of the floor, or stinky, wet socks on the vanity. Believe it or not, that's why clothes hampers were invented—to have clothes placed there.
Stay on a roll. Take careful note of which way the toilet paper leaves the roll—over the top or from underneath? When you finish the roll, put a new one in place, making sure it comes off the same way as before.
It's all these little, day-to-day acts of servanthood that prove your heart.
My wife would survive without my acts of servanthood. If I were an ogre, she would still clean my messes in Lavatory Land. But by placing the toilet seat back down after each use, I remain lord of the manor. And my wife remains queen of her domain—and very, very happy.
Bryan Davis, author of multiple children's books, including the best-selling The Story of the Empty Tomb, lives with his family in Florida. Check out his website at www.daviscrossing.com. Adapted from Spit and Polish: The Practical Knight's Guide to Shining His Armor (AMG Publishing), due next summer.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.