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I remember my father once said, “Son” (he used to call me son—now he just casually refers to me as “The Liberal”) — “Son,” he said, “real men wad.”

Now, it wasn’t necessarily this moment that slipped the wedge into the trunk of our relationship, but it may have certainly been the point to give the tool shed a sideways glance.

I freely admit that, in the innocent, ne’er-do-well, wild days of my youth, I was a wadder. So much a wadder, in fact, that it precipitated a filial war of sorts with my brother who was not just a wadder, he was the veritable Nile god of our bathroom. He could make Noah shudder with a Post-Traumatic Stress episode just by walking into the room. We had Roto Rooter on the speed dial.

I’m not sure when I discovered the fine art of folding: the gentle three-turn wrap, the retirer le main, the reunir les collines, the agile quad-wipe[1]. It was, I must say, almost freeing. Some say that it is self-indulgent. Well, I have a friend who always uses Love’s baby wipes—that is self-indulgent. I consider the folder refined. It is, in fact, a gentle art. Not like the almost bestial philosophy or Toiletentechnik of using the hard roll-pull and the Arschputzstein in the German style.[2] I am a wadder no more.

I think we can look at popular or important figures in our society to help us better understand the psychology of this choice. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was certainly a folder: those delicate hands. Stalin: wadder. Shakespeare was clearly a folder, as he has Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman say of her, “I have seen  [Lady Macbeth] rise from her bed, throw her night-gown upon her, unlock her closet, take forth paper,  [and] fold it. . .” (Macbeth 5.1) and has Helena say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Things base and vile, folding no quantity” (1.1), which clearly means that only the basest and vilest creatures fold nothing. On the positive wad side, Hemmingway was probably a wadder, when he wasn’t using leaves.

I have wadder friends who are aghast at the folding style. “Don’t you mess your hands. I mean, what if a finger slips?” Well, if a finger slips you should have someone else working for you. Sure, the wad has pure area coverage, and I agree to its nook-and-peak cleaning surface, but there is no control. No control. One wipe. That’s it. Done. Go for the next hard roll-pull, or, for the more genteel wadder (if that’s not an oxymoron), the finger-roll gather or, as Nietzsche put it in his seminal wadders’ manifesto Der Rohrenkrieg, “Klopapier Zusammenkrümmpeln mit den Fingern.”[3]

I am a folder, and I am finally proud of it. There may be more of you than us. You may be stronger, bigger, louder, more forceful. But, aesthetically, wadding is just one step up the evolutionary chain from the famous Moroccan rock wipe.


[1] retirer le main, the reunir les collines: removal of the hand” and  “creation of the hills” respectively. Robespierre in his L’Esthétique d’Essuyer uses the phrase “la main comme la roue d’eau” or “the hand as water wheel” as the inauguration of what he refers to as ” le beau nettoyage”: “the beautiful cleansing.” However, I’ve found the roue d’eau to be a bit wasteful, and I have therefore opted to use Frederick W. Taylor’s more efficient three-turn wrap (from Taylor’s Dual Use Pamphlet, 1911). The quad-wipe is, as is well known, Stephen Hawking’s addition to the craft.

[2] Toiletentechnik: Now simply the German style. Arschputzstein: the act of balling the paper into a tight stone-like wad.

[3] Klopapier Zusammenkrümmpeln mit den Fingern: loosely translated as “The marching fingers that crumple paper for the final onslaught.”

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