Paroemia (pa-ri’-mi-a): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, proverb, and sententia.
My father told me when I was very young “Change your own diaper.” That’s all he said and left the room. In fact, he left our apartment and never came back. He had thrown my clean diaper at me. It was soft so it didn’t injure me when it hit me in the head. I knew I should’ve been potty trained by then, but I was intimidated by the chair with a porcelain pot under it, so I just kept filling my diaper with almost religious faith that somebody would change me—usually my mother, but sometimes my sister, or even the neighbor.
Soon after my seventh birthday, my mother took me to a professional potty trainer, Dr. Kakakowski. In his office he had a collection of potties dating back to the Civil War. He thought the difference between the North’s and the South’s potties held the key to the outcome of the conflict. The North’s potties were stark, unvarnished wooden seats with straight hard metal backs. No arm rests, a small plop-hole and a lack of stability, rocking around and squeaking, motivating the dooty-doer to go, wipe with the provided piece of cardboard, and to get back to work or bed, as soon as possible. The South’s potties, on the other hand, were quite elaborate. The plantation owner’s children would look forward to settling in and “going to town.” The potties were modeled after thrones with high backs, covered in silk patterned with men with whips sitting on throne-potties smiling. The potties had plush armrests, foot stools, the seats were heated by specially made coal stoves, and in addition, the seats were covered with soft possum fur, trimmed from the belly.
Dr. Kakakowski believed the South lost the war due to its decadent potties. The South’s potties taught children (and later, adults) to linger needlessly. This would manifest itself during the war when Southern officers would routinely show up late for battles, leaving their troops leaderless, and susceptible to losing. In keeping with their fond potty-memories, many Southern men had adult-sized duplicates of their childhood potties installed in sheds adjacent to their mansions. This provided a key cause of battlefield tardiness. An Officer would get lost in a toilet-induced revery, forgetting the present and the future, and dreaming of good-potty times past. Without a leader, the waiting troops would be obliterated. Grant, for example, would take credit for the rout, when, in fact, it was potty training that made the difference between victory and defeat.
I was only 7, and I thought Dr. Kakakowski s Civil War theory was crazy. My mother thought he should have a Nobel Prize. He told me I had to stop going in a diaper, and advance to the next stage of development. Actually, I was old enough to use a toilet. If everything worked, I would skip potty training altogether, and advance to being a flusher, right away. Now, I remembered what my father had told me years ago: “Change your own diaper” had meaning that extended beyond the immediate call of a smelly poop-laden Pamper.
This is a life lesson, I thought. “Change your own diaper” is like “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Why hadn’t I seen it before? Why did I keep waiting to be changed? So, I tried changing my own diaper. I put down a towel on the floor, put a pack of wipes by it, and set a fresh pair of Big Boy Pampers on the other side of the towel. I am left-handed, so I was sure to put the wipes on the left-hand side. The time had come. I lifted my butt off the floor and with shaking hands pulled down my soiled diaper. I should’ve practiced with an empty, but now it was too late. The diaper was halfway down when my mother walked in. “Let me help you with that honey,” she said. I got really mad and threw the diaper at her. It hit her in the shoulder and two hard little turds rolled out and hit the floor with a thud. My mother was shocked.
I ran I out of the room, and out the front door of the house. Ironically, I was hit by the Dick’s Diaper Delivery Truck. As I lay there injured in the street, Dick jumped out of his truck and diapered me. I tore off the diaper and yelled “I’ll do it myself!” I put the diaper back on and stood up, but I was a little dizzy. After it was over, and the cuts and bruises healed, I became a no-diaper flusher. Finally, I was normal. Pooping. Peeing. Wiping. Flushing. Every once-in-awhile I wear a Big Boy Pamper on my head when I’m on the toilet. It is like a crown, and like a crown it represents power, glory, and sovereignty. Sometimes I wear my crown around the house to remind my mother that I can change my own diaper. (Metaphorically speaking)
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).
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