Flapgate – Which Side of the Toilet Roll Debate Are You?


You just don’t do it.

It’s shocking. Criminal. Nothing short of domestic terrorism.

My house. My rules.

So, let me set the scene.

I’m all ready for an evening with friends as we’ve booked for a wine pairing dinner at The Marshal in Hell’s Kitchen in New York. As I live close by, I’ve invited a couple to my apartment for drinks beforehand.

There’s Champagne, wine, and lots of great conversation and catching up to do since I last saw them on Christmas Eve. Steve comes from the Welsh valleys, close to where I am from, in Cardiff in the UK; his wife Rebecca is Australian.

Let me say, before I reveal the heinous crime, that I adore them. They are well traveled, interesting, funny, and great company. Every time we meet, we chat for hours and the time flies by.

How, therefore, have I never noticed? They’ve been in my apartment many times, all without incident. They are perfect guests. They bring wine, take their shoes off at the door, don’t put their feet on the coffee table, and are all round great people.

Or so I thought.

Maybe I just hadn’t noticed. Or maybe I had put it down to my own error. Or an evil bogeyman sneaking in during the night to torment my perfectly organized existence.

Yes. Perfectly organized. I have moderate OCD that manifests itself in particular ways. I have to have my ornaments and cushions at 90-degree right angles, despite my cleaners’ concerted efforts to move everything to 45 degrees. My herbs and spices are in alphabetical order in my cupboards. Every jar and bottle has the label facing outwards.

I also feel, by the way, that I am attached to a piece of string. This means that I cannot turn in a full circle and carry on walking because my thread will be tangled. I have to unwind before I can progress.

Imagine my joy when, recently, I met a guy at the bar in Joe Allen who had the same condition. We talked threads for hours.

And…now we’re coming to the biggie…my toilet roll has to have the hanging flap at the back. That’s right. The back. No arguments. Non-negotiable.

To me, it’s just aesthetically more pleasing. I know I’m in the minority, especially where hotels are concerned. Not only do they insist on placing the flap at the front, they have to spend valuable minutes when they could be folding my clothes, making a work of art with that stupid little triangle at the front.

Does anyone ever notice? Do you sit on the toilet and think: ‘No, I won’t carry out the rest of my business just yet because I just want to sit admiring that perfect little triangle’?

So, back to the scene of the crime. Steve has used the bathroom once, as has Rebecca – actions that would never have registered with me prior to her transgression.

We’re about to leave and I decide to use the bathroom. That’s when I see it. It hits me not so much as an elephant in the room but a veritable herd.

The flap. My flap. My ordinarily perfect, drop-down flap against the wall is not there. Vanished. The shock stops me mid-flow.

My hand is hitting the wall, trying to locate the toilet paper that has been in exactly the same spot my entire life. But nothing. It’s gone. The toilet tissue fairy has made off with my stash.


It hits me like a sail.

Staring me in the face – yegods, it’s practically in my lap – is a front-facing flap.


I complete my business and turn the toilet roll round the correct way. My correct way. Not the goddamned Marriott or Hilton way but my way. Because I can. Like I said: my house, my rules.

But I can’t let it go. The culprit must be found. So, I take off the roll, return to the living room, and, holding said work of art – ruined now, I might add – aloft, I set about my investigation.

‘Okay,’ I announce. ‘Who was it?”

There’s no Columbo like deduction because it can be only one of two people. I didn’t even have to gather evidence because Rebecca says, with not a hint of guilt in her voice, ‘It was me. It’s just something I have to do.’

I’m in shock.

I have a friend in the UK who does the same. She once told me that no matter where she goes, if the flap is to the back, she has to change it, irrespective of whether it be a private residence.

Now, let’s get to the real issue here. Aside from flap front or flap back, it’s a case of what you can or cannot do in someone else’s home. If your penchant is for flap front, you should rein your fetish in – yes, it’s a totally weird fetish in my book – until you get home, where you can make origami sculptures out of toilet tissue, should you so please.

But when you’re in my house, you have to live by my flaps, strange as you may find them.

In the grand scale of things, it’s a minor infringement – ‘Nobody died, nobody got pregnant’ is my motto for getting over most things in life – but an infringement nonetheless.

Where might it end?

Is Flapgate just the start of an ever-escalating life of domestic crime for Rebecca? Will she move onto turning the faces of my jars to the wall? Will I open my cupboard to find oregano taking pride of place before basil?

What if she comes armed with a pair of scissors and cuts my thread?

The repercussions do not bear thinking about.

What to do, then?

When Rebecca next visits, I could hide all the toilet rolls and put a box of tissues in the bathroom, but I still like the flap of the tissue that sticks out to be floating at the back.

I could remove the toilet rolls altogether.

I could stick a ‘Washroom out of order’ sign on the door.

I could find new friends who don’t invade my personal space.

It’s a tough one.

House guests, you have been warned. I am the toilet roll police.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I will flush you out.