Dick Wilson, most famously known as Mr. Whipple—who tried to keep generations of Americans from squeezing the Charmin–was wiped from the face of this mortal coil yesterday. You can see him in action here . In his honor, I’d like to reprint the first short story I ever had published. It’s called The Addict, reprinted from The Minnesota Daily 6/1/88:
It wasn’t always like this, you know. It all started back in college with those commercials. Oh god, those commercials! They kept saying “Don’t squeeze the Charmin! Don’t squeeze the Charmin!” You know they were just daring us.
Not long after I saw some friends squeezing at parties. They started asking me to try. “Come on. Be a man.” They would say. “What’s one little squeeze gonna hurt?”
I gave in to peer pressure and I had to admit I was curious to try, so I had just a small squeeze. It felt pretty good. I had a couple more squeezes and slumped in a corner when the room began oozing off the planet. Then I felt sick and ran into the bathroom where I threw up. There, on the wall, was a roll of Charmin. I couldn’t resist. I took the entire roll and curled up with it on the floor.
From there on I got steadily worse. I started sneaking out between classes, going into the bathroom and locking myself in a stall for a quick squeeze. Just to take the edge off before a big test. I started out on a travel pack roll and soon I was doing four packs and then whole family packs. I was hooked on Charmin squeezing.
My parents found my stash in my dresser. Dad flushed it all down the toilet and I got one of the worst butt-chewings of my life. It didn’t matter. I just turned the other cheek and kept squeezing.
Until the incident.
I was at a party and everyone was squeezing. We were just fooling around. My best friend, Doug, had been hitting the roll rather heavy that night. He had gotten hold of some pure tissue, some really hard imported stuff and by the time we left we were both pretty wiped out.
We were on our way home and Doug and I were swerving all over the road and laughing. Then Doug reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a roll. He started squeezing with one hand and giggling about how soft it was. Then he grabbed it with both hands, letting go of the steering wheel. The car skidded, went into the ditch and smashed into a tree. It was horrible; blood, screaming, all that TP blowing in the branches. Someone was driving by and called an ambulance. I saw Doug lying through the windshield, across the hood of the car, partway in a shrub and over a twenty-yard radius. He looked like he could be hurt.
The medics arrived and, staring down at the wreck, I heard one of them curse “They’ve been squeezing. Damn kids never listen.”
Doug didn’t make it. They did their best, but it was too late. He just lay there like a picked over spaghetti dinner. Hurt as I was, I screamed at Doug. I couldn’t believe my best friend was gone. But he just sat there and oozed out of that basket.
I was on the verge of checking out myself; they operated on me for five hours. My parents came to the hospital when I woke up. They didn’t seem mad, they just both cried. I guess being a squeezer made me something less of a son to them.
At that moment I decided to go cold turkey. It wasn’t worth this, I told them. Mom kept crying and dad gave sort of a weak smile, tousled my hair and left.
It was tougher than I thought. Soon I could feel the need for a squeeze. They had removed every roll from room and replaced the toilet with a bidet. Damn them! I started shaking. My skin became flushed. I had to have one. I needed to have my fingers wrap around that soft tissue, to squeeze it, to squeeze it! I went bezerk. I started squeezing anything: my mattress, my pillow, my bedpan, my head. The doctor rushed in and gave me a sedative. I squeezed the nurse and then passed out.
But when I awoke, it was all over. I felt good. My fingers didn’t twitch. I didn’t crave a squeeze at all.
After that I went back to school. I graduated and got a good job with a major business firm. I met the girl of my dreams, had a baby girl and settled down into a nice suburban lifestyle.
Some years later I was at a poker game with a few neighbor guys and was drinking quite a bit. Hell, we all were. Then Ginsburg from next door pulls out a roll of Charmin and begins squeezing it and passing it around.
I, I was back in college. All those memories came flooding back. I started sweating, my mouth filled with saliva. There was a familiar ache in my hands.
“Come on, take a squeeze.” Chided Karl, offering my the roll. My shaking hands took it. That tingling feeling came back at the first tender contact. Ohh, it was glorious. I felt myself sinking into those soft folds, but I didn’t care.
All the old habits came back. In no time at all I was back up to a family pack a day. My wife was wondering why she could never keep the toilet paper stocked. I told her I had been eating a lot of Indian food and she let it slide. She didn’t know. Didn’t suspect. There’s no way her husband could be a Charmin squeezer.
They finally did find out.
I had started to freebase when I couldn’t get good Charmin. I was using Bounty or generic facial tissue, anything I could get my hands on. You know, trying to make some double-ply for twice the high. One night all the TP went up in flames. My clothes caught fire. I caught fire. I managed to put it out before there was any major damage, but my wife came running into the bathroom and saw me with all the Charmin. She just stared.
I lost my mind. I pushed my way past her and left the house. I left my family behind and became a street junkie. I would take a roll and get a squeeze in some alley and pass out. I was the butt of countless jokes around the neighborhood. I did keep in touch with my family though. And, in the end, that’s what saved me.
It was winter and I was calling from a pay phone near a ‘crack house’ downtown. My little girl answered. “What do you want for Christmas?” I found myself asking. She replied “I want a daddy who doesn’t squeeze the Charmin.”
That did it. By nightfall I was on the doorstep. Ragged, tired and begging for forgiveness. For chance number two. I promised I would never squeeze the Charmin again.
Right now I’m at the Mr. Whipple Rehabilitation Center where dozens of people like me are starting to get our lives back on track and defeat the horrible condition that nearly wiped us out. Thanks to your donations, maybe, someday, Charmin squeezing will be totally eliminated.