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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2017
 
The concept of a washroom, it recently dawned on me, is entirely a strange one. In all our superiority over the other animals, in all our technological advancements, we still are at the mercy of our biological needs. Just as we take in, we must remove. While we have not yet managed to go beyond either concept, the difference with "removal," to be polite, is that we have yet to fully humanize it.

Eating as done by humans, has been entirely humanized. Other animals don't eat the way we do. The preparation of food is an entirely ceremonial process. Food is readily available (except in the lesser fortunate areas), and we toil over stoves combining ingredients from many different regions. We're more concerned with taste than actual nutrients - so much so that we readily eat the non-nutritious over the nutritious. Eating is not about survival, it is a social activity - unnecessary even, when you consider our pant-sizes.

But washrooms - and by washrooms, I mean that which we do within them, are humbling admissions of our own animalistic origins. There's the subtle discomfort that one experiences within a washroom. Minds are working full-tilt, subconsciously and consciously surveying their surroundings.

No one wants to admit they do "number 1" or "number 2" - most likely out of embarassment that in all our superiority, we still prone to having to pee. From Kings and CEOs, to even peasants and mail-room clerks, we all need to use the washroom eventually. It is the equalizer among us all.

There's a lot of subtle rituals people have in the washrooms - and just about everyone seems selfconscious about them. Some use a lot of toilet paper, some use very little - and all are worried they're being silently judged on their usage. Some wash afterwards, some don't - some even fix their hair before washing.

For men, the washroom is where life is paused. Conversations are usually put on pause as two men enter the washroom - their ability to continue the conversation a measure of their comfort with one another. The measure of confidence of a man determined by his immediate ability to pee into a urinal under the high stress situation of having another person doing the exact same only inches away. The washroom is a room of unspoken stigma. Some of my friends have even admitted to having so much stigma about another person being in the washroom, that they won't even turn around and leave, to wait until it's free. Rather they will go up to a urinal and pretend to do their business, so as to not look weird.

When I asked women about the phenomena of being "gun-shy," I learned it's largely a male problem - and mostly due to the lack of private space between urinals. There's a lot of comfort to be gained when you are surrounded with four walls. Even if there's someone else in the washroom, one can take comfort that they cannot be seen - that even if their friend was to walk in the room, they have no way to determine who is in the stall. It's for this reason I've often encountered some men taking far too many liberties from within a stall. Taking important business calls on the phone, talking to their wives, or playing Bejeweled on their phones - without even being bothered to mute the audio.

Washrooms are the one facet of human life that we've still not managed to normalize. Perhaps because early on as children - before we gain full control of our muscles - they are the source of embarassment. Eating and sleeping at odd moments are less likely to get people making fun of you. You can eat and sleep virtually anywhere... the same cannot be said about "making pee." And so, perhaps we carry those insecurities all the way through adulthood, into senility when we're likely to embarass ourselves again.

And while I find that I'm not completely comfortable within the washroom, I'm happy to not be. My uneasiness increases when I come across someone who is far too comfortable in a washroom - wanting to continue a conversation, even maintaining eye contact, while we're both urinating. It's not a comfort level I believe we need to have, as a society - and this comes from a person who was actually once hired on full time from his internship, when he made a trip to the bathroom and bumped into his boss. Needless to say, there was no shaking of hands.
Comments

Sorrel

Sorrel

2009-01-23 00:20:45

Interesting musings.
I think that people have "humanized" using the washroom to a certain extent. That is, the way eating is a ceremony as you mentioned, so is excretion. Some people pump themselves full of aminosalicylates, antacids and proton pump inhibitors etc. so that they feel like they have some control. I caught a bunch of children eating laxative gummy bears and their mom was super embarrassed that they were hers, but she still felt it was necessary to carry them around in her purse. I agree with you that there is a certain amount of discomfort one hopes is mutual, because when people are to sure of themselves, it is bound to be unpleasant for the other person.
Anyway, thank god for Crapper, or whoever it was that invented the toilet, and for the original carpenter that thought privacy was a good thing.
p.s. there is only one person I talk to when "making pee" as you said, and I think that's love LOL.



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