Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I have been thoroughly briefed on men's room etiquette.

Appropriate behavior in the Little Fellas' Room means that one gentleman doesn't check out another gentleman's piece. Sharing urinals isn't apropos. Tooting while peeing is discouraged; however, should one err, acknowledging their own flatus with an expression of relief is allowed. And my spouse has informed me that encouraging commentary on another man's audible efforts while seated within a stall is acceptable.

Horrified, I've come to the conclusion that that either The Husband has drastically misunderstood appropriate manners in public restrooms or men truly haven't evolved much past their monkey state. It's probably the latter, making the Men's Room a den of raucous iniquity.

The Ladies' Room is an entirely different place. A more civilized place. A place of politeness and protocol. A place where all voiding should be kept as surreptitious as possible. And because of this, I’ve spent most of my life being pee shy.

In public restrooms I've positioned my rump strategically to avoid as much noise as possible and thought scathing things about the loud pee-ers. In the home of a friend, if there’s a fan in the restroom, I turn it on. If there’s no fan, I waste water to keep any noise polite.

Yes, I entered your restroom and shut the door, but for all you ought know, I went in there to do nothing more than give my paws a good scrubbing. Bathroom business is something all should be ashamed of, no matter its commonality.

However, when I went to my first two-week work training a few years ago, I let some of that inhibiting propriety die.

At meetings and trainings, participants drink water and Diet Coke by the liter and visit the restroom accordingly. That being the case, attendees are given frequent bio breaks during which the liquid-laden coworkers make a mass exodus to the restrooms.

On the way to the lav, colleagues converse, and with some, the conversation doesn’t end once they’ve entered the stalls. Especially when women are forced to roost in adjoining stalls. When this happens a few times a day for weeks at a time, these female colleagues begin to become unabashed about the sound of urination and make it habit to raise voices over the splashing sounds.

Historically, this has made me uncomfortable. I've tried to discontinue the conversation with key phrases and clues. Continuing conversation while expelling waste has seemed so improprietous. But I've learned that sometimes it can be more appropriate to continue the conversation; after all, the sound of your chatter can drown out the sounds of porcelain splatter or errant gas expulsion.

Speaking of said unwelcome flatulation, in the Ladies' Room it is not appropriate or encouraged to comment on flatus. Not if its yours. Not if it's someone else's. In fact, should a toot escape, the most appropriate reaction is Sudden Death of Embarrassment. Who cares of it's natural? Who cares of everyone's done it? Who cares if you made the best of efforts not to allow a gas leak? Your butt made a public sound and you should therefore wish the tiles beneath your feet to split and swallow you whole. And since that's not likely, you should at least pray everyone else in the restroom rapidly exit before you shamefully emerge from the swinging tin door.

Everyone toots. But that doesn't mean we should be okay with it.

In fact, the paper sounds that accompany a chick's frequent red plague are more acceptable than airy anal escapees. So you're on your period and have to rip open a tampon? Big deal. But let flatulence punctuate the sounds of your peeing, or worse, the conversation you continued from outside, and shame rightly falls upon you and your progeny.

When it's been me, the victim of a triumphant toot, there has been a time or two that I've accidentally whispered, Ooops! and, for the error of admitting directionality, I've subsequently turned an even deeper shade of red; for my verbal acknowledgment of the flatulation lent triangulation to the sound, making it such that other restroom patrons are more able pinpoint me as the impolite dolt that couldn't keep it in.

Situational sounds to make a girl go crimson and faint.

And we haven't even touched on the punishable-by-death sin of scent.

If a lady leaves a restroom smellier than when she entered, she should be banished from the female gender. Women should smell good. They should be well-mannered. They don't enter a space and leave it reeking. It just ain't ladylike.

And if you do slip into, say, a designated-female one-seater, discover that it smells like something only a man would leave behind, yet can't help but remain to pee (as you might wet your drawers if you wait any longer), any lady's hard-pressed not to let the next entrant know that you weren't the one that made it stink in there.

It's not your fault she's about to faint. However, if you do let her know the malodorous air wasn't your doing, it's not likely she's going to believe you. The gal will think you're just trying to pass the buck.

So you let the stench go uncommented on, allowing the next lady to think what she will.

And even though you're not likely to encounter this woman ever again, you plead with the Almighty that she assumes the truth--that the odor didn't (wouldn't!) emit from you.


Anonymous said...

my husband refuses to do poos away from "home-base", but ever the adventurer, I will drop a deuce where ever nature calls. I have pooed in the nastiest of bathrooms, however, I am mortifyingly self-conscious when it comes to the two, and so will wait until a) no one is in the bathroom b) everyone has left, so no one will know it was me. I figured if they could only know my by my feet, we were in a good place. I mean, there have to be hundreds of pairs of brown chuck taylors, or gray pumps, right? they would never know that it was ME. but then I got foot-toos (foot tattoos) and am completely identifiable by my feet alone. I thought it was a good idea, but I never put the poop into perspective...

Jessica said...

your post and theincrediblejulk's comment both made me laugh. isn't it funny how different women are from men in so many ways, even in our bathroom etiquette?

when my husband and i first got married he used to tease me that girl poop most likely was dainty and little like rabbit turds. i assured him that wasn't the case, but he didn't believe me. and i wasn't about to show him the evidence.

Lindsey said...

My husband tells me there are some men who are "pecker checkers". Makes me glad I am a girl and we have stalls with doors. Although, I did have to use a bathroom in China that had no doors on the stalls. Try urinating while other women are watching you because you are the only white girl in there. Horrifying.

cat+tadd=sam said...

The title is my favorite. Glad you went with it. You know my thoughts on this matter, we've discussed it in depth. But gosh, I wish us women didn't have to "void" ever in public.

{Erica} said...

Great title. Great post. Had to read it out loud to my husband who was just as entertained (kudos to you since he could really care less about most things I share with him from the blogs I visit).

I have to say there isn't one portion of this post that I don't agree with. I have often felt that I am the only one out there that feels this way.

p.s. Don't even get me started on hovering verses sitting. I don't care how many paper covers I put on that seat sometimes I just can't bring myself to rest my cheeks on a public toilet. I swear that's how I kept my inner thighs and buttocks flick-a-quarter-off-it tight in high school...it it might've been all the soccer, basketball and running I did. Maybe I should start to hover more often seeing as how my rump can't flick anything off it currerntly...

L said...

I left an awesome comment here earlier and it didn't post! That or you deleted it, which I don't see being the case. And yes that warrants a damn exclamation.

This post was amazing as are the comments thus far. I too suffer from a shy bladder and utilize all the said tactics when venturing into public facilities. Unfortunately a few weeks ago I had to receive a background check con urinalysis. I headed down with a full bladder and the silly thing was too shy to perform so I was forced to drink copious amounts of water. Imagine a bladder as full as it will go, unwilling to go, and a man hunkering outside the door. Good times. It should be noted they shut off the water and have no fan during urinalysis so all you hear is the rush of your flow or the tinkle in the cup.

On another random note. I use to listen to a radio show based out of LA that had a woman who was fearful of dropping the kids off at the pool in public. She would go into what one calls "camping mode" and just close off the pipes. Someone suggested this to her: http://poopourri.com/
thought you might get a kick out of it. Your remarks re-sparked the idea for me.

tom lindsey said...

Number one and number two follow alphabet soup. Well done!

Megan said...

Tom, next comes do-re-mi.

Jessica said...

lars, in doing some research for a drug-testing policy at work, there was a whole section on "shy bladders" and here you are calling it that. funny.

megan, sorry to take up your comment space and not directing comments at you. is that bad blog etiquette?

tom lindsey said...

meg, I was serious-- it works in at least 3 dimensions:
-liquids and solids
-letters and numbers
-eating and voiding

BTW-- when my wife and I were first married she preferred to use the bathroom at her mom's house as our little apartment was too "intimate" [ and farther from campus ].

Jena said...

It also drives me crazy when movies make an effort to get you to laugh at flatulence,from both ends. What? You want me to laugh. PUH-leeez.