WEB EXCLUSIVE: TIM’S BIT — Dissecting urinal talk etiquette

Tim’s Bit: Tirades on our stupidest things is a new web-exclusive column featuring Tim Mottishaw’s comedic tirades on some of our humanity’s dumbest problems, with regards to culture, society and politics. Read more Tim’s Bit here!


[dropcap]I[/dropcap] grew up in a fairly large, three-siblings, one-bathroom family. We have the cliché ‘sibling tub’ pictures and, until we got older and built a second bathroom, we left the door unlocked if we were going to have a shower — because when you gotta go, you gotta go! Like other boys who had brothers, I remember the epic sword fights that usually ended up with a “don’t cross the streams” reference or a “how do you keep missing” lecture from my mother.

So, as we become adults, why does the bathroom become a tomb? I don’t get it. I experience it, I partake in it, and I just don’t know why!

I’m not saying that we should look over to the person next to us and say, “nice one,” or giggle if you hear a release in the cubicle. All I’m saying is that the conversation about Star Wars, or whatever, doesn’t have to abruptly end.

Ironically, I’ve heard conversation in every gay club I’ve been in — often it’s the drag queen washing her hands and making a joke about the hottie that just walked in. Nonetheless, we aren’t relegated to the cone of silence. So what changes? Is it a matter of confidence? As kids we learn about shame and appropriateness; in a gay club, it’s often about pushing boundaries and non-conformity, as is the case with genderless bathrooms. Maybe it’s simply that outside of this, largely, the ideas are not challenged.

Ironically, I’ve heard conversation in every gay club I’ve been in.

A.J. Jacobs discusses this in Esquire magazine and brings up that the concept of silence in the loo is indeed a new thing. Yet, he fails to offer a solution. Personally, I’m a firm believer of genderless bathrooms (and genderless-many things, as I continue my education in social justice — but, I digress!).

The genderless restrooms I used at the GaymerX gaming convention, geared toward the LGBTQ community in San Jose this past December were great! Not only were there no awkward moments, but there was conversation, the same as in gay club restrooms. Maybe this silence and ‘no eye contact’ etiquette is simply another reinforcement of hetero-masculinity. In venues and events that are outside of, or work to break those concepts, the social norms are different.

I’ll confess that I don’t really have a solution, myself. This is a part of our lives that our society is so scared to discuss — to the point where we give bathroom business the ridiculous labels ‘number one’ and ‘number two.’ Jacobs suggests that we should just use the stalls or pull out a cell phone to avoid any chance of conversation, though, this isn’t the best: it isn’t that easy to aim from a couple feet away with one hand.

I think we just need to make a point of laughing at the idea that we don’t like to speak. The more we stop taking things like this so seriously, the more we break down their power. You don’t need to talk to strangers: try it with a friend the next time you’re in the room. Continue the conversation you were having in the line up outside.

Ah yes, and don’t forget to wash your hands.