Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Thing About Bathrooms

I’ve been hearing a lot about bathrooms lately. With the passing of the controversial and, in my opinion, horrible new bathroom law in North Carolina, it seems that social media and news outlets are absolutely inundated with all things lavatory. Now, I know this isn't about bathroom, any more than the sit-ins and marginalization of years past was about lunch counters or bus seats or drinking fountains. But, there is a lot of the movement that focuses on practicality, so that’s where I stand as well.

Because see, I know a little about bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I am cisgender. I don’t have  worry about getting kicked out of a McDonald’s. I don’t’ worry about getting physically assaulted. But the strange looks, the anxiety, the fear that can sometimes accompany a trip to a public restroom? Yeah, I know about those.

You see, I’m a mom. I’m a mom of four young kids who has spent the past decade doing the largest bulk of our shopping or fun trips by myself. Not all of my children are the same gender as myself, and while they are young, they are above preschool age. Two of them have special needs which means one still needs occasional assistance in the bathroom and the other did until he was, especially being large for his age, “too big” to go into the ladies’ room. This, for those who are uninitiated, leads to a variety of problems.

Let’s say, for example, that your child is older or larger than preschool/Kindergarten age. He’s not yet incredibly adept at bathroom cleansing, or he gets easily distracted, or he is prone to gastrointestinal issues that have to be kept an eye on.  You take him into the bathroom with you a couple of times, and are told by people whose business it really isn’t that he’s too big to be in the ladies’ room. So the next time, you let him go by yourself. So, you sit there, waiting for him to come out. It takes longer than usual. And you’re nervous. Is something wrong? Is the process causing him pain or damage as it sometimes does? Or is it something worse? Then he comes out and you’re relieved. Sometimes. Or he comes out requiring assistance which means that, mortified, you get to drag him into the other bathroom to provide help. The best of all worlds, yeah?

Or, let’s say you have the misfortune to have a miscarriage in a grocery store, like what happened to me. Or even just a tummy bug, since that’s likely more relateable. You’re going to be in that bathroom for a while. Do you take your older kids in with you? Or leave them outside the door for maybe 15 minutes? You decide to take them in. There, you bump into a very helpful little old lady or employee who informs you that you can’t have them in there. So they go out. And then you’re trying to deal with a situation that can’t be rushed at about the speed of sound.

Or let’s say you have a physically different child. She needs help. So you take her to the ladies’ room. But your boys are older. But it’s a busy day at the zoo. What do you do?

No, I don’t know what it’s like to be assaulted. I don’t know what it’s like to be kicked out of a place. But I know that children can be abducted. I know that sexual assaults can happen in a bathroom (I’M NOT SAYING THAT TRANS PEOPLE DO THIS. DON’T READ THAT. I’M SAYING SICK PEOPLE DO THIS). I know what it’s like to not know what to do, to fear bathroom stops, to get looks or comments. To be embarrassed. I know how inconvenient and irritating and sometimes necessary planning your day around a place with a family or unisex bathroom can be. I’ve been dealing with it for years.

So, here’s what I propose. First of all, the door gaps. Let’s just get rid of those altogether. They’re ridiculous. It can’t be that hard to create a private space that is actually private. Urinals? Let’s get rid of those as well. Or put a bunch inside one giant stall. Then make bathrooms giant and unisex. All of them. Maybe with a couple of big stalls for families. Because really, do you need two walls of separation from anyone of another gender? I don’t think you do. We are, after all, eliminating our bladder and bowels in there. See? Easy. And while it doesn’t have the added benefit of providing validation for an under served group, this solution would make life easier for another under served group, exasperated, exhausted moms. Everyone’s happy.

After all, we all just want to pee.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for speaking out. I'll admit that my trips are also planned around bathrooms, but that's because I have a bladder the size of a peanut. Every child in tow adds exponentially to the difficulties and anxieties of the lavatory logistics, and every special need multiplies them. Because of this post, I'll be more mindful of moms with children in that weird public/private space that is The Ladies' Room.