In the restroom

A man walks into a women’s restroom — and on TV and in the movies, the women scream.

This has never happened to me — and I’ve made that mistake more than a few times. The usual response is for the women to glare at me and let me know I’m in the wrong place. In England, especially in pubs, women are most likely to just laugh and pull your leg — unless they’re drunk — in which case you head for the door and perhaps leave the pub altogether. Allen agrees with me that there’s nothing worse for good-looking guys like us than a bunch of drunk women – especially when they’re on the bus you’re driving.

What’s behind the door of the ladies restroom is hardly a mystery to me. I once had to go in on purpose, when I was at a restaurant with my teenage daughter and we had a quarrel. She went to hide in the ladies restroom — and after she’d been gone half an hour, I thought I’d better go find her. I knocked on the door before peeking in — and found the coast clear. I called my daughter’s name, but got no answer. I thought I’d better not go in and start peeking under doors, so I waited outside until a mumsy-looking woman came along. I asked her if she could look for my daughter. This woman was ever so kind and came out shortly to assure me my daughter was OK and would be out once they were done having a little heart-to-heart. England doesn’t seem to make ladies like that anymore.

Anyway, in the beginning, Alene was a bit bothered about letting me see inside the women’s restrooms she visited — and I had to assure her that it was of little interest to me — and I would behave like a gentleman.

However, I have noticed something that is perfectly obvious if you think about it — but which us males are very good at not noticing. You know how men like to complain about how when women go to the restroom, they are always gone for ages? The assumption is that women not only take longer to pee, but that they then linger around to primp and preen and gossip. Well – sometimes they do — especially my wife and daughter. But what really keeps women waiting in line is one simple fact — when families go out together, the children always accompany the mother to the restroom, even if they are boys. Adult males go alone. A mother with three small children can have a stall tied up for at least twenty minutes.

When Alene visits a public restroom, I will note how busy it is before I tune out. If there are only adult women ahead of Alene, the line seems to move reasonably fast. But if there are several women with children in tow, I know it’s going to be a long wait.

The answer isn’t to ban children from public restrooms. Women’s restrooms could be designed to handle more traffic. And men’s restrooms could be made more family-friendly — so that fathers could feel comfortable taking care of small children of either gender.

When my daughter was four, her favorite playmate was a boy of the same age. I was once out with them when they needed to use the toilet. Neither child was old enough to go alone. I was not comfortable taking my daughter to the men’s room with me — it was a quite revolting public toilet in Clacton-on-Sea. But I didn’t see how I could accompany her to the ladies either. The two kids were both hopping about and the boy was holding his groin. So I just told them to go into the ladies and do their best — and then I kept my eye out for a mumsy-type who I could ask to check on them. Fortunately, such mumsy-types were a dime-a-dozen in places like Clacton in those days — and this one also watched the kids while I went to the toilet myself.

The world needs to get its act together with toilets. In much of the world, lack of access to toilets keeps girls and women from attending school and fully participating in society. And the first world — there are still far too many obstacles and inconveniences!

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